Things have been pretty boring in the Baketard household the past few months. I mentioned in a previous post that we were cutting out the booze and most of the carbs for the new year, and for the most part we did—David and I completed our diet challenge with our trainer, Anna the Horrible. What does that mean? Well, she will now be required to do a workout of OUR choosing for an hour while we watch from comfy yoga mats, eating fried chicken. Oh, and in addition to the gloating rights, we both lost between 25-30 lbs each in the process of doing this. We can get back into our tube tops and hot pants for summer.
Surprisingly, the diet wasn’t too tough, and throwing a dinner party here and there to eat a few things we enjoy didn’t hurt. I’ll post some of the healthy recipes we loved throughout the diet in a later post (I really did find/concoct some great stuff in SPITE of it being healthy), but in the mean time, let’s talk about one of the splurge dinners and one of my favorite do-ahead appetizers.
I love Dolmas. I’ve had good dolmas, I’ve had bad dolmas, and I’ve had middle of the road dolmas. This recipe makes the best fucking dolmas I’ve ever tasted. It comes from Wayne Johnson, formerly of Andaluca and now Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle. Chef Johnson taught us to make this recipe years ago at a charity event called Cooking with Class, run by my friend Connie Adams. (You should check this out, because it’s a fun hands-on cooking event with wine pairings, a fun auction and it benefits a great cause where the proceeds go to benefit seniors in our community. Keep gramma off the streets! She’s not to be trusted). These dolmas blew us away then, and they continue to do the same today. Honestly, I made these as one of my dishes for my International Cuisine final in culinary school and they guaranteed me an A.
There’s no big complicated trick here. When I make these I line a half hotel pan with grape leaves, place the rolled dolmas inside and put another half pan on top, weighing it down as much as possible with cans of water (The weight helps with the absorption). You can use whatever pans/dishes you have as long as they’re stackable. The dolmas can be assembled and cooked a day ahead, and re-steamed briefly before serving. They’re fine at room temperature, but better warm.
The zabaglione needs to be made fairly close to the time you serve the dish, but it’s a quick process. These will seriously be the most kick ass dolmas you’ve ever eaten. Trust me. Would I lie to you?
Chef Wayne Johnson
Yield: 6 Servings
▪1 Tablespoon olive oil
▪1 pound lamb, lean ground
▪1 pound onion, small dice
▪½ cup red bell pepper, small dice
▪1 cup basmati rice
▪2 teaspoons salt
▪1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
▪¾ cup tomato purée
▪2 Tablespoons currants
▪¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
▪2 Tablespoons craisins™
▪¼ cup Italian parsley, minced
▪2 Tablespoons oregano, minced
▪2 Tablespoons mint, minced
▪3 Tablespoons dill, minced
▪Grape leaves, as needed, rinsed & drained
▪½ cup lemon juice
▪3 cups chicken broth
▪6 sprigs thyme, for garnish
▪4 egg yolks
▪2 Tablespoons lemon juice, fresh
▪6 Tablespoons chicken stock
▪½ cup olive oil
▪1 Tablespoon dill, fresh minced
▪¾ teaspoon salt, kosher
▪Pinch of white pepper finely ground
For Dolmas: Break up lamb with whisk for small and uniform pieces. In sauté pan over medium high heat cook lamb and onion in olive oil until well-browned. Add bell pepper, rice, salt and cayenne and sauté 2 more minutes.
Add tomato purée, currants, half the pine nuts, craisins, Italian parsley, oregano, mint and dill and heat through. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cool.
On work surface, arrange grape leaves, shiny side down. Place 1 ounce filling per leaf, roll up, folding sides in burrito-style. Dolmas must be rolled neatly and tightly to cook correctly.
Line deep casserole with small or torn grape leaves. Place in pan seam-side down. Fit snugly but not packed together. Line entire pan with Dolmas. Cover with additional grape leaves.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring lemon juice and chicken broth to boil, then pour over Dolmas. Weigh down Dolmas by placing small, perforated cooling rack upside down on top. Cover pan with foil sealed well. Bake 1 hour or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove foil. Let cool. Can be stored up to 5 days in airtight container in refrigerator.
For Zabaglione: Combine egg yolks, lemon juice and stock over double boiler. Whisk constantly over medium high heat until mixture is pale yellow, fluffy and thickened. Slowly add olive oil to incorporate. Whisk in dill, salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Zabaglione will last 4 hours at room temperature.
To Serve: Steam Dolmas 5 minutes or until hot. Place 3 Dolmas per plate, corners on top of each other at right angles. Sauce Zabaglione across Dolmas, covering each one. Sprinkle pine nuts across Dolmas, place dill sprigs in upper right corner of plate.