Thursday, February 18, 2016

Despina's Stuffed Cabbage with Avgolemono

Lahanodolmades, or stuffed cabbage rolls with meat and rice, are one of the most popular and beloved dishes of traditional Greek cuisine. While there are many variations throughout the Balkans, Northern and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East, this version is garnished with a light and luscious egg and lemon avgolemono sauce — a dish known as Lahanodolmades Avgolemono. A Greek winter classic, these homemade stuffed cabbage rolls were a gracious gift from the kitchen of my sister-in-law Anna's lovely Mum Despina, and her timing could not have been more perfect. With 
temperatures hovering below zero and the first shock of snow on the ground, what could be more nurturing than this comfort food classic made with lots of manoula love — sas ef̱charistó̱ — thank you!

Stuffed Cabbage with Egg Lemon Sauce - Lahanodolmades Avgolemono
Serves 4

1 cabbage
1 lb ground beef, pork or veal
1/2 cup white rice
1 egg, beaten
1 small onion, finely diced or grated
1/2 cup fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth or water

3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup broth from the lahanodolmades

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Carefully remove the core of the cabbage and discard, then add the remaining cabbage head to the boiling water until the outer leaves become tender, about 10-12 minutes. Carefully peel the cabbage, layer by layer, and set aside each of the leaves. 

In a large bowl, mix together the ground meat, rice, beaten egg, onion, dill, salt and pepper until well combined. To make the cabbage rolls, lay a cabbage leaf flat on a clean work surface and place a heaped spoonful of the meat mixture on one end of the leaf. Neatly fold in the edges and then roll it up like a cigar, then place seam side down in a large pot or casserole, starting from the edge to the centre. Repeat with the remaining leaves, filling and folding, and place them next to each other in the casserole. Second and third layers may be placed on top, then covered with an inverted plate so the lahanodolmades don't open during cooking.

Pour the broth or water into the casserole, making sure the cabbage rolls aren’t submerged completely, but the liquid  can be seen coming up from the sides. Bring the broth to a boil and then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45-60 minutes, until the cabbage is very tender. Once done, drain most of the broth but reserve 1 cup for the avgolemono.

To make the avgolemono, mix together the eggs and lemon juice, then add the corn starch to make a slurry. Using a few ladles of the broth from the cabbage rolls, slowly add to the egg-lemon mixture, whisking continuously, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the avgolemono sauceinto the pot, again stirring continuously. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, and serve garnished with chopped dill. The cabbage rolls can also be prepared earlier in the day, and simply reheated in the Avolemono sauce.

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