There are certain dishes that become your favorites right from the start. When I was 19 years old, I worked for a record release event with many well-known Québécois celebrities such as Diane Tell, Robert Charlebois and Daniel Lavoie among the guests. I was the hostess greeting them upon their arrival. If you asked me who’s record release it was, I couldn’t answer as it’s been so long but there are a few things I still remember such as the location of the event and one dish that I fell in love with that night.
The event took place in a club on Prince Arthur Street in downtown Montréal. Now for those of you not familiar with that particular street, Prince Arthur has a small stretch between Square St Louis just off St Denis Street to St Laurent Street that is dedicated to pedestrians. Also there are many restaurants with outdoor patios, cafés and bars. When it comes to restaurants, Prince Arthur was and still is locally renowned for its Greek restaurants and BYOW “Bring your own Wine” service. Let’s not forget that we are talking back in the early 80s’ and the BYOW was not really legal at that time… really!
After the event was over, the employees were allowed to eat what was left from the buffet and seriously, it looked like it was barely touched. Obviously because of its location, the buffet was majorly Greek food with a few exceptions. Although I’ve dined at many restaurants on that street, there were certain dishes I’ve never tried. That night I went out of my comfort “Greek” zone and tried everything I had never tried till then. This is when Greek Dolmades became one of my favorites!
A few years later, I moved to Windsor, Ontario. One of the things I liked to do with my friends was to go out for dinner to Greek town located right downtown in Detroit, Michigan. Most of the restaurants had belly dancers and live music. It was a fun place to go! Of course the first time when I went to one of the Greek town restaurants and saw Dolmades, I ordered it without an ounce of hesitation. What a surprise when my appetizer arrived – it wasn’t with a yogurt sauce but an egg-sauce called Avgolemono. WOW! was my reaction after my first bite. Since then, I have to eat my Dolmades with that sauce.
As you will be seeing in this video, making Dolmades, also known as Stuffed Grape Leaves, is very easy but laborious. My advice is to wear comfortable shoes or flip flop, play your favorite music and you’ll see how fast time goes by. It is a big batch to make – about 50 of them – but on the other hand, you can always freeze them and enjoy those little guys weeks later. I won’t recommend doing the same with the sauce… c’mon, it’s an egg based sauce! Another plus to this dish is you can eat it hot, warm or cold so it is a perfect appetizer to serve all year round.
- 50 medium grape leaves, such as California or Turkish grape leaves
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 1/4 cups white onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Arborio rice
- 2 large cloves garlic, pressed
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp. ground Himalayan sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 4 cups hot chicken broth
- AVGOLEMONO SAUCE
- 1 cup reserved chicken broth *SEE FOOTNOTE
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2-3 large lemons, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small pinch ground Himalayan sea salt
- 1 small pinch white pepper
FOOTNOTE: Reserve 1 cup of broth from the pot where the dolmades cooked