Stuffed grape leaves, (dolmades), originated in ancient Mesopotamia. Nowadays they can be found throughout many countries including the Middle East, Greece, Central Asia and Turkey, their fillings changing with the region.
The previously mentioned lamb shank returns to star in these flavorful little bundles. After a slow braise, the lamb literally fell right off the bone. Added to wild rice with artichoke hearts and garlic, I think North Carolina dolmades have just found their place on the map.
North Carolina Lamb and Wild Rice Dolmades:
*1 cup wild rice, soaked overnight
*1 lamb foreshank
*3 Tbsp olive oil
*3 celery ribs, chopped
*1 medium sweet onion, chopped
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*2 cups thawed sungold tomatoes or canned San Marzanos
*3/4 cup dry red wine
*2 bay leaves
*salt and pepper
*1 jar grape leaves (usually found with the olives in most grocery stores)
*1/2 can artichoke hearts, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, pressed with a garlic press
*sea salt and pepper
Rinse and dry lamb shank. In a heavy pot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sear all sides of the shank in oil, about 1 minutes per side. Remove from pot and set aside. Add remaining olive oil. Add the onion and celery. Saute for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper (about a tsp. of each). Cook a few minutes before adding the wine. Stir. Allow to simmer a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and lamb shank. Spoon some of the liquid over the lamb, reduce heat to med-low and cover. Cook for 1 1/2-2 hours.
While lamb cooks, add wild rice and just enough water to cover it to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook without stirring until rice is tender about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove about 20 grape leaves from jar. Separate and rinse each leaf gently. Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Briefly blanch grape leaves in boiling water, about one minute.
Remove lamb from heat. With a fork, separate meat from bone. With a slotted spoon, remove meat from liquid and coarsely chop. Add to cooked rice with artichoke hearts, garlic and 1/2 cup of the tomato liquid. Salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange a few grape leaves, vein side up. Spoon 1 Tbsp rice filling onto each grape leaf. Roll together tucking in sides of leaf as you roll. Repeat until all filling is used. Place all stuffed leaves in the pot with the leftover tomato liquid (with the lamb bone removed), simmer covered until tender about 30 minutes. Serve with more of the tomato liquid. These make a great appetizer or snack. Cover and store in the fridge. Keeps well.
*you could easily make these vegetarian by leaving out the lamb, adding extra artichoke hearts, and maybe some dried currants?