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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I'll Make Lamb

I loved the movie "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding."  It was hysterical.  I can still visualize Ian's mother showing up at the big engagement celebration with a bundt cake and the way Lanie Kazan kept saying "It's a bundt?"  I guess you had to be there.  Or you should see the movie if you haven't.

In the movie, Toula's aunt is going to host this big engagement party for Toula and Ian.  Toula tells her that Ian is a vegetarian and the aunt says that it's fine.  She'll make lamb.  I'm laughing just thinking about it.

You really have to rent this movie.

But I digress.  While lamb is decidedly not vegetarian, it is a nice change from beef and chicken.  I especially love the use of ground lamb and feta in this recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine for Lamb and Feta Stuffed Cabbage.  Who would have thought stuffed cabbage, a staple of my Jewish grandmother's cooking repetoire, could be given a Greek twist.

Stuffed cabbage is a pain in the you-know-what to make.  You have to boil the cabbage and then peel the leaves away.  Then you have to de-rib the cabbage.  You have to make the filling and then you have to stuff and roll.  And make the sauce.  And cook the whole thing for over an hour.  It's not a quickie.

But this Greek inspired stuffed cabbage is really tasty.  The filling has all the good Greek things in it: lamb, feta, oregano, and lemon juice.  And in the sauce is sambuca or ouzo (your choice) which is guaranteed to give the dish a little Greek flair.

Take your time making this and then, while it's cooking away on the stove, go ahead and treat yourself to "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding".  There's nothing quite like dinner and a movie.
Lamb-and-Feta Stuffed Cabbage
(Fine Cooking Magazine, January, 2012)
1 large head green cabbage (about 3 lb.), outer leaves discarded, cored 
1 lb. ground lamb 
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped 
1 large egg 
4 oz. (1 cup) crumbled feta 
1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio 
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh oregano 
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 
1 tsp. ground cumin 
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes (about 2 cups) 
1 cup lower-salt chicken broth 
1/3 cup ouzo or sambuca

Fill a tall, 8-quart (or larger) pot with enough water to submerge the whole cabbage and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the cabbage until the outer leaves are bright green and start to pull away, about 4 minutes. Carefully pull them off with tongs and lay them on a baking sheet lined with a kitchen towel. Continue boiling the cabbage and removing its leaves in layers as they soften until the entire cabbage is cooked, 15 to 20 minutes total. Let cool.

In a large bowl, use your hands to combine the lamb, onion, egg, feta, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, cumin, fennel, 2-1/2 tsp. salt, and 1ƒ tsp. pepper.

With a paring knife, remove the hard ribs from the cabbage leaves. Cut the larger leaves in half lengthwise.

 Coat the bottom of an 8- to 9-quart Dutch oven with the olive oil. Arrange several cabbage leaves on a work surface so they run lengthwise away from you. Working with one leaf, put about 1-1/2 Tbs. of the lamb mixture on the end closest to you. Fold the long sides in toward the lamb, and then roll away from you to enclose the meat. Put the roll in the pot, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining cabbage and filling, arranging the rolls in a snug single layer (if necessary, add a loosely packed second layer).

Combine the tomatoes, broth, and ouzo in a medium bowl and pour the mixture over the rolls. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook, shaking the pot occasionally so the rolls don’t stick, until the rice in the filling is completely tender, 60ƒ to 90 minutes.

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