I LOVE Mexican cuisine (as much as I LOVE Lebanese cuisine) and I have always been interested in the idea of fusing the two in a harmonious way.
Here I am making our classic stuffed grape leaves the traditional way, but am adding some Mexican homemade salsa in the broth as well as a bit in the stuffing. Of course, if you don’t have access to these dried or smoked chilies, you can substitute your favorite bottled chili sauce.
I was pleasantly surprised by the result. The warak enab comes out very moist and tasty and the sauce adds a nice layer of flavor without adding spiciness (I made it mild-tip in the recipe below).
Hope you give it a try, and let me know if you do!
Stuffed Grape leaves in Mexican chile salsaJoumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern February 16, 2022 Whole Grain/Bulgur/Rice, Main Dish, Meats, stuffed grape leaves, lebanesefood, mexican, lebanese food, chile sauce, fusion food, leb/mex food,
80 stuffed leaves servings
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
To make the grape leaves: about 80
1 lb meat (from the chuck or skirt meat) for lining the pan (or bones or cutlets)
Olive oil, as needed
1 cup rice
2 lbs ground meat (can be pork, beef, or lamb)
1 onion, chopped fine or grated (keep the juice to use in the broth)
3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped and mashed with 1 teaspoon of salt into a paste
2 Tbsps beef seasoning or a spice mix of your choice (cinnamon, allspice, cumin, black pepper, etc)
a few sprigs of parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup Mexican chile salsa (see recipe below)
2 or 3 lemons (optional)
Yogurt to serve (about 1/2 lb)
2 jars of preserved grape leaves
For the salsa: Makes about 3 cups salsa
12 to 15 assorted dried chiles: Guajillo, Ancho, California or New Mexico
4 garlic cloves, chopped and mashed with salt till pasty
1/2 tsp oregano or zaatar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 onion (optional)
1/3 cup of piloncillo syrup or 1/2 piloncillo, broken up into chunks (or replace with 4 tablespoons of dark brown sugar or date syrup or maple syrup or honey or grape molasses) (see Note)
- In a large saucepan, place the chiles and pour water to cover. Bring to a simmer and let them cook a few minutes, then turn off the heat and cover. Let them rest an hour or longer (they can soak overnight).
- Wearing gloves, chop off the stems of the chiles and place the chiles in a blender with the other ingredients (garlic, seasonings) and about 2 cups of chile soaking water or plain water (if you want the salsa to be less spicy). Puree and then transfer to a sieve set over a bowl. Using a spoon or a whisk, vigorously stir the salsa to strain it as soon as possible. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding the piloncillo water to temper the spiciness if desired.
- The next step is to quickly brown the piece of meat. The meat here is a rather inexpensive cut that I found at the market which has a twofold purpose. Normally, my téta and all Lebanese classic cooks used to brown lamb chops or lamb bones. I am not finding lamb much these days in the market in the US. So the idea is: A. To protect the stuffed grape leaves from burning if they are placed right at the bottom of the pot. B. To infuse the dish and the broth and rice and leaves with the meat flavor. Pour a little oil in the pot and fry the meat for a couple minutes over medium heat. Sprinkle some seasoning on the meat, and turn off the heat and start stuffing the leaves.
- In a bowl, place the stuffing ingredients including about 1/4 cup of chile sauce and combine well. Now lay the grape leaves on the counter over paper towels, cut off their stem, and start stuffing them.
- Place about a tablespoon of stuffing in each leaf and fold neatly. Start laying the grape leaves on top of the meat side by side. Once the pot is filled, sprinkle about a cup of salsa on the grape leaves. Add about 2 cups of water and cover with a smaller plate to keep the leaves well packed (so they don't fall apart). Bring to a slow simmer, cover the pot and cook for about one hour. At the end of cooking, taste and add some fresh lemon juice to the leaves if desired. (optional). Serve warm with yogurt and extra lemon or lime slices.
- (see video).
NOTE: I added the piloncillo syrup to temper the spiciness of the salsa. The piloncillo is sold in cones in Latino supermarkets and the syrup is obtained by soaking the piloncillo in water and boiling the mixture with some spices like cinnamon or anise until the chunks of piloncillo are melted and well mixed with the water to form a type of liquid syrup. The operation takes a few minutes. The piloncillo can be soaked in water overnight.
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