My mother will forever reign supreme in the culinary arts. She has the ability to recreate almost any dish, and if she isn’t satisfied enough, she will alter the recipe to fit her taste. Growing up in a Taiwanese family, where dinnertime is the main event to promote togetherness, my mother graced us with her talents, creating dishes from traditional Taiwanese food like dan bing to Chicago’s deep dish pizza.
One cold evening in 2012, my mother pulled out a trick she had been keeping since her trip to Europe earlier that year. She created a deliciously warm cabbage roll with egg-lemon sauce that I would later find out to be a dish called Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono (pronounced: la-hah-no-dole-ma-thes, ahv-goh-lem-uh-no).
For the longest time I (embarrassingly) believed that the dish was French because my mother’s French friend was the one who originally made it for her. I quickly found out this wasn’t the case, especially as I recalled the distinctly Mediterranean egg-lemon sauce. I consulted Google, and found a result almost immediately, even with my vague description.
Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono (Greek: λαχανοντολμαδες με αυγολεμονο) is actually a popular Greek comfort food that will warm you right up, perfect for some of Greece’s colder winter months. Lahanodolmades are cabbage (lahana = cabbage) pieces wrapped tightly around a meatball. Avgolemono is a combination of egg, lemon juice and broth that has roots extending back to the time of Alexander the Great.
Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother’s superpower. I can’t do much with food other than follow exact directions. So, I am sharing my mother’s recipe, who has made a few alternations from the traditional Greek recipes you might find that have been passed down from generation to generation here or here.
Note: This recipe is not for those craving a quick meal. The bloggers at Lemon & Olives describes this dish as a “labor of love,” meaning that it does take some time. In the end, it took me three hours to make, but it was definitely worth it.
This recipe yields 6 to 9 lahanodolmades
• 1 pound of ground beef
• 1 pound of ground pork (substitute: veal or lamb)
• 6 to 9 leaves of cabbage
• ½ onion (substitute: 1 large shallot)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• ½ teaspoon of curry (substitute: cumin)
• ½ teaspoon of Sichuan pepper flakes
• 1 tablespoon of rice
• Salt and Pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)
• One egg yolk
• Lemon juice from one lemon
• Broth from the lahanodolmades to taste
Preparing the Lahanodolmades:
First, we begin by preparing the cabbage. Boil a wide pot of water and add a pinch of salt. One by one add a leaf of cabbage into the water until soft enough to fold. Leave the cabbage to the side to cool while you make the meat mixture.
Chop the onions until they are to your liking. They should be pretty small, and you can use a food processor for this step if you wish. Then chop up the garlic and mush them a bit.
Unfortunately, I did not have any Sichuan pepper flakes on hand, and I only had the Sichuan peppercorn instead. No worries! Just grind down the peppercorn.
Next, just dump everything for the lahanodolmades into a large bowl (except for the cabbage) and mix them together in one direction. This allows for a smoother texture. Do this until you are certain that the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Now, section off the meat accordingly to how many cabbage leaves you have. Honestly, I just added however much meat would fit into each individual leaf. Then, fold each leaf tightly like the diagram above. I stress the “tightly” because the meat may fall out if you don’t. Don’t make my mistake.
Once you’re finished folding your lahanodolmades, place them in a large pot and fill the pot with water until there is at least one inch of water above the rolls. Place a lid over the pot and cook it until boiled then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
Preparing the Avgolemono Sauce:
While the lahanodolmades are cooking, begin the sauce. (You can wait until you’re about halfway through the 45 minutes.)
Separate the egg yolk from the egg white. Then beat the egg yolk. Squeeze in the lemon juice of one lemon. Mix until fully incorporated.
About 15 minutes before your lahanodolmades have finished, open the pot and taste the broth. Add salt to taste and mix.
Once the lahanodolmades have finally reached the 45-minute mark, take out about a cup of the broth. Using about a tablespoon of broth at a time, slowly pour into the egg-lemon mixture and mix. Do not let the soup cook up (curdle) the yolk. Do this to your taste (about a cup for me). The color should be a pale yellow.
Note: Villy of For the Love of Feeding said that Greek women often made kissing noises while pouring the broth into the lemon sauce to prevent the sauce from curdling.
Preparing the Plate:
Finally, add however many lahanodolmades to your plate as you wish. Pour the avgolemono on the top of the roll. Add as much as you like, but make sure there is a little bit of soup at the bottom.
And that’s it!
Qǐng màn yòng. Bon appétit. Kali Orexi.
All photos in this post were taken by me.