Taste of the Holidays: Dolmathes in Avgolemono Sauce

By Candice Wagener | Photography and Food Styling by Sunny Frantz

You’ll find dolmathes in avgolemono sauce at every one of our family functions,” says Erin Vranas, co-owner of Parthenon Gyros. A traditional Greek appetizer of stuffed grape leaves served with a lemony sauce, this particular recipe has been passed down for generations in the Vranas family.

“I first learned this recipe from my husband’s Yiayia [grandmother], who didn’t speak a lick of English and whose traditional Greek cooking was unrivaled by any top-trained chef,” says Vranas.

Vranas fondly remembers Yiayia being able to roll three dolmathes in the time it took her to roll one. She was inspired by the intention and passion Yiayia put into every dish she made.

“We connected over the love of beautiful flavors and the good feelings that come from serving others,” says Vranas. “That kind of love crosses any language and culture barriers. I’m proud to be able to continue the tradition of sharing her memory … with [future] generations, just as she did.”

Dolmathes in Avgolemono Sauce

Yield: Makes 50-60 dolmathes

Dolmathes Ingredients

  • 60 young grape leaves (or 16 ounces grape leaves from a jar)
  • 1 lb. ground lamb AND 1 lb. ground beef (or if preferred, use 2 lbs. ground lamb instead of or, ground beef and 1 lb. ground pork)
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 finely chopped large yellow onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 16 oz. water or chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Avgolemono Sauce

  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 room temperature eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Dolmathes Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, rice, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, mint and oregano for the filling, and mix well.

Rinse and pat dry the grape leaves. Cut the hard stem off each leaf.

Lay a leaf top side down (so the veins face up) and place 1 Tbsp. filling on the bottom (wider end of the leaf, near the stem).

Roll the stem end of the leaf over the filling. Fold the sides in burrito-style then continue to roll the bottom all the way up to the pointy top. The rice expands while cooking so roll tight, but not too tight.

Repeat with all of the leaves until all of your filling is used.

Place the dolmathes seam side down and very close together in a pot.

Pour the olive oil, 1⁄2 cup lemon juice, water or chicken stock over the dolmathes.

Place an inverted plate over the dolmathes to weigh them down and to stop them from opening while cooking.

Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer and cook about 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Move cooked dolmathes to a serving dish.

Reserve the leftover dolmathes cooking liquid from the pot for the Avgolemono Sauce.

Avgolemono Sauce Instructions

Whisk together 3 eggs in a saucepan.

Gradually add lemon juice to eggs and continue mixing.

Slowly add warm leftover dolmathes cooking liquid from the pot (2-3 cups). Temper so you don’t curdle the eggs.

Make a slurry with the cornstarch and equal parts Dolmathes liquid and mix it in the sauce pan.

Stir constantly over medium-low heat until sauce thickens.

Add salt to taste.

Pour thickened avgolemono sauce over the dolmathes and serve.

Read more from our “Taste of the Holidays” 2021 feature here.

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