Uncle Louie’s Grape Leaves

Serves 15 people (at least) and takes about 5 hours start to finish.

3# Ground Turkey
2# Ground Lamb
3 Cups Rice (sticky, not Basmati or Uncle Ben’s)
2 teaspoons ground Allspice
1 tablespoon of Kosher Salt (or more to taste)
Pepper (50 or more turns of a large pepper mill)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (or more to taste)
1 gallon of Chicken Stock and probably more added later
1 big can and 1 small can of Diced Tomatoes
1 Head of Celery
2 large Leeks
2 large juicy Lemons
2-3 jars of Devina Grape Leaves
1 small can of Chipotle Peppers
rustic bread (in Seattle I use a loaf of Columbia Bread)
1 stick of unsalted butter

Blend the turkey, lamb and chopped garlic together by hand in a large bowl.
Mix the rice, allspice, salt, and pepper together and then add them to the meat bowl and keep folding it and gently kneading it until everything is blended together.
Open the grape leaves, twist them out of the jars, drain them in a colander, then lay them out flat about 10 at a time on a clean work surface.
Scoop out approximately 1.5 T portions of the stuffing and place each at the stem end of a leaf, begin to roll it, fold in the sides and continue rolling all the way to the end. They’ll be about 1″ around and about 2.5″ long.
Place the stuffed grape leaves in 3 rows in the bottom of a big stock pot with the pointed tip of the leaf facing down with all of the leaves facing the same direction and lightly, but snugly touching each other.
Continue making layers of the stuffed grape leaves all facing the same direction until all of the stuffing has been used. This makes about 100 leaves, so depending on the size of your stock pot, you’ll have about 5 layers.
Clean the celery, peel each stalk lightly to remove the tough fibers on the outside, and cut them into crudite sized sticks about 2.5″ long.
Clean the leeks, cut off the oldest ends of the stalks and cut the tender parts in halves or quarters and then into sticks about 2.5″ long.
Scatter the leeks and celery on top of the rolled leaves.
Open the tomatoes and pour them with juice over the celery and leeks.
Squeeze the lemons, remove seeds, and pour the juice over the tomatoes, celery, and leeks. Put the squeezed lemon skins in on top.
Pour the stock over everything until there’s about 4″ over and above the other ingredients.
Place a heat resistant heavy plate or bowl over the ingredients to keep the leaves from floating up and unfolding while cooking.
Heat the pot until the stock starts to boil, then turn it down and simmer gently for about 3 hours. Add more stock if it gets lower than 1″ above the leaves.
Gently remove one at that point and see if it’s tender. If not, keep simmering until tender.
Keep them warm at a very low stove setting until time to serve or cool them down and serve them the next day. They are just as good or perhaps even better the next day.
If refrigerated overnight, they may need more stock for the reheat.
To serve, gently use a tong and place 4 grape leaves in a shallow rimmed soup bowl, garnish with the tomatoes, celery and leeks and ladle the broth over them.
Serve the Chipotle Peppers as a condiment and just stir a little dab into the bowl if desired. (Uncle Louie did not do this, but I have for over 30 years and I recommend it.)
Serve a rustic bread and room temperature butter to slather on the bread and then dip in the broth as you enjoy the leaves.
Don’t hesitate to go back for seconds.