Top Chef 2 contender Marisa Churchill learned a lot from her yaya, including how to make dolmathes with avgolemono, a lemony egg sauce (and often a soup) common in Greek cuisine. Marisa’s yaya makes the sauce a little eggier than our version, but since it takes the expertise and careful hand of an experienced yaya not to curdle it, we’ve added a little extra liquid, which is common.

What to buy: Grape leaves can be found in jars in many gourmet and specialty stores.

This recipe was featured as part of our Greek Easter Celebration menu.

  • Yield: About 55 dolmathes
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Total: 1 hr 10 mins
  • Active: 35 mins

Ingredients (13)

For the dolmathes:

  • 60 grape leaves, fresh or jarred
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup white rice, such as jasmine or basmati
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

For the avgolemono:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2 medium lemons)
  • 1 cup hot reserved cooking liquid from the dolmathes


For the dolmathes:

  1. If using fresh grape leaves, prepare an ice water bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice and water and set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat, add grape leaves, and cook until leaves are tender but still hold their shape, about 5 to 10 minutes (depending upon the size of the leaves). Remove grape leaves from the water and submerge them in the ice water bath. Drain.
  2. If using jarred grape leaves, place leaves in a strainer and discard the liquid. Carefully separate the leaves, rinse with cold water, and let drain.
  3. Meanwhile, combine beef, onion, rice, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, parsley, mint, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Lay out one grape leaf and remove the tough stem. Place about 1 tablespoon (or less, depending upon the size of the leaf) of filling in the center.
  5. Carefully fold the top and sides of the leaf over the filling.
  6. Roll tightly into a cylinder (it should look like a miniature football) and place in a large saucepan.
  7. Repeat with remaining leaves and filling, arranging dolmathes side by side until the bottom of the pan is completely covered. Continue layering dolmathes until they are all in the pan.
  8. Place chicken broth in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour broth over dolmathes, along with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer until rice and beef are cooked though, about 20 minutes. Remove dolmathes to a serving platter. Strain and measure remaining cooking liquid, reserving 1 cup to make the avgolemono sauce. Cover dolmathes loosely with foil to keep warm. Wipe out the saucepan used to cook the dolmathes and set aside.

For the avgolemono:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs on high until they are light yellow and foamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add lemon juice in a steady stream and continue beating for 1 minute more.
  3. Add reserved dolmathes cooking liquid in a steady stream and whip for 1 minute to incorporate.
  4. Pour sauce into the saucepan used to cook the dolmathes. Heat, whisking constantly, over low heat until sauce is steaming (do not let it come to a boil), about 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
  5. Discard any liquid that has accumulated on the platter of dolmathes. Pour sauce over warm dolmathes or serve on the side.

Beverage pairing: Boutari Moschofilero, Greece. The grape Moschofilero is a mouthful to say, but the wine it makes is as light, clean, and fresh as the word is heavy. Its citric flavors are perfect for the lemony dolmathes, and it has a lovely floral perfume that will play nicely with the grape-leaf wrappers, parsley, and mint.