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Kibbe, a mixture of bulgur wheat and ground lamb.
© Mark Roper

Kibbe in Yogurt Sauce

  • ACTIVE: 1 HR
  • TOTAL TIME: 2 HRS
  • SERVINGS: 5 to 6
  • MAKE-AHEAD
  • STAFF-FAVORITE

A Syrian version of comfort food, kibbe (Middle Eastern stuffed meatballs) are braised in a supersimple, tangy yogurt sauce, a staple of Syrian cuisine. "Many Syrian cooks do not flavor the yogurt," Anissa Helou says, "but I prefer to lift it with herbs and garlic." She also suggests swapping in a few teaspoons of dried mint in place of the cilantro. Be sure to use very fine bulgur wheat, she adds, or else the kibbe mixture will be too coarse and hard to shape.

Filling

  1. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 1/2 cup pine nuts
  3. 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  4. 1/2 pound ground lamb
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  7. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  8. Salt

Kibbe

  1. 1 medium onion, quartered
  2. 1 pound ground lamb
  3. 1 cup fine bulgur, rinsed
  4. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  6. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  7. 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Yogurt Sauce

  1. 2 pounds Greek-style plain yogurt
  2. 1 1/2 cups water
  3. 2 large eggs, beaten

Cilantro Butter

  1. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  3. 1 cup chopped cilantro
  1. In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the nuts; cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the nuts are golden and the butter is browned, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the nuts to a bowl.
  2. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened, 8 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, stirring to break up any lumps, until no pink remains, 8 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, allspice, pepper and pine nuts and season with salt. Let cool.
  3. Fill a bowl with lightly salted water. In a food processor, pulse the onion until finely chopped. Add the lamb and pulse just to incorporate, then add the bulgur and pulse to blend. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Moisten your hands with the salt water and knead in the cinnamon, allspice, pepper and salt.
  4. Moisten your hands again and roll 3 tablespoons of the kibbe mixture into an egg shape. Using your index finger, poke a hole in 1 end of the egg; gently work your finger into the kibbe until you have a 3-inch-long egg-shaped shell with 1/4-inch-thick walls. Cradling the kibbe in one hand so that the walls don't collapse, spoon 1 tablespoon of the filling into the cavity. Pinch the end to seal. Set the kibbe on a plate. Repeat with the remaining mixture and filling (you should have about 20 kibbe). Freeze for about 30 minutes, until firm.
  5. In a large saucepan, combine the yogurt with the water and eggs and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until the yogurt just begins to simmer. Add the kibbe to the yogurt sauce and cook over low heat until the sauce is thickened and the kibbe are firm and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  6. In a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the garlic; cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Discard the garlic. Stir in the cilantro and remove from the heat.
  7. Transfer the kibbe and sauce to a platter. Drizzle with the cilantro butter and serve.
Make Ahead The assembled, uncooked kibbe can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Defrost before proceeding. Serve With Warm pita and rice.

Suggested Pairing

There's not much—if any—wine made in Syria, but the adjacent country of Lebanon is the source of some extraordinary reds, many of which would pair very well with this (or any) lamb dish.

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