David Page and Barbara Shinn of Shinn Estate Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island trim tender young grape leaves and brine them at home. Page often stuffs the brined leaves with sausage made from locally raised duck, calling the hors d'oeuvres "a NoFo classic." Here, he creates a version with ground pork and fregola, a small, round Sardinian couscous.
More Hors D'oeuvres
1/2 cup fregola (see Note)
3 cups hot water
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped marjoram or oregano plus 4 marjoram or oregano
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
40 brined grape leaves, drained (from one 16-ounce jar)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
How to Make It
In a large bowl, cover the fregola with the hot water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain, shaking out the excess water.
Return the fregola to the bowl. Add the pork, shallots, salt, pepper, chopped marjoram and cinnamon and knead until combined. Transfer the meat mixture to a baking sheet and pat into a 6-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle lengthwise into three 2-inch-wide strips and cut each strip into 12 logs.
Snip off the stems at the base of the grape leaves. Smooth out a few leaves on a work surface. Set a log of the filling at the stem end. Roll up the stem end of each leaf once to enclose the filling, then fold in the sides. Tightly roll up the leaves to form a cylinder. Repeat with the remaining grape leaves and filling.
Arrange the stuffed grape leaves in a large, deep skillet in a single layer and scatter the marjoram sprigs on top. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil and pour enough water in the skillet to cover the grape leaves by 1/2 inch. Top with any remaining unfilled grape leaves and a plate to keep the stuffed leaves submerged. Bring to a boil and cover the skillet. Simmer over low heat until the filling is cooked through and the grape leaves are tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Let cool in the liquid.
Drain the stuffed grape leaves, discarding the unstuffed leaves, and transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Let stand for 30 minutes, then serve warm or at room temperature.
The stuffed grape leaves can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.