Kibbeh is one of those very versatile dishes in Lebanon that can be served as part of a mezze / mezza or for dinner with yogurt, many lemon wedges, tabbouleh, hommos, French fries, or anything you wish. It can be made with different ingredients and utilizing various different applications and techniques, as in lamb kibbeh, beef kibbeh, fish kibbeh, potato kibbeh, pumpkin kibbeh, raw kibbeh, grilled kibbeh, fried kibbeh, baked kibbeh, etc. I love it all, but for this occasion, I am making lamb kibbeh for one of my favorite people and wonderful longtime friend, Phillip Anderson. Phillip LOVES kibbeh! He orders it every time he goes to a Lebanese restaurant. The version of kibbeh I am making is traditionally deep fried and served as part of a mezze; however, I am oven “frying” it, or baking it, for a slightly healthier approach and serving it for dinner.
LEBANESE KIBBEH – 2rass
1 1/2 yellow Onions – finely diced
1 1/2 lbs ground Lamb
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tablespoon organic Butter
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1/2 tablespoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Add the pine nuts and toast, until they are golden brown. Please pay close attention to them, as they tend to brown very quickly. Put them to the side. In a larger sauté pan, brown the lamb in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter on medium high to high heat. Remove the browned lamb from the pan, and place in a bowl to the side. DO NOT clean the pan. In the same pan that was used for the lamb, add the onions with 2 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onions on medium low, until they are caramelized. Add the browned lamb to the onions, while still on the stove. Add the salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and toasted pine nuts. Stir to combine. Tilt the pan to allow the filling to drain a little, so the residual fat can separate. Do not discard that fat, as it can be used in the place of olive oil in the crust*. Allow the filling to get to room temperature.
*This is a very delicious thing my mother taught me. Using the residual fat from the filling in the crust, will yield a much tastier kibbeh.
2 large yellow Onions – puréed
2 lbs ground Lamb
1 1/2 cups Bulgur – very finely ground
1 tablespoon Salt
2 teaspoons Allspice
3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg – freshly grated
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – or 1/4 cup residual fat from filling
1 cup Water
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for brushing the kibbeh
Begin by rinsing the bulgur a few times, then draining most of the water. Make sure to leave some excess water to allow the bulgur to absorb it, as it site for a few minutes. Place the ground lamb in a large bowl. Roughly chop the onions, and place them in a food processor. Purée the onions, then add them to the bowl, along with the moist bulgur. Add the salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and olive oil. Mix the ingredients until a paste is formed. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for about an hour, to help the flavors integrate together.
Now comes the challenging part, forming the crust / paste into 2rass. Find an open surface, such as a kitchen island or a table, and place the bowl with the crust / paste, the bow with the filling, a small bowl filled with 1 cup of water, and a large plate for the kibbeh balls or 2rass on said surface. Make sure to grease the plate with a little olive oil, to keep the kibbeh from sticking.
Making the 2rass:
You must wet your hands with water EVERY time you start making a kibbeh ball (2ors). After you have wet your hands, take some of the paste, depending on how large or small you want the 2rass to be, and form it into a round ball. Push your index finger gently through the center of the ball, to form a tunnel of sorts for the filling. With a spoon, take some of the filling, and place it in the tunnel you just formed. Close the opening with the inside of your thumb and the outside of your index finger. Mold the oddly shaped, stuffed oval into the shape of an American football by smoothing the paste with your fingers. If you see some cracks forming, wet your fingers with water, and smooth out the crack. If this process proves to be too lengthy and challenging, then roll them into balls instead.
If you choose to make these the traditional way, bring 2 quarts of grapeseed or vegetable oil to 365 degrees Fahrenheit, and fry the kibbeh until golden brown. When you remove them from the oil, place them on a rack to drain and cool a bit.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet and place the kibbeh on it. Gently brush the top of every 2ors or football with olive oil. Place in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden and delicious. Remove from the oven and plate. Kibbeh is always served with yogurt and lemon wedges. Eat up!