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Baked Kibbeh
The national dish of Lebanon and Syria, traditionally prepared with a mortar and pestle and hours of vigorous pounding.
Stone mortar
Total time: 1-½ hours
Kibbeh
3 cups fine bulgur
2-½ lbs. ground lamb or beef sirloin
2 cups, grated onion
1-½ tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
Stuffing
3 cups finely chopped onions
1 tbsp. salt
2 lbs. ground lamb or beef sirloin
2 cups finely chopped walnuts, almonds or pine nuts
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves

½ cup, melted butter

Wash the bulgur in very cold water, drain, and let it sit for an hour.

Put the meat, grated onion, salt and pepper in a food processor and chop until smooth. Remove this mixture from the work bowl, put in the bulgur and process it for a minute or two until it becomes a fine paste. Add half of the meat and a tablespoon of cold water, process until well-blended, then add the remaining meat and another tablespoon of cold water. The resulting blend should be very smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

To make the stuffing, dry-fry the onions with salt for 10 minutes, then add the meat, breaking it up as fine as possible while it browns. Add the nuts, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves, and continue to cook until the meat is somewhat crispy.

Generously butter a 9x13" broiler-proof baking dish and line it with waxed paper or baker's parchment. Spread half of the raw kibbeh mixture over it, smooth it evenly over the bottom of the pan, then turn the pan over onto a clean baking sheet, also lined with waxed paper or parchment. Return the buttered liner to the pan and spread the other half of the raw kibbeh over it. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the bottom layer of kibbeh, then turn the pre-formed top layer onto it, face down, and peel off the paper. Using a sharp, wet knife, score the top of the kibbeh in squares or diamonds, cutting halfway through the top layer only. Drizzle over the top with melted butter.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the kibbeh is light gold. Remove the aluminum foil and put the dish under the broiler for 2 or 3 minutes to brown the top.