Collard Leaf Dolmades with Pork & Sweet Potato Yogurt

(makes 24 dolmades) 

10-15 large, in tact collard leaves 
1 1/2 cups loose sage sausage (often called country sausage or breakfast sausage) 
1/3 cup roughy chopped, toasted pecans 
1/4 cup dried cranberries 
1/3 cup apple cider 
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated on a microplane) 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

In a small saucepan or in the microwave, bring the apple cider up to a simmer and pour it over the cranberries to rehydrate them. While the cranberries are cooling, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and set up an ice bath nearby. Once the water is at a rolling boil, drop the collard leaves in 2 at a time, blanching each set for about 45 seconds. Using tongs, transfer the blanched, now bright green leaves, to an ice bath. Continue this process with the remaining leaves. Once you’ve blanched and shocked all the collards, dry them thoroughly between paper towels and remove the large stem with a knife, taking care to make sure either side of the leaf stays in tact. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the (uncooked) sausage, the pecans, the drained cranberries, ginger, salt, black pepper and brown sugar. Paddle on low until the mixture is homogenous.  To assemble the dolmades, cut the collard leaves into a roughly 3 x 2 inch rectangle. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sausage mix onto the lower center portion of the collard rectangle. Using your fingers, shape the filling into a short cigar. Fold the side edges in over the filling. Fold the bottom over, and roll it up much like an egg roll. Continue cutting, filling, tucking and rolling until you’ve used up all of your filling. Store the assembled dolmades, seam side down, until you’re ready to cook them.  

Make the Sweet Potato Yogurt
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt 
zest of one lemon (removed with a microplane) 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
1 tablespoon honey 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and process until super smooth! 

Cook and Serve
Note: When I do this at home, I call on a steamer basket like the one you would use to steam broccoli. A bamboo dumpling steamer works great as well. Just make sure the dolmades don’t touch the bottom of the pan or the water. 

Whatever your steamer situation is, set it up and bring the water up to a boil. Place the dolmades in the basket in a single layer, taking care that they are not touching. Cover and steam hard for 10 minutes. If you need to cook these in batches, they will keep warm in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Serve the dolmades with a swoosh of sweet potato yogurt.