Culinary cultures worldwide offer signature doughy pockets encasing seasoned meat concoctions whose spices instantly indicate to which geographical region your tantalized tastebuds have been introduced. A few such wonders include Mexican empanadas, Indian samosas, Asian dumplings, and the crown jewel in my biased opinion, Middle Eastern sambousics!

My family expects these fried meat pies each Christmas, but in order for me to have them ready and hot to serve, I have to plan several weeks in advance. I make a whole happening on the day I choose for my own sambousic factory. I like to get in the mood! This includes a day without scheduled interruptions, a day when I’m feeling up to the task (no RA pain in my hands), and a Fayrooz (legendary Lebanese singer) CD playing in the background.

I first make my dough and let it rest covered on the kitchen counter. While the dough is resting, I stir up my meat filling, giving it time to cool before I assemble the pastries. I brown the ground meat with the onion, garlic paste, and spices, adding the pine nuts at the end of cooking. I roll out the dough very thinly on a lightly floured surface and cut out circles using a sharp cookie cutter. I place one tablespoon of the cooled meat filling on each circle. With my finger, I dampen the edges with water, fold the dough over making a half circle, and seal the edges either by crimping or using the tongs of a fork.

At this stage, I place the meat pies on a cookie sheet covered with butcher/wax paper and freeze till hard. After they are rock hard, I store them in Ziploc bags and keep in the freezer till the day I serve them.

On Christmas morning, I remove the sambousics from the freezer letting them thaw on the butcher/wax paper. I fry the pastries about twenty minutes before serving in a deep fat fryer or iron skillet.

The only problem with this recipe is that I never get to have leftovers; they (sambousic) walk out the door as family leaves! Maybe next year?!

What special dish is expected at your Christmas table?

Sambousic Dough

5 cups flour

1 tsp salt

5 T labneh or cream cheese

5 T shortening or lard

Add enough cold water to mix and knead dough till elastic and slightly firm.

Meat Filling

1 lb ground meat

1 finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic mashed with 2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp allspice

1/2 cup roasted pine nuts

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