I’ve mentioned before that, despite being a lover of food and an, erm, taster of all things, I can boil my favorite dinners down to two things: lahanodolmades and this dish, arni giouvetsi (you-vet-see). Neither of them are particularly fancy or complicated. They aren’t terribly exotic or packed with unique ingredients. But they are good. Really good. And part of the reason I love them so much, no doubt, is because of all the nostalgia and comfort that is associated with both dishes. I ate both quite frequently growing up and, even to this day, when I travel to Michigan to see family, somebody makes one of these two dishes for me because it’s well known how much I love them. Some things never change. (I won’t get into the time when my grandma sent up a batch of lahanodolmades with my dad and stepmom who, after getting stuck in traffic, finally made it to my place with a casserole dish of some really funky smelling stuffed cabbage.)
Giovetsi is basically a dish made with meat and orzo, cooked together in the oven. Arni means lamb, so you can have different forms of giouvetsi, like chicken and beef. But as I mentioned in that other post, I don’t make arni giouvetsi very often. I make variations of this dish (with chicken, with beef stew meat, etc.) more often because of the whole only-two-people-living-here-thing. And I typically do it on the stove top (which actually negates the whole “giouvetsi” thing). This dish is often made with a shoulder or leg of lamb, which I probably don’t have to tell you are quite large. Perfectly enough, though, the people at Lava Lake Lamb (who also sent me the ground lamb I used to make my spiced meatballs), sent me a piece of top round lamb and right away, I knew I had to make this dish. Now, it’s true that top round is quite a bit more tender (and cooks for less time) than the pieces usually used in this long-cooking dish, but I just had to make it. And it turned out great! Comfort on a plate!
Arni Giouvetsi/Baked Lamb and Orzo
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1.5 lbs. lamb (leg, shoulder roast, top roast, etc.)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup (about half a can) diced tomatoes
3 cups broth (or water)
8 oz. orzo
plenty of freshly ground pepper and kosher or sea salt
myzithra or good romano for serving
Preheat the oven to 300.
Rub the lamb with olive oil and season very liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Remember this is a big hunk of meat, so don’t be shy with the seasoning. Sear the lamb in a heavy bottomed skillet/dutch oven/what have you on all sides. Remove from the pan and place in a casserole dish (or set aside until you are ready to put it back in a Dutch oven, if that’s what you’re using).
Add a little olive oil to the pan and then add the onions. Once the onions are tender, stir in the garlic and tomato paste until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has started to cook off a bit and become incorporated with the onions. Add the diced tomatoes and broth and scrape up any bits at the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the liquid around the lamb in the casserole dish. Cover and bake until the lamb is very tender, about 1.5-2 hours (or more).
Increase the heat in the oven to 350, and stir in the orzo. Continue to bake, this time uncovered, until the orzo is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20-30 minutes.
Serve pieces of the lamb alongside the orzo and top generously with myzithra or romano cheese.