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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Giouvetsi (Lamb and Orzo Casserole)

Giouvetzi or Youvetsi (yoo-VEH-tsee) is a traditional Greek casserole baked in a clay pot that can be made with any meat though traditionally it is made with lamb or beef. The meat is cooked in a rich tomato sauce together with orzo pasta and finished with grated cheese on top, in this case I used Kasseri.
For my version, I added more vegetables and used less oil for a healthier balance.  It makes a wonderful meal on a cold evening along with some steamed green beans or peas.  The traditional seasonings of sweet cinnamon and aromatic oregano give this dish a robust flavor sure to please most everyone.   
I used a dutch oven to bake this casserole.  

Ingredients:  Serves 4
1 pound boneless leg of lamb
1 small onion
1 leek

2 or 3 carrots
2 small shallots
3 small stalks celery, preferably the heart
3 clove garlic
1 14 oz can chopped or crushed tomato
1 cup (8 oz) chicken broth
1 cup orzo
1/3 cup red wine
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp allspice
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese (kasseri, kefalotyri, or parmesan)
Preparation: preheat oven to 350 degrees
Start off by chopping your vegetables - onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, celery and carrots.  A rough chop should do the trick.  I like bite sized pieces.
Put them in a bowl and set aside. 

Next step is to trim your meat of any excess fat and then chop into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes. Generously salt and pepper the meat.

Put your dutch oven on the stove and heat up - I used a 4 quart round dutch oven.

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pot, add meat and brown on all sides.   Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.

 Drain the pot and then add the rest of the olive oil and bring up the heat.  Pour the bowl of vegetables into the pot and scrap the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to get the meat bits up.  Salt and pepper to taste, add fresh parsley, allspice and oregano.

Once the vegetables start to glisten, pour in the 1/3 cup of red wine.
Cook for a few minutes, return the browned meat to the pot.  Add the can of tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon stick and chicken broth.

Bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven.  Cook for around 40 minutes.

Add orzo and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Serve the Giouvetsi with grated cheese.

My favorite is kasseri but traditionally kefalotyri is used which is similar to parmesan cheese.