I was so happy to make this episode for you because it is a Greek classic. Lamb Baked with Orzo is very well-known in Greece and America. It is lamb chops baked in a fantastic orzo and tomato casserole. This dish is great for celebratory occasions because it is a little fancy and beyond the scope of what one would make for a typical weeknight dinner.
The surprising part about this dish is that it actually isn’t difficult. You won’t find the steps tedious or overwhelming at all. This recipe is mostly about time because the lamb needs to cook completely and the flavors needs to marry. The time in the oven is what makes this happen!
When I make this for a crowd I always get started early in the afternoon so it’s done and ready to be plated when guests arrive. I like to serve it as pictured below, with the lamb in the center of the orzo. It looks lovely this way and has a nice wow factor to it. You could also add this dish to a buffet and let people serve themselves if they’d prefer. Either way, be sure that everyone has a steak knife at their place setting for the lamb.
When I’ve served this at parties I’ve made it bite size with a little bit if lamb in a small cup of the orzo mixture and served with a little fork. The guests love this! I would not recommend trying to do this at home, however, you’d drive yourself mad making dozens of little appetizer sized servings. For guests at your table stick with making the large casserole dish and serving individual portions.
To round out your festive meal I recommend serving this with a lovely green salad and some bread for mopping up the plate. You want to make sure you catch every single drop! Have a wonderful celebration everyone!
LAMB WITH ORZO
Yiouvetsi means baked with pasta and Arni means lamb. This lamb baked with orzo is a very traditional Greek dish that’s frequently served in the winter and is great for holidays. It is more commonly served in the Northern part of Greece because the climate is colder. Since it is a more involved recipe, I reserve it for holidays and special occasions when we are entertaining a crowd.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
4 sprigs of rosemary
10 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole peeled garlic cloves
4 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
6 1-lb lamb shanks
Salt & Pepper
1 cup of all-purpose flour
2 medium size carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 medium onions
2 (6oz) Cans of tomato paste
1 lb orzo
Prepare the broth flavoring by wrapping the ingredients in cheesecloth and forming a sack and tying it tightly with a twine.
Prepare the lamb by sprinkling all sides of each lamb shank with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and dredge each shank with the flour.
Pour 1 cup of olive oil in a thick bottomed pan and place it over medium-high heat. Add the lamb shanks to the oil and brown them on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Then, remove the lamb to a baking sheet and allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, add the onions, carrots, celery, cheesecloth bundle, salt and pepper to the pot and stir them for 1 minute until the herbs are fragrant and the onions begin to soften. Then add the tomato paste and 5 cups of water.
Place the lamb back in the pot, if needed add more water so that the lamb shanks are just covered.
Place a lid on the top of the pot and bring it to a boil for 5 minutes. Then, lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the lamb is fork tender.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a 15x12x4 baking dish next to the stovetop.
Skim the fat from the top of the dish with a spoon and use tongs to pluck out the cheesecloth bundle and discard. Remove the lamb shanks and place them in the baking dish.
Using an immersion blender, blend the liquid in the cooking pot until completely smooth. Then, turn the heat to high and bring the liquid back to a boil. Add the orzo to the pot and allow it to boil for about 5 minutes, or until al dente.
Ladle the orzo and all the liquid into the baking dish so it surround s the lamb shanks. Bake the lamb for 30 minutes uncovered. Remove it from the oven and serve hot with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top.
Nikki Glekas is the owner of Nikki Glekas Events, a full-service catering and events company located in Stamford, CT. She is currently operating with COVID-safe procedures and is happy to discuss your event and catering needs with you. To discuss further please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203.658.8659.