I'm not going to lie to you: I love a good one-pot meal. I don't mind the prep work at all--a little chopping can go a long way towards making me a calmer, more rational individual--and frankly, anything that can go into the oven for an hour or so without me needing to be there, paying attention and worrying about overdoing it...that's a winner for me.
So Ami Youvetsi was instantly appealing as I paged through Tessa Kiros' Falling Cloudberries, our selection for this month's Cookbook Club. Lamb baked with red onions, tomatoes, orzo and cinnamon? YES PLS. There is a relatively small amount of prep work in the form of chopping onions and garlic, as well as searing the lamb chunks, but it's worth it in the end when you can slide the whole thing in the oven and walk away without fear of a ruined dinner. 15 minutes before you want to serve, the orzo goes in with a stir. Firm, salty chunks of haloumi can be added at the very end for those who like cheesy goodness (or left out, so as to appease cheese-haters like my man--he's wonderful, but even after 10 years, I marvel at the depth and breadth of his cheese-hatred). Leftovers? You bet. Someone at Cookbook Club described this as the type of dish you make on a Sunday and save for lunches the whole week long, and I couldn't agree more. What time is it now? 12:30? That sounds like leftover Youvetsi time to me.
(You should know that the recipe below easily feeds 8 people as a main dish. We had 10 ladies at Cookbook Club and STILL had plenty for everyone to take some home and 3 more lunch-sized servings left in my fridge. Next time, I'm halving all of the quantities except maybe the garlic, so that we have a glimmer of hope towards eating it all in a reasonable amount of time.)
Adapted from Tessa Kiros' Falling Cloudberries
- 2 medium-sized red onions, chopped fine (total volume about 1.5c)
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced (the recipe calls for 2 cloves, but we're a pro-garlic household, so I doubled it)
- 3tbs olive oil
- 5 tbs unsalted butter, divided
- 2 lbs lamb leg or shoulder, cut into ~1" cubes
- 28oz can of crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen's Organic Fire Roasted version for an extra flavor kick)
- 4c organic low-sodium chicken stock (the recipe specified water but ugh, no thank you, I'm all for adding depth of flavor. DUH)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 16oz. uncooked orzo
- Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to season
- 4-8oz. hard, salty cheese like parmigiano reggiano, pecorino, grana padano, feta or haloumi. I really, really loved the cubed haloumi, so you should probably just do that.
Then do these things:
1) Preheat your oven to 350F and get out your big dutch oven, you're going to need it. Heat the olive oil & 2 tbs butter over a medium-high flame.
2) Dry the lamb chunks thoroughly with paper towels and season liberally with salt & pepper. Brown the lamb in batches (I did about half a pound per batch), turning once or twice so you get a nice brown sear on the meat. Set the lamb aside in a separate bowl.
3) You should have a good amount of fat & juices left in the pan, but if you don't, you can add a little more olive oil to the pan. Throw the onions and garlic in and sauté until the onions are softened, adding a sprinkle of salt so the onions release some of their liquid. Contrary to the recipe, they will not become "golden" at this point. (Did anyone else notice how often the book called for things to be cooked until golden? gah.)
4) Add the meat & any accumulated juices back to the pot. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, remaining 3 tbs of butter, the cinnamon stick and the 4 cups of stock or water, whatever you're using. Bring to a boil then cover and move the pot to the oven. I let mine hang out in the 350F oven for about 90 minutes, though the recipe called for 60. I did check on it about 60 minutes in but the lamb wasn't tender enough just yet.
5) Remove the pot from the oven and remind yourself over and over that the pot is hot so that you don't grab the oven-baked lid with your bare hands. Continue reminding yourself of that fact. It might be helpful to have a friend nearby who can also just repeat that phrase over and over.
6) Remove the cinnamon stick. Stir in the orzo and return the covered pot to the oven. Keep your oven mitts on. That lid is HOT. If you're going to serve the dish right away, leave it in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring once. If there will be a little bit of time before serving, leave it in the oven for about 7 minutes, then remove and leave it covered on the stovetop. Maybe put a note on it that says HELLO I AM A HOT POT.
7) Add the cheese! Stir it up! Serve it and then bask in the glow of feeding your friends a delicious meal that requires a minimum of effort!
(a note about making this GF-friendly--substituting GF pasta or rice should be pretty straightforward. I'll try it soon and report back.)