Armenia: Lamb and Orzo

05. January 2012 Lamb + Veal 0

For 2012, I told myself that I would go back to writing. This week, when I returned from my Christmas-birthday and New Year trip in San Francisco, I immediately got back to cooking. It wasn’t just to eat; it was to start updating this Web site as soon as possible to keep up with that resolution.

While in San Francisco, I cooked beef stew for a family of five who was renting a house by the ocean in Montara, a few miles away from downtown and minutes away from beautiful Pacifica. I only had a couple of hours to feed all of us–we were all tired from our respective full day–so I felt like I didn’t deliver as much as I could have if I had more time or if I was cooking in my apartment back in New York City with all the necessary equipment. They ate the food though, and I honestly think they enjoyed it; or they were just really being polite!

To make up for that shortcoming that’s still eating me a little bit inside, I asked an Armenian co-worker for a tried and true winter stew recipe. He emailed me a rough draft of this lamb and orzo recipe and I put my own spin to it when I got home. While I was cooking, I remembered that back in 2006, I had started this mini-project to cook as many traditional family recipes from people I know who hail from different countries.Unfortunately, I stopped updating it in 2008, but now I have another excuse to go back to writing.

I don’t know much about Armenia. Okay, I know nothing besides what I learned from Ararat, the 2002 movie about the genocide. But even my co-worker blames his too-American father for knowing more about Chinese culture (his wife is Chinese) than his own. When he visits his family in Colorado, this dish is one to be served during their stay. They save it for special occasions–perhaps because lamb was more expensive to procure back in the day–but also because it was hearty and brought the family together.

I now wish I can get another chance to cook for that same family in Montara so I may redeem myself, impress a little bit more and bring the members back together again.

1 stick of butter, cut in quarters
1 1/5 lbs of lamb stew cuts
1 yellow onion, minced
beef broth
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 large green pepper, seeded, chopped
1 15-ounce can of tomato purée
2 cups of orzo pasta

1. In a large heated Dutch oven, add the butter until browned and almost melted. Add and brown the lamb pieces on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onions and mix until translucent. Cover the pot and cook for 1 hour in low heat.
2. Check after the first 25 minutes and add a splash of beef broth so that the meat doesn’t burn or stick to the pot. Gently stir with a wooden spatula. Repeat after the next 25 minutes to avoid burning. Add the tomatoes and the bell pepper after the hour is up and cook for another 30 minutes. Add another splash of broth after the first half of the 30 minutes to avoid burning the vegetables.
3. Boil some water in a separate pot and set aside. Uncover the Dutch oven and add the tomato purée to the lamb and vegetables. Slowly add some hot water splash by splash, or until you have the desired consistency. Your stew must be somewhat saucy, not too thick but not too watery either.
4. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the orzo and cook by constantly stirring everything with your spatula, about 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Feel free to add a jig or two of the hot water to make sure your sauce does not thicken too much. Season with more salt as necessary. Turn off the stove and cook the pasta for the last 2 minutes with the remaining heat by stirring some more.

Related post/s:
Cooking the World: Global Gastronomy