Friday, March 22, 2013

Arni Yiouvetsi

So Friday night at 9:15 as dinner service is starting to wind down, I have a chance to look at my cell phone, the first chance I've had since we started cranking at 5:30. And what do I see but these back-to-back texts from my wife? Seriously, I've been cooking and sending food to the dining room as fast I can for nearly four hours and I'm supposed to be thinking about dinner on Sunday?!?

It was a good idea and (Oh, by the way!) I was on the hook for blog material for a vendor who sent me some lamb samples to write about for his blog and just happened to have nice lamb in the cooler. But I wasn't going to let on to Ann that I would make yiouvetsi: I would surprise her. So I didn't say anything about yiouvetsi in my reply and merely let her know about what time I thought I would be home that evening.

Yiouvetsi Ingredients
Saturday night, I arrived long after Ann had gone to bed and stashed all my ingredients in our second refrigerator in the garage so that she wouldn't see them. Sunday noon, we were just on our way out the door to Delaplane Cellars to talk to Jim and Betsy about some upcoming catering that we are doing for them, when I asked Ann to grab a couple bottles of water out of the fridge for our trip. She looked a little perplexed at first to see all these things (I think the big green and white tin of Bulgarian sheep's milk feta threw her for a second) and then it dawned on her: "You're making yiouvetsi!"

Just out of the Oven
Over the years, I have arrived at a very simple yiouvetsi that really appeals to me. I cube and sear lamb and remove it from the pan. Then I add onions and brown them just a bit. Back into the pan goes the lamb along with tomatoes and their juice, oregano, lemon juice, and everything gets covered with water. After the lamb braises to tenderness, I add orzo and put it back in the oven until the orzo is plumped. Then I like to strew some feta about the top and lightly brown it.

The feta is my own touch and I do it because it pleases me: most yiouvetsi is served with a hard grating cheese that is sprinkled on the dish at the table. Sometimes I sprinkle a little ground cinnamon on the meat before browning it: I did this time; sometimes I add (a lot of) garlic: I did not this time. I deglazed the pan with a little white wine this time too, not something I always do. To me, this is not a dish to be cooked with red wine, though many do, but it is clearly a dish to be served with a big red wine.


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