How to make Greek lamb stew with artichokes and orzo
Cooking this fabulous, subtle stew with bone-in lamb adds more to its flavor. This Greek lamb stew is finished off with the classic Mediterranean sauce, Avgolemono, which thickens with eggs and lemon mixed into the broth. Using the Dutch oven is the best cooking method, a thick-walled cooking pot, usually cast-iron, with a tight-fitting lid, that can be used both in the oven or on the stove top. Encourage your guests at the table to pick up the bony lamb chunks with their fingers while serving them the wine of the Greek gods, Retsina. Serves 6.
Things you’ll need
- Dutch oven or large crock pot
- sharp French knife
- small sharp paring knife
- cutting board
- medium sized wire whisk
- Chinois, a fine mesh strainer, or cheese cloth and a colander
- slotted metal spoon
- wooden spoon
- medium size mixing bowl
- 4 lbs. lamb shoulder, bone-in, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tbsp. Greek olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, cut into coarse chunks
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1½ qt. chicken stock/broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 bouquet garni of 8 peppercorns, 8 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 8 artichokes
- ½ cup orzo
- 5 large eggs
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup snipped fresh dill
- Place the lamb in the Dutch oven over high heat on the top burner of your stove and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes removing any froth that floats to the surface. Drain and reserve lamb.
- Return the empty Dutch oven to the stove top over a moderate heat. Add the olive oil, then add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the stock, water, cheesecloth bag, and reserved lamb chunks. Season to taste with salt. Increase heat to high, bring liquid to a boil, and then reduce heat. Let stew simmer, partially covered, for 1½ hours.
- Cut off part of the stem end on each artichoke, leaving only about ½-inch of the stem on the bottom. Remove the outer leaves from each artichoke until you can see the bulge of the artichoke bottom defined through the remaining leaves. Now quarter each artichoke lengthwise (this will expose the hairy chokes). Working with the paring knife, cut out as much of the chokes as possible.
- When the lamb is done cooking, transfer it to a bowl and set aside. Carefully ladle the broth into a large bowl while straining away, with the chinois, all of the cooked vegetables, discarding everything except the broth liquid. When the broth has been completely strained, it should go directly back into the Dutch oven.
- Put the lamb into the Dutch oven that had been set aside and bring the broth to a boil, then add the artichokes. Reduce heat to low, and simmer paritally covered, for 10-minutes. Then stir in the orzo pasta and cook to a simmer only, partially covered, for 15 minutes.
- In the mixing bowl, whisk the eggs well until light in color. Whisk the lemon juice into the eggs, then very slowly whisk just 1 cup of the hot liquid broth taken from inside the Dutch oven. Set the egg mixture aside.
- Turn off the heat under the Dutch oven, and stir in the heavy cream. Now slowly stir in the egg mixture. Return it back to just a low heat, and cook until stew is slightly thickened (don’t allow the stew to boil). Just before serving, stir in fresh dill. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
- The butcher at your local grocery store or market can cut the lamb shoulder into 2-inch pieces for you at little or no cost.
- If you don’t have the pleasure of owning a Dutch oven, then an extra large crock pot will have to do, but only use one that can be turned up high enough for boiling.
- A bouquet garni is a large piece of doubled-up cheese cloth that you put seasonings in the middle of, then bundle up into a bag with the top tied tightly shut with string.
- While working to remove the inner chokes, rub all cut surfaces of the artichoke with lemon juice.
- Orzo is a size and type of pasta readily available anywhere good Italian dry pasta is sold. It cooks out to be the size of extra large white rice, but smaller that a pine nut.
- Strict attention must be paid when adding the eggs to the broth. If you are unsure, use a hot temperature thermometer and keep the broth no more than 140 degrees or less. Have a little bit of ice available in case the egg begins curdling to scramble, then toss some in before adding any more of the egg mixture. Keep stirring always.
- Dutch ovens are made very heavy to withstand the highest of temperatures, so having a keen sense of care and concern for handling, stirring and straining is wise: elbow-high oven mitts, extra towels, good utensils, etc.
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