I made this dish last week for a dinner organized by my friends at Reel Eats. They host dinners that are inspired by food-centric movies. They picked My Greek Fat Greek Wedding and asked me to create a menu. The main course was lamb shanks with kritharaki…Giouvetsi as Greek call it but to pull off this dish for over 30 people meant that I had to be organized, creative and effective. Effective meaning the food had to be delicious.
Lamb shanks are one of my favourite cuts of meat and when properly cooked they are fall-off-the bone, juicy, succulent. The lamb shanks were browned then braised with wine, stock, herbs and spices. For very best results, use a homemade stock using lamb or veal.
The other component of this dish was the kritharaki of orzo as most of you know it. Kritharaki is loved by Greeks ans it appears in many a recipe (many versions) called Giouvetsi. The dish is rustic but it can be made to look fit for a king (or Queen) and I have no problem serving this for family or for a more formal affair. Great taste and comfort food trumps all!
Lamb Shanks With Kritharaki (Κοτσι Αρνιου με Κριθαρακι)
4 lamb shanks
salt and pepper
3 bay leaves
7-8 whole allspice berries
1/2 cup dry red wine
approx. 2 cups lamb/veal stock
1 large onion, rough chop
5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 carrot, rough chop
1 celery rough chop
1 heaping Tbsp. of tomato paste
10-12 sprigs of fresh thyme
For the Krithraki/orzo
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups of kritharaki
1 mediun onion, diced
1 red pepper pepper, diced
3 Tbsp. of tomato paste
6 cups of lamb/veal stock
salt and pepper to taste
- Season your lamb shanks with salt and pepper and place an oven-safe pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat (just big enought to contain all the lamb shanks. Drizzle some olive oil in the pot and brown all sides of the shanks. Pour in the wine and deglaze the botton of the pot scraping up the bits. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, allspice, garlic, onions, celery, carrots, thyme and enough stock to come halfway up the shanks. Season with salt and pepper and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and braise for 90-120 minutes or until shanks are fork-tender. Take off the heat, reserve the shanks and place the braising liquid in a gravy separator to skim most of the fat.
- Remove the allspice, bay leaves and thyme and place in a pot and return to the stovetop. Reduce to half then puree with a food processor to thicken. Reserve.
- In a large pot over medium heat, add your olive oil and your onions and red pepper and sweat for 5-6 minutes or until the onions have softened.
- Now add your kritharaki/orzo and toast the pasta (for about 5 minutes) while constantly stirring. Empty the kritharaki into a casserole/baking dish along with the lamb shanks and add the hot stock (approx. 3 parts stock to each part kritharaki). Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Mix/stir well and bake in a preheated 375F oven for 45 minutes or until most of the liquid has absorbed and your top is golden brown.
- Let stand for 10 minutes and plate some kritharaki on the plate and top with lamb shank. Pour sour sauce over the lamb and top with some sauce and grated dry Mizithra or Kefalotyri cheese. Serve with a Kir Yanni Paranga Xinomavro, Syrah, Merlot.
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