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Stewed Lamb with Toasted Orzo and Rice

Serves 4 to 6

This lamb stew is excellent. The recipe is based on my Chicken and Tomatoes with Orzo and Rice, which is in the similar and related recipes. I added an Italian twist. Lamb, tomatoes and orzo are a natural combination and the aromatics are the perfect complement. I usually use lamb shanks in this recipe. For a more economical version, you can substitute thick lamb shoulder chops, which are every bit as tasty. They will only take about 40 minutes to cook.


   Lamb    Orzo and Rice

To stew the lamb, season the shanks with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the shanks and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the whole onion, carrot, celery, 4 garlic cloves, bay leaf and enough water to almost cover the shanks. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the meat is very tender, about 1 hour. Remove the meat to a plate to cool and discard the vegetables. Skim excess fat off of the broth and reserve at least 2 cups for later use. When the meat is cool enough to handle, take it off of the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the pot over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then the green peppers and chopped onions. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and sauté another minute. Crush the tomatoes slightly and add to the pot with their juices, meat, thyme and marjoram. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly and keep warm until serving.

Meanwhile, place butter, orzo and rice in a medium skillet and brown over medium heat, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn. Add 2 cups of the reserved broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook, covered, until tender, adding more broth if needed, and until all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. To serve, place orzo on individual plates and top with the lamb and tomatoes.