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October 29, 2011 / beatricebunny

Creamy Lamb Orzo

There’s something really satisfying about throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and having it come out tasty. This is a skill that I wanted when I first started cooking, and believed, despite all evidence to the contrary, would just come with luck. It’s something that I’m generally successful at now, but I’ve had a lot of disasters over the years (including on “ratatouille” that required literally throwing the pot away) and A LOT of restraint.

So, even though these dishes are usually a success these days, I am still inordinately pleased when one turns out well.

I often travel during the week for my job, and I didn’t get home until nearly 8 pm last night. My husband was sitting on the couch reading. When I asked him why he hadn’t cooked dinner, he shrugged and told me that it hadn’t occurred to him. It is a true fact that my husband feeds himself with no problems when I’m gone, but will let himself get a headache from hunger rather than cook when I’m at home. So, I started dinner at 8 pm last night.

A quick glance in the fridge provided some good news and some bad.  The good: we still had veggies from the farmers market that were not gross and my husband had pulled ground lamb and a leg of lamb down from the freezer to thaw in the fridge (we are out of meat except for bacon and lamb until mid-November – this is not a hardship, just a fact). The bad: some of the veggies were not salvageable and there wasn’t enough of any one thing to make any one thing.

First, I poured a glass of red wine to sip.

I put a large skillet/pot on the stove and started by browning the lamb. I had planned to make chili, but didn’t really have enough ingredients to make chili. However, I was in the mood for chili and chili-like flavors were going to happen.  Once the lamb was browned, I scooped it out of my skillet and sauteed onions, garlic, and peppers in the fat.  I added the remaining farmers market tomatoes, a little tomato paste, and sundry chili seasonings. I nearly added a bunch of other stuff, including the red wine, but decided not to as the kitchen began to fill with a chili-like smell.  As it was cooking down, I took a little nibble and realized that it was lacking an important chili attribute – heat.

I consulted with my husband, who is to quote my Jamaican co-worker, a “punk mouth.” I told him I was considering adding a hot chili late in the cooking game, and, as such, it would be more spicy than if I had added it earlier when the oil and cooking process would have mellowed it out a bit. He was game, so I whipped out the latex gloves, deseeded and deveined a little orange pepper from Bugtussle Farms. (Eric, one of the farmers at Bugtussle, loves his peppers hot and ensures they get plenty of direct sun and little water.) After chopping it finely, it followed the other ingredients into the skillet.  The gloves, seeds, and veins were discarded.

I added the lamb back to the mixture while cooking up some orzo to serve my little simmer over.  Knowing that it was spicy, I added a little pecorino cheese and served it up. It was delish, but halfway through his bowl, my husband gave up because of the heat. Even mixed with the orzo, that little pepper provided a fine burn. I suggested that he pull the heavy cream we bought over the weekend for coffee and biscuits over the weekend out of the fridge and pour an ounce or so on his dish. He was skeptical, but tried it out. Suddenly, his spicy chili with orzo became a creamy orzo and vegetable dish. It was almost (almost) like a macaroni and cheese. I tried a nibble and liked it so much that I poured a little cream in my own bowl.  My husband had a second full bowl with cream, though one bowl of rich creamy lamb orzo was plenty for me.

He will have lamb orzo to eat for the rest of the week.

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