Braised Beef with Orzo

ΟΙΚ.yiouvetsi2“Yiouvetsi” in Greek, is my hubby’s favorite dish and it tops my comfort food list. There are a few versions of this dish I Cyprus. I cook it the way my mother in law used to make it. Beef shin pieces braised in a rich wine and tomato sauce for hours until meltingly soft. Then some of the shredded beef and pan juices are mixed with orzo until cooked al dente. You can imagine the taste of that orzo cooked in the pan juices. It’s out of this world delicious. And don’t even think of discarding the bone. That’s such a treat.

 Ingredients:

  • 2 kg beef shin pieces, with bone
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250 ml full bodied red wine
  • 800 grams chopped tomatoes from a can
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 400 ml beef stock
  • 500 grams orzo
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 175 C, fan. Season beef pieces with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Cook beef pieces on both sides, a few minutes per side, until nicely browned but not cooked through. Transfer in a baking pan with tall sides. They should fit in one layer.

In the same skillet you cooked the beef, add the onions and cook until they begin to colour. Don’t forget to scrape all the goodies from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Pour in the wine and let it bubble away for a minute. Add the thyme, bay leaves, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer everything from the skillet to the baking pan with the beef. Add enough beef stock to cover the meat.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of the baking pan. Make a 2 cm hole in the middle. Cover the meat with the paper (paper will touch the food and its ok). Next, cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil. Let no steam escape.

Transfer baking pan to the preheated oven. Bake for 2 ½ -3 hours. The meat should be very soft, falling off the bone.

Take the pan out of the oven and let it stand for 30 minutes. At this stage you can transfer in the fridge (after it cools) and finish the dish the next day. Actually, during this time, the flavors will intensify even more. Reheat in a moderate oven.

To finish the dish, cook the orzo in plenty of salted water until very al-dente. It should have a significant bite. Drain and put back in the pot over low heat. Add about one cup of the beef juices from the pan. Stir and keep adding pan juices and chunks of meat. I usually put about half of the meat to the orzo and serve the rest on the side. Keep cooking the orzo until al dente and delicious.

Serve orzo with grated “anari” or halloumi cheese on the side (you can substitute any hard cheese you like) together with the remaining beef pieces, sauce and bones.

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