Youvetsi - Beef Casserole
tl;dr recipe at the bottom
Work upon work made me put aside my beloved blog for more than a month but reminded me a little about my friends. One of my closest, let's call her Vicky, tried to inspire me to keep writing mainly because by writing, somehow forces me to calm down a bit and bring some forgotten portions of myself back. She even tried to make it easier for me by asking questions such as "What's your favorite dish", "Which dish brings powerful memories to you" and so on. While I am totally going to ignore her questions (I know you smirked!), I can still feel the positive notion behind all this and we will discuss about #Youvetsi and how to make it.
What is this?
This recipe goes way back and its origins are from the Ottoman cuisine. It is basically a ground beef casserole, slow-cooked for about 2 hours accompanied by orzo which totally makes it take off! It is called like that because of the pot that used to be cooked in, which is called "güveç". Spices, herbs and the flavor from the vegetables manage to almost eliminate any heavy beef aroma by replacing them, making the dish extra attractive even to the most difficult guests. Let's make it!
First start by cutting two #carrots, one large #onion and a large #leek into cubes. Cubes are necessary for no reason. Want larger parts? Cut larger! I like cubes. Then grab 1 kg of #beef chuck (the part that is for pot roast) and have the butcher cut it in small portions. If the butcher holds his knife and stare at you angrily, just cut it yourself. The drill now starts, so take your casserole add some #olive #oil (3 tablespoons will be ok) and raise the heat to high. When the oil goes tsk tsk tsk start by placing the carrots first so they have a headstart of 2 minutes. When those minutes pass, add the onion and the leek and saute for another 2 minutes until golden and soft. Take what is in the #casserole and put it in a bowl, including the oil that was cooked. Now place two more spoonfulls of olive oil, wait to come to high temperature and add the beef piece by piece. Don't worry if the pieces stick to the bottom, it is normal. Let them get grey on the sides and brown on the bottom and turn them upside down. Here is the trick. If the meat is juicy and bring out a lot of liquids, it will stop the sauteing procedure and it will start boiling which we do not want at all. So if this happen to you, take another bowl, add the juices inside and place the beef back to the casserole. If needed add some olive oil and continue sauteing.
When we have brown color to all of our pieces, bring back the vegetables AND their liquids as they hold all the flavor. As the Head Chef, you have one decision to make here and it is to think if you want to have more "meaty" flavor or not. If the answer is yes, bring the meat juices from the other bowl back, into the casserole as well. If not, just keep going from here!
Stir so everything gets mixed up and wait 3-4 minutes so all water evaporates. When it's done add a tablespoon of tomato paste and mix it well. Let it one more minute so the tomato enhances the whole mixture. Measure 100 ml of fine dry red #wine and drink it. Then measure 100 ml more and pour it in your casserole. Let the alcohol evaporate and add the tomato juice and a pinch of sugar. Enrich the whole project with two sticks of cinnamon, two bay leaves, salt and freshly ground pepper and add water until the meat is almost covered. ALMOST!
We are somehow done here, so lower the heat to medium or a bit lower and let it slow cook for 70 minutes with the lid on. Every half an hour give a stir so you keep pretending at least that you are cooking.
Closing the recipe
Five minutes before it is ready, we need to take care of orzo. The classic recipe says that we need 1 cup for four people which we will follow to the letter BUT here is a touch that I suggest you do as well. If you pour orzo as it is you will get a fine meal but as it starts to get colder the starch will make it sticky, and if you happen to let some food for next day then it will become a solidified block of food that used to be #Youvetsi. To avoid that from happening we need to shield orzo from letting all that starch escape and this can happen if you spent 4 minutes to heat one spoonfull of olive oil in a pan and saute it in medium heat. Fifteen minutes before taking off the casserole, preheat your oven to 180 Celsius with air on. If the casserole can go in the oven keep it as it is. If not, trasfer it to a deep baking pan, add sauted orzo and two table spoons of dried thyme and mix it well and then place it in the oven. Add water so it covers half the amount of food and cover with tin foil. Let it cook for another 50 minutes and at 35 minutes mark, take the tin foil off.
It really worths to taste it after five minutes with grated cheese and some more thyme if it needed.
Prep time:10 minutes | Cook time:120 minutes | Serves:4
1 kg of beef chuck (for pot roast)
one large onion
one large leek
6 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
300 ml tomato juice
a pinch of sugar
100 ml red dry wine
1 cup orzo
2 tbsps dried thyme
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional:salty grated cheese (I picked gruyere)
Cut vegetables into cubes. In a casserole saute in olive oil (3 tbsps) by starting with carrots for 2 minutes and add the rest for 2 more. Use high heat.
Put vegetables and their juices to a bowl.
In the same casserole add 2 more tbsps olive oil and brown the beef.
Bring back the vegetables and their juices and mix. Wait until most liquids evaporate.
Add 1 tbsp tomato paste and mix.
Pour wine and wait for alcohol to evaporate.
Add tomato juice, water to almost cover the meat, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to medium and a bit lower, place the lid on the casserole and slow cook for 70 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180 C. Add casserole to the oven wothout the lid or if this isn't suitable, tranfer the food into a deep baking pan.
Add 2 tbsps on dried thyme and mix. Cook for another 50 minutes
Ten minutes before taking the pan out, saute orzo in medium heat with a tbsp of olive oil and mix it to the pan that contains the beef.
When ready, let it cooldown for five minutes and enjoy it with some grated cheese and some more dried thyme.