This family recipe is from A Serious Bunburyist* food blog (August 2017) re-created by Steve Sharafian, who contributes the recipe’s history here:
“I grew up eating Armenian food that ranged from complex, time intensive dishes, such as my paternal grandmother’s Izmir Kufta, to simple country food, like Tava. What is Tava? This depends upon whom you ask. According to my mother, Tava consists of lamb shoulder chops baked on top of layered vegetables. My dad will tell you that Tava’s lamb chops rest on cubed — and not layered — vegetables. You’ll find Armenian families that top the vegetables with seasoned ground beef or ground lamb instead of chops and call the dish Tava or Duzmeh. A Book of Favorite Recipes (1968) compiled by the Los Angeles Daughters of Vartan includes a recipe for Tava that layers vegetables on top of seasoned meatballs. Vegetarians, don’t worry: Many Armenians entirely skip the meat and they still call the resulting dish Tava. Present this meatless version to a Frenchman or Frenchwoman and he or she will tell you that you have made Ratatouille.
The vegetables in Tava come from every corner of a summer garden, but mainstays include eggplant, tomato, squash, onion and potato. Expect to find recipes that add bell peppers, green beans and even okra. My mother claims that Tava just isn’t Tava without carrots (layered — and this is important — on top of the potatoes). Most, but not all, recipes pour a little water or tomato sauce over the vegetables. Some recipes call for mint or parsley as seasonings, but most versions call for nothing more than salt and pepper.
With countless Tava recipes, why do I post my version? Because I believe it important to memorialize how a family — in this case my family — makes a loved food. My grandmother and great-aunt frequently made Tava. My mother only occasionally. Unless a family’s recipe boards a food ark, children (or grandchildren) might never eat a dish that comforted their great-grandparents.”
How to Make Armenian Tava
Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Butter a baking dish. The size and depth of the dish depends upon how much meat and how many vegetables you wish to accommodate. This recipe, which makes 2 to 4 servings, uses 2 large lamb shoulder chops, so I suggest a deep 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. A deep, 10-inch diameter pie plate also works nicely.