Chicken & Orzo Stew

chicken-orzo-stewAs noted below, the original version of this recipe is what I call “restaurant fussy:” wherein almost every ingredient is cooked separately (using several pots & pans), then combined at the end. My tweaks made it not only easier to prepare, but tastier to boot: the  orzo cooks in the chicken-wine broth, the chicken soaks up flavor from herbs & greens, the apple is added at the end for maximum crispness, and the whole thing comes together in a single skillet. Tuesday night dinner, you are pwned.

This ‘stew’ was very light, with quite a nice flavor tinged by apple, wine and oregano, and the textural interest of orzo instead of rice. However, the method seemed overly fussy to me: first make the pasta, then brown chicken, then sauté onions, then garlic, then finally add the rest of the ingredients (using several different pots, pans & bowls), and combine all these components together only at the end. Seems to me that method could be streamlined to more of a one-pot meal. In addition, I thought the flavor was good, but could be great with a little tweaking: a bit more layering of herbs & spices, a touch more acid (either from added vinegar or lemon juice or simply a more acidic wine choice), and maybe one more vegetable (wild mushrooms? sliced parsnip? maybe even just a mix of greens?).

Although I suggest many changes for this recipe, I will certainly be making it again. It was relatively quick & easy to prepare and is quite tasty and satisfying: perfect for this rather dismal, rainy Monday afternoon. The recipe yields a large amount, so can easily be cut in half for your tweaking pleasure.

Adapted from Chicken and Orzo Stew in Your Organic Kitchen by Jesse Ziff Cool

chicken-orzo-stewChicken & Orzo Stew

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (or 3 tbsp fresh oregano leaves)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (6 oz) orzo, uncooked
  • 1 lb kale or other leafy green, chopped into thin strips (fresh or frozen)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small crisp apple (I used Mutsu), thinly sliced

METHODS

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Generously salt & pepper chicken strips, then brown chicken (in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan) until both sides are golden brown but chicken is not cooked through. Remove to a clean plate.
  2. Add more oil to the skillet if necessary, then add onions. Sauté until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes; add oregano and sauté 1 more minute. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up any browned bits. Add stock, water and salt. Bring liquid to a boil, then add orzo and chicken (plus any juices from the plate). Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until orzo is al dente and chicken is cooked through, about 10 – 15 minutes. Uncover and add greens. Simmer, uncovered, until greens are tender, yet still bright green, and sauce thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste, add black pepper and adjust seasonings,  then toss with sliced apple. Serve hot.

Serves 6 to 8.

chicken-orzo-stewOPTIONS

  1. A mix of leafy greens is nice here. This version contained kale & chard, but arugula, beet or radish tops, spinach: all would work. Wild spring greens, like dandelion, mustard greens, purslane or watercress would also be lovely.
  2. Don’t be alarmed by 6 cloves of garlic: this dish is actually rather sweet, so the garlic acts as a nice counterpoint. In fact, this would be a good dish to substitute in green garlic, sliced bulbs and tender stalks. I’d use about a half-cup.
  3. Israeli couscous would make a good substitute for orzo.

STORE

Thickens on the next day until there is no visible liquid. Will last for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

SEASON

Technically year-round, with frozen kale, but this is a good early Spring dish.

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