Food + Wine

chicken and Orzo Bake

Nobody doesn’t like a one pan dinner, right? The grammar police maybe didn’t like that sentence, but I still stand behind the sentiment. Whether it’s a one-pot stew, soup or braise to be cooked on the stove, a one sheet tray roast… any time you can put all your dinner into one dish, bake it in that dish, and not have to pre-cook any of it beforehand?!?

Winner, winner (you know the rest).

This was a quarantine discovery for me and my crew early on in the pandemic. It was a success then, and I made it again for us last night- following my notes from last year. This sucker is SO DAMN GOOD.

You’re whisking up a sauce of chicken stock, lemon juice and a few other things, pouring it over the uncooked orzo in the dish, laying your seasoned chicken breasts on top, and 30 minutes later you have dinner.

The orzo in this dish is probably the star (sorry, chicken). But the texture is just phenomenal. The orzo that’s cooked under each chicken breast gets wonderfully soft, and the orzo at the edges of the pan gets crispy, and then sometimes you find delightful pockets of glutinous orzo clusters that are my personal favorite. The combo of textures is a mouth party.

I’m using fresh dill as my herb because I love it cooked, and also raw as the garnish. It pairs so beautifully with the lemon and the chicken. But you can sub any other herb, and add other things to make it your own. Consider this a more of a method instead of a recipe where you can customize it to your liking.

Rosemary and/or oregano, grape tomatoes and olives with the orzo…

Grapes, thyme and feta…

Cilantro, tomatoes and fresh avocado to finish…

But this version right here is a beauty and I can’t wait to make it again.

Have fun, kids.

Chicken and Orzo Bake

serves 4 big hungries, but we always have leftovers

For the sauce :

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the following (can be made far in advance and kept in the fridge until assembly and cooking time) –

  • 2 cups good quality chicken stock (if you buy it, I recommend Swanson, and I always use unsalted so I can control my sodium. Even when I make my own, I don’t salt it. If yours is salted, *you may not need to add any further salt as I say to… always taste!)
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • Large handful of fresh dill, finely chopped (this would be… 1/2 a cup maybe)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced (I always use a microplane to ‘mince’ my garlic)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I don’t measure but you won’t mess it up)
  • 1 TB cornstarch (whisk well so no clumps)
  • Kosher salt *to taste*

On a seperate plate, dish, or plastic cutting board, lay your chicken breasts to be seasoned with the following spices + salt (can also be done far in advance and kept covered in the fridge!) –

In a spice grinder, add the following :

  • 1 1/2 TB coriander seeds
  • 1 TB peppercorns

(Fine, if yours are already ground. And if you have a thing against black pepper, all good. You can cut back on that, or eliminate all together. You could add fennel instead… or any other herbs/spices you think sound good to you.)

Season each breast all over with kosher salt to coat. Then with the above spices.

Set aside.

Grease a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Cover the bottom with :

1 lb/16 oz uncooked orzo

Season over the top with a good sprinkling of kosher salt.

Pour the sauce over, making sure it was whisked and evenly combined before doing so.

Lay your seasoned chicken breasts over the sauced orzo.

Drizzle the chicken with extra virgin olive oil.

Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 30 minutes, uncovered. (Check for doneness!! I don’t know your oven. An internal thermometer should read no less than 160 when you pull it out, and eventually climb to 165 as it rests.)

Drizzle the orzo with more extra virgin olive oil.

Garnish with fresh dill.

Serve with a salad, or do what I do and nuke some frozen peas to feel complete.

Enjoy 🙂

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