Thursday dinner: Orzo risotto with chicken thighs and spring vegetables

Cooking dinner on Thursdays stinks, even when I feel well (and I don’t). I would just assume tonight be a takeout evening. I usually plan one takeout/FFY (fend for yourself) evening during the workweek, mostly out of exhaustion/ laziness. Unfortunately, that was Monday night. The Wife decided to go to a union meeting, where they discussed bankrupting local taxpayers, but came home early. My planned FFY evening turned into a leftover buffet. By Thursday, I’m beat and cooking seems more like a chore. Add a little intestinal distress to the mixture, and I would have rather ordered pizza.

— There is nothing boneless, skinless or Easy Open about these chicken thighs

Ladle in hot broth, wait for it to absorb and then add more.

That said, tonight’s effort was surprisingly good, though I was let down by the ingredient. I specifically purchased boneless, skinless chicken thighs because the recipe called for them. Unfortunately, the organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs that I purchased were neither boneless nor skinless. Worse than that, the “easy open” package was only easy because I had a very sharp santoku knife. Wegmans was failed doubly by their supplier here.

 

Par boil the asparagus before sautéing.

Two important things to keep in mind here: 1) Follow the risotto law of adding hot chicken broth to the pan. Simmer the broth in another pan and ladle it in to promote even cooking. 2) Chicken thigh meat takes a little longer to cook through, so use a lower heat than you would for breast meat to keep from burning the edges.

I followed the directions pretty closely, but I’m sure this would work well with other veggies, including green beans, zucchini, sugar snaps, etc.

Orzo risotto with chicken and spring vegetables
Modified slightly from the original at Bev Cooks 

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4-5 chicken thighs, trimmed of any excess fat and cut into small chunks
  • 
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 
3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 
1 cup orzo
  • 
1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 
3 cups chicken stock
  • 
1/2 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 
3-5 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Toasty orzo

Bring the chicken stock to a light simmer in a small sauce pan. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to an ice bath, stopping the cooking.

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a medium skillet over medium high. Add the chicken, toss in a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the other tbsp. of oil to the skillet. Add the onion and garlic, saute 3 minutes. Add the orzo and “toast” for about a minute. Add the vermouth or wine and cook until mostly absorbed, 2 minutes.

At this point you’ll ladle the broth into the orzo, one ladle at the time, until the orzo has absorbed the liquid and become nice and creamy. And dreamy. This takes about 15 minutes.

Add the asparagus, red bell pepper and scallions to the orzo. Toss to combine. Add the chicken back to the mixture. Take off the heat and add the butter (or oil) and cheese. Add about a tbsp. of lemon zest to the dish, along with a few good squeezes of lemon juice. Toss to combine. Taste it. Salt it good.

Serve risotto garnished with more lemon and parmesan cheese.

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