Monday dinner: Lemon-basil orzotto with chicken

This is a short week here for us. My last day of work is Thursday. Friday is a rest day and then we start heading south on Saturday. We’re skipping North Carolina’s Outer Banks in favor of the much shorter drive to Rehoboth Beach, Del. Motion sickness and fatigue from the marathon drive won out. Delaware is only about six hours away, or about half of the drive.

That means I’m jamming five days of work into four, which means dinners are about speed this week. Traditionally, speed and risotto don’t collide in the same sentence, but this one isn’t bad; from prep to table in about 45 minutes.

Orzotto isn’t a real word, but what happens when you treat orzo pasta like arborio rice. I may have mentioned this before, but there’s a certain process of ladling hot broth into the orzo when making a dish like this. Adding a little at a time lets the liquid absorb slowly and create a creamy texture and flavor.

WHAT WORKED: Everything, though there is something about toasting the orzo that brings out a different flavor from the pasta.

WHAT DIDN’T: The parmesan cheese, mostly because I forgot to buy more. I had about a teaspoon in the fridge.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: With absolute certainty. The Wife couldn’t get enough and this is a perfect wintertime dinner.

Lemon-basil orzotto with chicken
Adapted from the Cooking Channel 

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups orzo
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth or stock (I was low on stock, so I opted for Swanson’s 100% sodium-free broth)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (very optional)
  • 2 tbsp. chiffonade fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add the chicken breasts and lemon juice to a bowl, and toss. Let stand on the counter for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add the onion and saute until fragrant and translucent. Add the orzo and toast for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and cook until absorbed.

Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring frequently. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat. Add the lemon juice and zest. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed and orzo is tender. Remove from the heat.

Once the orzo is covered, heat a large skillet over high and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chicken to the pan with some of the lemon juice and cook through periodically stirring, about eight minutes.

Stir in cheese, basil, and cream to the orzo. Season with with salt and pepper and serve. Toss with the chicken and serve hot.

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