I am a huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen Cookbooks! They are beautifully illustrated and I love that each recipe starts with a forward that says, “Why This Recipe Works”. Lately I have been cooking so much that often, when it comes time to decide what’s for dinner, I am drawing blanks. Thankfully, these cookbooks live in my kitchen, so it’s easy to pop one open and find some inspiration. This recipe is adapted from their recipe entitled: “Chicken and Orzo with Spinach and Feta“. It’s from their cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen Cooking For Two.
After I refreshed my memory of the recipe, I decided to get completely organized before starting to cook. It’s much easier when the ingredients are all prepped and ready to go. I began by running out to my herb garden to get some fresh oregano. While I was there I noticed my sage plant is growing like crazy, so I picked a bit of that and I also snagged some baby kale. I wish I could take credit for growing those beautiful little tomatoes, but they came from Sam’s Club as did the baby spinach/kale mixture.
I removed the stems from the spinach (I hate stems), chopped my garlic and herbs, then measured out the red pepper flakes, the amount of orzo and the amount of chicken stock I would need.
The first step is to put the raw orzo into a skillet and toast it until it’s a little brown. Don’t skip this step because it really imparts a great flavor and a little bit better texture.
Then in the same skillet, I sauteed my chicken tenders in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and some granulated garlic. Not very interesting. It’s just chicken! LOL.
Once the chicken has browned on both sides and is barely cooked through, you remove it to another pan and then add in your stock and orzo. I put the stock in first to deglaze the pan. The recipe doesn’t actually call for tomatoes, but we like them so I added some in to let them cook with the orzo. Once you get it to a boil, you add the chicken back in, nestling it in the orzo until it’s cooked through. Since I used chicken tenders, it only took a few minutes. If you use breasts, it would be longer.
Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it again, to a plate tented with foil. Continue to cook the orzo until al dente, then start adding the spinach in small batches, stirring pretty continuously. I kept extra stock handy in case I needed it and I did need to add about a half cup before the orzo came together the way I wanted. The recipe calls for the juice of a lemon. I added the zest of a lemon and the juice and the taste was bumped up considerably!
Lastly, I removed it all, placed it in my serving dish, added the chicken and topped it with crumbled goat cheese and fresh oregano leaves…and of course, my beautiful tomatoes!
Winner winner, chicken dinner!
(Adapted from an original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen)
3/4 c. orzo
2 T olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh minced oregano
1 tsp fresh minced sage
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 1/2 c chicken broth (more if needed)
12-15 cherry tomatoes
4 cups baby spinach
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from one lemon
Fresh oregano leaves for garnish (You could use basil or flat leafed parsley if you don’t have fresh oregano)
- Toast the orzo in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat (just until brown, stirring often.) Remove from skillet.
- Using the same skillet, saute chicken in olive oil until brown and just barely cooked through. Remove to a plate.
- Toss herbs and garlic into the same skillet, let it bloom 30-40 seconds
- Add in chicken broth. tomatoes and orzo, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, add back the chicken and cover until chicken is cooked through. (10-15 minutes if using tenders, 15-19 minutes if breasts) Remove chicken to a plate and tent with foil.
- Continue simmering the orzo, stirring and adding more stock.
- Add in the lemon juice and zest. Season with more pepper and a little salt.
- Add in the spinach, one handful at a time, continuously stirring.
- Once your spinach has wilted and the orzo is cooked through, transfer it to a serving platter. Nestle the chicken into the orzo, garnish with crumbled goat cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs.