What is Orzo?
I needed a quick meal the other night and I wanted to use up some left over roasted chicken from the night before. I was thinking risotto but I didn’t have any in the pantry but I did find a box of San Giorgio orzo and thought this might work.
Orzo is rice shaped pasta slightly smaller than a pine nut and is great in soups and pasta salads. See my seafood orzo salad recipe.
Find Recipes In All the Right Places
I love finding recipes and adapting them with ingredients I have on hand. Keep your eyes open and you can find interesting recipes everywhere; on product packages, the supermarket shelves, ads in magazines, newspaper articles, mail flyers. Most of these recipes are trying to sell you their products but they are still good starting points for creating your own recipe.
The orzo box was no exception. They had a recipe for Mediterranean Orzo Pilaf. Some of the ingredients were processed products like dried Italian seasoning, bouillon cubes, and garlic powder. It’s my opinion you can really change the quality of mediocre recipe just by using higher end products that really don’t cost you that much more money in the end.
For example, using homemade or quality chicken stock instead of bouillon can make all the difference in the world. Try using fresh garlic instead of garlic powder or fresh basil and parsley rather than dried Italian seasonings.
Dried herbs are great in some dishes, but with a pilaf recipe like this, why not go fresh if you can. If you don’t have fresh herbs in your refrigerator, by all means go with the dried ones but make sure they have not been sitting in the cabinet too long. I don’t date my dried spice bottles, but I should because I’m sure some of them have been around longer than my daughters. Chef Ricco forgive me.
I made the chicken stock the night before when we had roasted chicken. I’ll be honest. I didn’t roast the chicken. It was a rotisserie chicken from our local market and a pretty good one at that. After I stripped the meat off, I stuck the carcass in a pot, covered it in water and made a quick stock in about an hour. Not classic chicken stock but good enough for what I wanted to use it for and a heck of a lot better than anything canned and let’s not even talk about a bouillon cube.
You can make this dish one hundred different ways by substituting various ingredients. Don’t like chicken, add shrimp. Don’t like parsley, try cilantro. Try different types of cheeses, olives, nuts; whatever works for you or you happen to have in your pantry.
Experiment and have some fun. There are some recipes you must follow a precise technique using specified ingredients. This is not one of them.
Quick Orzo Pilaf Recipe
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 ounces uncooked Orzo
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- 2 ½ cups chicken stock
- 12 or more grape tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cooked boneless chicken breast meat shredded or cut into pieces
- Salt & pepper to taste
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Heat a large sauce pot or fry pan over medium high heat. Add the butter and melt. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the orzo and cook with the onions & garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently so the orzo doesn't burn. If the pan seems too hot, turn down the heat to medium.
- While this is going on, I like to heat up the chicken stock so I'm not adding cold stock to the hot pan with the orzo. No reason to slow down the cooking process by cooling down a hot pan.
- Add the chicken stock to the pan and bring it to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes while the orzo absorbs the stock. Be sure to stir every so often.
- Add the grape tomatoes, chicken and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and then cover and cook for a few more minutes until all the stock has been absorbed into the orzo. Be sure to stir so the orzo doesn't stick to the pan.
- I like stir in the grated Parmesan cheese at the end just before serving. You can add a sprig of fresh parsley to the plate to make it look nice. I always forget.