But what use is a one-pot dish that doesn't give you joy? What's convenience without satisfaction? This recipe—we said it was a gift, right?—offers both.
Why it works:
To build flavors in the same pan, you'll coax the most out of each component:
The orzo: Take a couple of extra minutes to toast the orzo before you really dive into the recipe. Much like roasting pasta or toasting grains, this extra step imparts a deeper, toastier flavor.
The chicken: By browning the thighs, seasoned with dried oregano and paprika, you'll do justice to the chicken skin and prep the pan for the next step.
The cooking liquid: With the chicken thighs in the wings (and out of the pan), you'll sauté garlic, then add tomatoes and chicken stock. Return the orzo and the chicken to the pot for a 15-minute staycation, after which you'll be left with savory orzo, flavorful-all-the-way-through chicken, and bubbly, sweet-salty tomatoes.
How to make it even faster:
If you're looking to streamline the process even more, you can rearrange the steps outlined above. Brown the chicken, set it aside, then move onto the orzo: Toast it the chicken fat and minced garlic (risotto-style), then add the tomatoes and broth and proceed with the recipe as written.
Use chopped full-sized tomatoes if you don't have grape ones, and add other fresh herbs (oregano, chives, thyme...) that you have. Stir in Parmesan pebbles in place of feta crumbs.
You can even swap out of the orzo for a similar small pasta like couscous or even a grain like farro (but be aware that the cooking time might change—you may have give it some more time before you add in the chicken).
After you cook the chicken, deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine before adding the minced garlic and the orzo.
Switch out the Kalamatas for Castelvetrano olives.
Add chile flakes or chopped preserved lemon or a squeeze of harissa when you sauté the garlic.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup orzo
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons kalamata olives, halved
1/4 to 1/2 cups crumbled feta
fresh basil, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Drizzle of finishing olive oil
How to Make It
First, toast the orzo. It’s a bit of a pain, but it really improves the flavor. Heat a large skillet or a Dutch oven if you’re so inclined (I find a reason to use my Staub cocotte for everything) over medium-high heat. Toast the orzo until it is lightly browned, but before it gets too fragrant. Spoon the orzo into a bowl and set aside.
Next up is the chicken. Pat the thighs dry and season with oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet or Dutch oven on medium-high heat until it is nice and hot and beginning to smoke. Brown the chicken for roughly three minutes on each side, then remove it and set it aside. Turn the heat down a notch and add in the other tablespoon of oil and the minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant, but be careful not to burn it. Then pour in the broth and throw in the tomatoes and orzo. Give the mixture a good stir and bring it to a boil.
Finally, add the chicken back in, cover the skillet/Dutch oven, and let it sit on medium-low heat until the orzo is tender and the chicken is cooked through. This will take 15 minutes or so. Be sure to check on the dish from time to time as you don’t want the orzo to become mushy and overcooked.
When ready, turn off the heat and add in the red pepper flakes, capers, Kalamata olives, feta, and basil. Top it all off with a drizzle of nice finishing oil, give it another good stir or two and you’re ready to serve!
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