It’s comfort food if it involves pasta. Its comfort food if it means dirtying as little dishes as possible (because we all hate cleaning up!). It’s comfort food if it's warm and flavourful, and leaves you feeling content in the end, like everything is right in the world, even if only temporarily. Now, this this dish might seem a extravagant dish, given its layers and slightly exotic combination of ingredients, but it is in fact a one-pot meal made mostly from pasta—comfort food extraordinaire. Hence... Orzo! This is my first orzo recipe on the blog. Known in Egypt as ‘lessan ‘usfuur’, or ‘bird tongues’ as per translation, these miniature pastas are rice wannabes, but are in fact, pasta through and through. I've used orzo just like rice in this recipe though, and the layering resembles traditional Kabsa just a bit (a recipe posted a couple of months ago), but the flavours are entirely different.
This recipe starts off with succulent grape tomatoes and garlic, where all of their goodness is infused in the very oil we use to both sear the chicken, and then cook the orzo in. I’m a big fan of one-pots, and i'm telling you, if you have people over and want to make something that's both fast and exotic, this dish would be it.
This one-pot orzo is also child-approved. If my niece asks for seconds, I know it’s good. I’d never give it to you otherwise.
For the tomato medley:
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes (cherry tomatoes work too) sliced in half
salt and pepper to taste
For the chicken and orzo pasta:
500g cubed chicken breasts
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt + pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bell peppers sliced
1/2 cup sliced green olives
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
Handful of basil leaves
In a hot skillet, add the olive oil, garlic and chili pepper flakes. Reduce heat and bring them to a low sizzle, stirring until garlic is fragrant. Add sugar and stir until tomatoes start to break apart. Simmer for a few minutes, until tomatoes are wilted and slightly charred, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat with a slotted spoon into a bowl, and set aside.
In the same skillet, toss chicken stir-fry in remaining oil from the tomatoes. Add garlic, balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, onion powder, nutmeg, thyme, and salt and pepper. Toss the chicken to coat and brown, and then cook until the chicken is browned all over and cooked through, about 5 - 6 minutes — you can cover the skillet at this point, to speed up the cooking.
Once browned and cooked through, remove the chicken from the pan and to a plate, and set aside.
To the same pan again, add another tablespoon of olive oil if necessary, the sliced bell peppers, and more salt and pepper. Cook the peppers until slightly seared, and then add add the orzo pasta. Stir in with the peppers, and then pour in 2 cups of hot water. Bring to boil and cook the orzo until most of the water is absorbed and the orzo plump (it's okay if it's slightly creamy -- that's the starch from the pasta). Make sure you stir the orzo often to prevent it from sticking the bottom of your skillet. Add green olives, and reduce heat to medium.
Taste at this point to adjust seasoning, and also to test the orzo doneness. If necessary, add another 1/2 a cup of water or so, and keep cooking the orzo until soft.
Assemblage: (It’s up to you where you’d like to assemble this dish. You can serve it straight from the skillet, or assemble in a serving dish if you have guests).
Once the orzo is cooked, fluff with a fork (it'll have the tendency to stick together so break it up gently with a fork), return the chicken to the skillet and remove from the heat. Spoon tomato mixture over the top of the chicken, and cover, allowing the heat from the orzo to warm everything for a few minutes.
Sprinkle black pepper over the top if desired, and serve straight from skillet, alongside a yogurt salad or cucumber dip. Enjoy!