Risotto is one of those dishes that people shy away from because they think it’s too difficult to cook. Honestly though, aside from the stirring aspect of the whole experience, I find it to be one of my favorite meals to serve for the family. It has that magical property of tasting like you added a bucket of lusciously “bad for you” cream to the mix when really it’s just a combination of chicken broth, white wine and starch from the pasta. Best of all, you can pretty much add any protein, vegetable or fungus into the pot, in effect creating a one dish meal that results in a simple and straightforward weeknight dinner.
Don’t have chicken but there’s a leftover hunk of ham sitting in your fridge? Toss it in. Find yourself with spinach but no zucchini? That’ll work perfect. There’s no hard and fast rules to risotto add ins. Just drop in whatever tastes good to you and move forward from there.
If you know me at all then you’ll know that this creation was the result of fridge diving on my part. A deconstructed whole chicken from earlier in the day = two available breasts. A leftover zucchini from dinner two night’s ago = vegetable. And fungus,well, it gets added because I simply love fungus. There’s also a healthy twig’s worth of basil leaves thrown in for good measure; to green it up a bit more. We’ve garnered our ingredients, now it’s time to get cooking.
Begin by heating up a large frying pan. when the pan is good and hot, you’ll add in a small swirl of oil. You want just enough to coat the bottom. Too much and you’ll get spattered when you add in the meat. Give it a minute or two to get hot and then place your chicken in the pan and sear it on both sides for a couple minutes. Transfer it to a baking dish and slide into a 350 degree oven to finish cooking.
While the chicken finishes baking, we’ll move on to the risotto. In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add a bit more oil if needed and toss in an onion, some garlic and a handful of mushrooms.
When the mixture has had a minute or two to cook, you can toss in about a half pound of orzo pasta. Circle it around the pan a few times and give it a minute or three to toast up.
Time for my favorite part – deglazing. Pour in that tasty white wine and take a listen to culinary magic in action.
Now add in your first cup of chicken stock and start stirring.
When your pasta has soaked up all the liquid, add another cup and have at it again.
Repeat a third time. When you’re ready to add in the fourth cup of stock, toss in the zucchini and basil along with it.
Finish strong and stir until you are left with a creamy dreamy pasta. Turn the heat down to low and add in a pat of butter, a small sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and the chicken you cooked up earlier.
Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to indulge.
Time to grab up a family member or two and sit down to a delicious all inclusive meal.
Springtime Orzo Risotto
Yield: 4 Adult Sized Servings
Total Time: 45 min
2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
2 Chicken Breasts*
1 Onion, Chopped
6 Oz. Sliced Mushrooms
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
8 Oz. Orzo Pasta
1/2 Cup White Wine
4 Cups Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup Fresh Basil, Chopped
1 Zucchini, Chopped
2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
*Leftover chicken will also work well if you have it on hand and want to save a bit of work and time.
Heat up a tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Sear on both sides for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from the pan and place in a 350 degree oven until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Cube and reserve.
To the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add the other tablespoon of oil if needed. Allow to heat up on medium heat for a minute or two.
Toss in the onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent; about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add in the orzo and allow the pasta to toast for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine.
Add in 1 cup of the chicken stock and begin stirring. Continue to stir until all the liquid is absorbed and then add another cup and repeat the process one cup at a time.
When you're ready to add in the 4th cup of liquid, add the basil and zucchini in along with it. Stir until no liquid remains.
Turn the heat down to low and add in the butter and Parmesan cheese.
Add the cubed chicken back in, season with salt and pepper, and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan for garnish.