If you’re a fan of risotto, I reckon you’ll love this one-pot chicken, bacon and mushroom orzo just as much. It’s equally as delicious, with a very similar taste, but is quite a bit simpler to make.
You could call this chicken, bacon and mushroom orzo ‘risotto for lazy people’!
Personally, I’m very partial to a lovingly-stirred risotto, but let’s face it, it can be a bit of a bore to make. Add the stock too quickly, or fail to stir the rice enough, and you won’t end up with that lusciously silky, creamy result that makes a good risotto so darn delicious.
But what I discovered at the weekend when I made this one-pot chicken orzo was that it ends up tasting remarkably similar to a risotto. But after pan-frying your onions, herbs and chicken for a few moments, you simply dump in your dried orzo (a sort of rice-shaped pasta, just in case you were wondering!) and stock… and leave to cook. Well OK, you stir it a few times to stop it sticking to the pan, but essentially once you’ve added everything, this pretty much cooks itself. I’ll take a bit (or a lot) of that!
There’s so much flavour in this! The juicy chicken thigh, smoked bacon, and tasty brown mushrooms (we’ll be having none of those boring, watery button mushrooms), all give a good hit of flavour for starters. Then the big half-cupful of parmesan you dump in at the end brings out the flavours even more, giving the dish a gorgeous ‘umami’ quality.
Oh, and did I mention how creamy this is? But there isn’t a drop of cream in it. Just like a risotto, the dish ends up quite creamy anyway, from the starch in the pasta I suppose, but also from the huge handful of parmesan. I like to add a tablespoon of cream cheese to this dish at the end, too. You don’t have to do that, especially if it means buying a tub of cream cheese especially, but if you happen to have some in your fridge already… well, it would be criminal not to, wouldn’t it now?
The final little ‘touch’ to my creamy chicken orzo is wilting in some big handfuls of spinach. Because, you know… extra nutrition and colour and all that. Frozen peas would do the same ‘healthifying’ job, of course.
This is one of those dishes that I could eat until I’m uncomfortably full (not that I’m speaking from experience of course).
You might think it’s a bit of a wintery-sounding dish, but I’d prefer to call it a ‘meal for all seasons’. Serve with a simple green salad and a crisp white wine and I’d say it’s also a perfect light meal for a warm summer evening.
It’s just a shame we STILL don’t have any warm summer evenings around here. We’ve had the most miserable June you can imagine, with grey skies and rain almost every day. Something tells me it must be time for Wimbledon! 😉
One-pot creamy chicken, bacon and mushroom orzo
- 1 tablespoon butter for cooking
- 1 onion chopped finely
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme and oregano
- 4 slices smoked bacon chopped
- 12 ounces skinless boneless chicken thighs I used 5 small ones, chopped into pieces
- 9 ounces dried orzo pasta (about 1 ½ cups )
- 4 1/4 cups chicken stock
- 5 ounces mushrooms sliced
- 6 ounces fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon cream cheese or a drizzle of cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- a squeeze or two of lemon
Melt the butter in a large pan on a medium heat, then add the onion. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until softened, then add the garlic and herbs. Cook for a minute or so longer.
Add the bacon and chicken pieces to the pan and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until cooked on the outside.
Add the dry orzo to the pan and stir in well, then pour in the chicken stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan too much.
Add the mushrooms and simmer for about another 10 minutes, or until the dish has thickened (there will still be some liquid, which is fine).
At the last minute, stir in the spinach until wilted, then stir through the parmesan cheese and the tablespoon of cream cheese. Add salt, pepper, and lemon to taste.
Serve immediately in bowls with more parmesan on top.
*Orzo looks like big rice, but it's actually pasta! You can get it from large supermarkets in the UK - in other countries, try an Italian deli if you're struggling to find it!
Try re-heating leftovers the next day in the microwave. It won't be quite as rich and creamy, but it still makes a darn good tasty lunch!
Add a small drizzle of cream to the finished orzo instead of cream cheese if you prefer. If you don't have either cream or cream cheese, don't worry - it'll still be lovely and creamy without.
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