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One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo from Claire Saffitz

One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo from Claire Saffitz
The wonderfully inventive Claire Saffitz

“Sometimes you want chicken to taste like chicken”

So wrote J.T. of Madison Wisconsin of this wonderful recipe when it appeared in Bon Appetit. Here all you do is salt and pepper bone-in skin on, chicken thighs and cook them for 16 to 23 minutes.  It’s the buttery orzo, fennel, and leek mixture that gives the dish its amazing flavor.  And of course, there’s the added plus of making it all in one skillet.  And there’s one other to the chicken that makes it sing—it’s finished off with lemon juice and zest so please don’t leave them out.  Yes, rather like making a great risotto you do have to stir the orzo constantly for 10 to 15 minutes to absorb the wine and chicken stock added in half cups. But it’s a small price to pay for something this good.  You can even make it for company. Just turn the oven down to keep it warm and add the fennel fronds and the lemon elements just before serving.

What is Orzo and where did it come from?

Orzo is the Italian word for ‘barley’.  But that is only because of the way Orzo looks—like a grain of barley.  In fact, Orzo is made from wheat flour. It’s also called ‘risoni’ meaning ‘large (grains of ) rice’ which is exactly what it looks like.  Orzo is not strictly an Italian.  In Greece, it’s called ‘kritharáki’ which means ‘little barley’.  And in Turkey, it’s called “arpa sehriye’ which translates to ‘songbird tongue’.  In all three cuisines, it’s used the same way—as an ingredient in soups and pilafs.  Orzo is used much more in North America than it is in Italy.  And it’s now being incorporated into dishes that have nothing to do with Greek, Turkish or Italian cooking.

Look at all the things you can do with Orzo!

As in this recipe, Orzo is being pressed into service as a stuffing for baked peppers and tomatoes, and fresh avocados. It’s a natural in creamy, chowder-like soups. It’s even found its way into Mexican and Tex-Mex-style recipes. In today’s recipe, it’s really a stand-in for risotto but it’s a whole lot easier to get right. Here’s today’s recipe, one of 8 on the site that use Orzo. Just click on this link and see them all… https://chewingthefat.us.com/?s=Orzo

One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo from Claire Saffitz

April 27, 2022
: 4
: 5 min
: Easy--you just have to stir the Orzo for 10 to 15M

Perfectly cooked Chicken combined with buttery Orzo, fennel and leeks to give this dish its wonderful flavor. But don't leave out the lemon!


  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total), patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped
  • 8 ounces orzo
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2½ cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 400°. Rain salt and then some pepper all over the chicken. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Nestle chicken, skin side down, in a skillet in a single layer with no gaps (if you can’t quite fit them all, wait until chicken shrinks slightly, then puzzle in the remaining pieces). Cook until meat is opaque around the edges and skin is deep golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up and transfer skillet to oven. Bake, uncovered until chicken is cooked through, 10–15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  • Step 2 Set the same skillet over medium heat. Combine the chopped fennel bulb and leek in the skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but the pan is not dry 10–15 minutes.
  • Step 3 Remove skillet from heat. Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking. Mix in lemon juice and the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, then chopped fennel fronds. Pile chicken on top and finish with lemon zest.

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