… from the California Kitchen
How you doin’? Everyone who has enjoyed this Instant Pot Lemon Pepper Orzo with Chicken Thighs tells me it’s a homerun and a keeper! It is very tasty, exceedingly flavorful, and super easy to make in an Instant Pot with just under 30 minutes of cook time! This lemon pepper orzo (aka risoni) chicken dish is perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
Orzo is the fantastic pasta used in this dish. It is made in the shape and size of a grain of rice. In Italian Orzo means barley and it has some other names as well—kritharaki, manestra, rosa marina, reiskornpasta or pasta gallo pion.
Although Orzo originated in Italy, it is very popular in Greece and is widely used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Orzo is very versatile and can be used in a range of recipes. For example, you can make a lovely Mediterranean Orzo pasta salad. Classically it is used in soups (traditional Greek soup pilaf) instead of rice, baked casseroles and can be a filling for stuffed peppers and stuffed squash. Orzo pasta absorbs flavors well and is use as a filler or stuffing or it can just be eaten with butter (yum!) or any other light sauce.
The best Orzo pasta is made from semolina wheat (like other premium pastas) and other hard varieties of wheat. Hard wheat helps hold pasta together so it doesn’t fall apart while cooking. In some stores it is possible to find colored and flavored Orzo, though just finding a box of Orzo in my local market lately has been a real challenge. When mixed with spinach, beets, carrots, and other vegetables Orzo pasta can be very artful, kind of like a fun rainbow.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
4 tablespoons minced garlic
2-1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
1-1/2 cups (about 10 oz) uncooked orzo pasta
1 large lemon, juice and zest
2 cups baby spinach (heaping)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus a little more for garnish
ChefSecrets: Here is an optional step to make this delicious dish even better. Arrange the oven rack about 6-7 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven broiler while you are waiting for the Instant Pot to depressurize. Place the chicken on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil the chicken until the skin crisps, about 2-4 minutes—check often to prevent burning. I used pre-chopped onion, celery and peppers found in the ready-to-use produce section of the supermarket.
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: “I read recently that with all the eating at home during the pandemic, cremation is the last hope for a smokin’ hot body.”
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