Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Toasted Orzo Chicken Soup

I always think it’s interesting to hear about other peoples individual tastes in food. For example, some people really hate the texture of things like yogurt and pudding. Some people really love chocolate, and would choose a big, honking chocolate bar over a bag of skittles. And some people even eat dry toast— that is to say, toasted bread with no butter. (By the way, we in my family do not understand you and possibly even make fun of you at our own dinner table while we slather potato rolls with butter).

Do you have any food tendencies? Here are some of mine:

I love, love, LOVE lemons. I would ALWAYS rather eat something lemon-flavored than something chocolate. I love butternut squash. I love brussel sprouts. I love avocados (okay, who doesn’t?). I love sweet pickle relish in tuna. I love salt and butter (see above). I love anything that falls into the category of “whipped topping.”  I love Woodchuck hard cider.

I do NOT love orange juice (in fact, I might even go further and use the word abhor here). I do not love spaghetti (or any other thick or chunky pasta). I do not love hot tomato sauce (unless it was made by my dad). I do not love steak. I do not love beer or liquor. And, most relevant to this post, I do not love vegetable OR chicken noodle soup.

The thing is, I am extremely partial to raw or partially cooked vegetables. I eat cooked vegetables, of course, but once they have stewed (okay, I also do not love the word stewed) they sort of lose flavor and become mush. And who wants to eat flavorless mush?

That being said, I have a great recipe for you that is essentially chicken vegetable soup! Somehow, compared to most other soups in this vein, this one keeps a really fresh and vibrant flavor. I think the difference is the fresh herbs and lemon zest, but I also deviate from the recipe slightly and add a splash of cider vinegar and ~ ½ tsp. brown sugar. It’s soo good.

What you will need:
-32 oz. cont. (4 cups) chicken broth
-1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
-2 tbsp. butter
-3/4 cup orzo pasta
-2 tbsp. olive oil
-1 small zucchini, chopped
-1 carrot, chopped
-1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
-1 small onion, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 cup frozen peas
-1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
-2 tsp. lemon zest         
-salt and pepper
-1/2 tsp. brown sugar (optional)
-splash of cider vinegar (optional)

How you will make this:
-Pour the chicken broth into a large pot. Place your raw chicken into the broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and poach the chicken for 12-15 minutes.
-Meanwhile, heat another large pot (or dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and allow to melt completely. Pour your orzo into the butter and stir until coated. Cook, stirring, until the orzo is toasty brown, about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

The orzo should look something like this.
-Add the olive oil to the pot, then the chopped zucchini, carrot, bell pepper, onion and garlic. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook (stirring) until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 7 minutes. Add the orzo back into the pot and stir to combine.
-Remove the chicken from the chicken stock and set aside to cool. Discard (with a slotted spoon) any fat that has collected. Pour the stock into the pot with the vegetables.
-Chop the cooled chicken and add to the soup pot with two cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil, and cook for about five minutes more, until the orzo is al dente. Add the frozen peas.
-Turn the heat off, and add the parsley, lemon zest, brown sugar and cider vinegar (if using) to the pot. Stir and serve immediately (preferably with garlic bread sticks).

A Note:
-This soup has a lot of stuff in it, so at some point it becomes more of a chunky stew than a soup. You could either keep some extra chicken broth on hand to add or fry an egg to top the “stew” with. Delicious! (or just a food tendency?? :)

Bread & Butter image here.
Original recipe from Rachael Ray magazine.

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