Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
Simplicity is key when it comes to summertime recipes. This straightforward, tasty and filling dish will hit the spot on a weekday while minimizing time spent in the kitchen.
Start by searing the chicken so you're left with valuable rendered fat in which to cook the ingredients in subsequent steps. The layers of flavor are all built on one another in a single Dutch oven or pot, imparting a savory chicken note to the vegetables and the orzo. Use homemade stock if you can, to pack as much flavor as possible into this short list of ingredients. On that note, be sure to season very generously, especially with salt.
Counteracting the meatiness and bringing a distinctly seasonal feel is a topping of fresh herbs. I like a combo of parsley for a green-tasting, slightly bitter accent and sweet basil as the quintessential summer herb. Together with chopped and toasted pistachios, the herbs add pizzaz to the taste as well as the visual appeal, but some or all of the toppings can be omitted to keep this dinner super simple.
Even if you're blessed with a dishwasher in your home (unlike me), there's no question that a one-pot dish takes pressure off the evening. Not only is it less cookware to clean, but it also keeps the mess contained as you go. And when you're finished, you have a complete meal of protein, starch and veggie.
This recipe can be easily tweaked into a vegetarian entrée or a hearty side. Simply skip the chicken and swap the stock for a vegetable one. For a boost of protein (and tang), a topping of crumbled feta is also really delicious—and if you're going that route, try adding fresh mint to your garnishes.
For the wine, I sought a selection that would play up the brighter components of the dish. However, I still wanted the wine to have some substance and body rather than skew too light or minerally.
L'Ecole No. 41 Sémillon Columbia Valley 2020 from Washington was a solid choice, with some lushness to make this more than an aperitif and a crispness to suit the lighter-leaning, fresher components. It's also a crazy-good deal, scoring 91 points at just $16.
One-Pot Chicken, Zucchini and Orzo
Pair with a white wine that balances richness with fresh acidity, such as L'Ecole No. 41 Sémillon Columbia Valley 2020 (91 points, $16).
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Approximate food costs: $40
- 6 chicken thighs
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 zucchinis, diced
- Splash of white wine
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided
- Lemon juice from 1 lemon, to taste
- Optional garnishes: Toasted and chopped pistachios, chopped parsley, chopped basil
1. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil on medium high in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add chicken and cook undisturbed until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, then flip and let cook for 5 to 7 more minutes on the other side. The chicken won't be fully cooked through at this point. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
2. Add garlic, onion and zucchini, season with salt and pepper and sautée, stirring occasionally, until veggies are softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with a splash of white wine, then transfer the veggies to a bowl and set aside.
3. Add a little more oil if the pot looks dry. Add orzo with a generous pinch of salt and toast for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add half of the stock, reduce heat to low and cover. Let cook for 10 minutes.
4. Return the veggies to the pot with the rest of the stock, place the chicken on top, cover and let cook on medium low for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until the orzo is tender and the chicken is cooked through.
5. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and lemon juice and top with any or all optional garnishes: parsley, basil and pistachios. Serves 3 to 4.