It is amazing how a personal favorite dish can fall in and out of favor and how that same dish can evolve when you are inspired to suddenly resurrect it. The other night after coming home from vacation Michelle had no idea what to cook. We wanted a ‘home cooked meal’– at home. We cooked plenty at the cabin, but it is different and you are cooking by committee. So she scanned our embarrassingly large library of books looking for inspiration. Suddenly it came to her! Have Elisabeth pick meal out of the book we wrote. As cooks and cookbook authors we have the same problem finding new and/or interesting meals as everyone else. Maybe we are worse off since we have tried so many variations and so many of other people’s recipes. Elisabeth choose ‘Eric’s Sautéed Chicken with Orzo and Black Olives’ (page 138, I believe).
My original recipe calls for an optional choice of Kale or Swiss Chard. Spinach will work just as well, but I’m rethinking the kale, as it may still be unpalatable for many children. Elisabeth loved the Chard, thinking it was rainbow colored spinach. I didn’t correct her. Orzo can be switched out for brown rice. (Maybe next time I will try faro? Faro, also called ‘Spelt’, has been a cooked grain cereal used for centuries in one pot meals and is an especially good accompaniment with beans and vegetables.) I amended the original recipe by adding a can of white beans because I felt the pot needed more content and more fortitude. We had plenty of fresh herbs and Michelle picked and chopped a bunch of parsley, oregano, and thyme, which we sprinkled on top of the completed meal. This added a really pleasant floral bouquet and subsequently enhanced the meal’s essence on the palate.
Eric’s Sautéed Chicken with Orzo and Black Olives is one of my signature one pot meals which have been making for years and it has never let me down, we used to have it 2 or 3 times a month. Even though I somehow ignored it for a long time, it was great to bring it back. Here is the recipe from our book Cooking Together: Making Memories and Meals.
- 1.5 Lbs. Chicken Breast, sliced in strips (or use chicken tenders)
- 3 oz. Sliced Black Olives (pitted Kalamata works really well too)
- 8 oz. Orzo (about half a box)
- 12 oz. Can of Diced Tomatoes (nothing wrong with fresh if you can get them)
- ¼ tsp each of Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Basil
- Clove Garlic (crushed)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Olive Oil
- Bunch of Kale or Chard (optional)
1. Bring about 6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. The water for the pasta should be boiling by the time you have prepped all your ingredients. Cook according to pasta directions. Reserve about a coffee cup of water. Drain well.
2. While you are waiting for the pot to boil, heat a stainless sauté pan with a coating of olive oil poured in. Cut the chicken breast into ribbons (unless you bought chicken tenders hopefully when on sale). When the oil shimmers add the crushed garlic. As that becomes aromatic, add your chicken pieces careful not to overcrowd the pan. Flip to ensure even browning.
3. After all the chicken has browned– it won’t be cooked through yet—add your diced tomatoes and olives. Be cautious as to how much juice from the tomato can you use. You don’t want this to turn soupy. The juice from the olives is not an issue unless you’re using canned, then drain the juice. Adjust your heat and simmer. (Add greens now.)
4. Add in the herbs, adjusting to taste. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes then add on top of your cooked and drained orzo. If the contents of the sauté pan start looking a little dry, add some water from the cooking orzo. The starch and salt given off from the pasta will be a better addition than plain water.