chicken fricassee with orzo

this is one of my favorite recipes.

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it comes from a very old issue of cooking light magazine, from a page still tabbed with one little yellow post-it. looking at the year printed on the rumpled front cover, i must have found it sometime in high school, and i’ve made it countless times since then – always when i want something elegant but comforting, not too heavy but still delicious and flavorful. it made an appearance at one of the first dinner parties i ever threw, back in college when i was a rookie at the whole hostess thing, and i still go to it because it’s such a dependable dish.

the steps are simple …and quite satisfying if, like me, you’re into all that sizzling and simmering and the browned bits and such.

chicken pieces are browned quickly in a pan of butter for flavor, then simmered with the cover on for moistness. somewhere in between, diced carrots, chopped green onions, cubed ham, and minced garlic get a quick toss in a hot pan and things start smelling wonderful. a silky smooth cream sauce comes together just a few minutes later.

i started my new job this week – with its odd, late hours – and realized i had better start bringing my own dinner to work. the plastic takeout box nonsense just wasn’t going to work for much longer. so it was only natural that i turn again to this well-worn issue with its familiar pink cover (“pound cake pleasure,” it says) and grab this security blanket of a recipe. sitting down for a dinner break in the office kitchen with my brand new co-workers beside me and a figurative blank page ahead of me, it continues to serve me well.


chicken fricassee with orzo

Chicken Fricassee with Orzo
adapted slightly from Cooking Light, April 2000
Serves 4

1 lb. skinned, boned chicken breast halves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon butter or stick margarine
¾ cup chopped green onions (about 1 bunch)
½ cup diced carrot (about 1)
½ cup diced ham (ask the deli for about ¼ lb., sliced thick)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
½ cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine (or more chicken broth)
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 cups hot cooked orzo (about 1 ½ cups uncooked rice-shaped pasta)

  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan.
  2. Add onions, carrot, ham, and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in broth and wine, scraping to loosen browned bits. Return chicken to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon; keep warm. Add whipping cream; cook, uncovered, over medium heat 8 minutes.
  3. Spoon out a bit of sauce to make a slurry: Mix cornstarch with sauce in a small bowl until completely dissolved. Stir slurry back into the simmering sauce and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more, or until desired consistency.
  4. Spoon orzo onto each of 4 plates. Top each with 1 chicken breast half and some sauce.
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