Since we’ve all been loving the One Sheet Pan dinner series, Lindsey thought a One Pot Dinner might be appealing as well. And as usual, she is correct. I might like One Pot even better than One Pan. Especially this recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Pilaf, which let’s you throw in all sorts of odds and ends.
I can’t wait to try this one. I adore a good pilaf. It makes a wonderful comfort food.
Here’s what Lindsey says:
Like sheet pan dinners, one pot dinners are pretty much my favorite. So much less to clean up. And if you’re like me, you serve dinner right from the pot (or pan). I think you’re going to go crazy for this Mediterranean Chicken Pilaf.
One day I was looking in my fridge and cupboards trying desperately to use up some bits and pieces of things. I hate wasting food! Do you ever do that? You start pulling things out and suddenly it’s like you’re competing in Chopped, and you’re wondering how you’ll ever pull together a meal from that can of crab you bought five (okay, more like seven) years ago, a partial bag of frozen peas, and three eggs. But you just can’t bear to go to the store…
Anyway, normally I turn to pasta because who doesn’t have a bag of pasta in their cupboard for emergencies? It’s my lazy night go-to. And that day all I had was some orzo. I don’t know how long it had been in there because I couldn’t remember the last time I’d made a pilaf.
I also had a random assortment of items in the fridge, including: half a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, a big handful of kalamata olives, wilted spinach, the tail end of a package of feta, and half an onion, already diced. My cupboard is always stocked with sun-dried tomatoes, as they are one of my all-time favorite ingredients.
We won’t go into the sticky jars of jam no one ever quite manages to finish or the plethora of hot sauces, chutneys, and random pickled veggies. Or the carrots that may or may not have been in the produce drawer since Thanksgiving. Those obviously did not make it into the recipe.
Easy Cleanup, Healthy, and Delicious
What I will go into is that the flavors of those tail-end items made a mighty fine meal and I knew it was something I wanted to share over here with you because: 1) It’s so easy to prepare and clean-up is a snap, 2) SO yummy, 3) there’s spinach in it, so it’s got to be healthy too, right? and 4) did I mention how delicious it is?!
That clean-out-the-fridge pilaf really only needed a few more things to make it perfect – chicken and fresh herbs. Without the chicken it makes a nice, light lunch. But chicken says: dinner. (I’ve included variations below, too, if you’re vegetarian or dairy-free.)
Orzo toasting in butter is a scent not to be missed. Well, melted butter in general, right? That lovely smell will waft through your house and your family will be begging to know what’s for dinner. At my house the smell of onions and garlic sautéing in a pan has the same effect. Lucky us – there’s both in this recipe!
In This Meal, Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts Work Best
It starts butter and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which admittedly aren’t my favorite cut. Chicken thighs have way more flavor, but need longer cooking. And this is a fast recipe. Here they work because they are quickly cooked in butter and there’s loads more flavor from all the add-ins. That means the chicken stays juicy. The flavor builds upon the fond – have I used that term before? It’s the yummy brown stuff that forms on the bottom of the pan that equals loads of flavor.
Then we come to more butter, the onions and garlic, the toasted orzo, and chicken broth. If you’re not cooking your rice in broth of some kind, you’re really missing out. It’s great for this pasta dish too. I’m sure I’ve heard the theory behind toasting the pasta before cooking, but I honestly can’t remember what it is. It may be that it helps the pasta retain its shape as it cooks, or prevents it from absorbing too much liquid. All I know is that it tastes fantastic and there’s no other way to do it, in my opinion. And it has to be butter. Unless you can’t have dairy, and then olive oil is acceptable. ;)
Don’t Forget the Spinach — Fresh or Frozen Works
So we’ve got cooked chicken, sautéed onion and garlic, toasted orzo, chicken broth, and then we just let things simmer away just until the pasta is cooked. Then, we stir in loads of chopped baby spinach.
In case you’re wondering, yes, you could use a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach instead of the fresh. It’s actually more spinach by weight, but it doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things. And you’ll be hungry anyway!
Then comes the fun part – toss all those delectable sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives into the pot and give it another stir.
The last thing is a smattering of feta, fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. If we count the minimal slicing and chopping, and simmering time, dinner can be done in like 30 minutes. You can’t be that!
One more thing – the first time I made this, I added in red pepper flakes. We had some mixed reviews. My neighbor who happened to pop by at the perfect time, said she liked the spicy bite. My husband, who normally is all about the spice, said he thinks this is one time he didn’t need it. So, the choice is yours, friends! Whatever you choose, I’m sure it will be delicious.
One Pot Mediterranean Chicken Pilaf
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces dry orzo pasta
3 to 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned or chopped
1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
6 ounce bag baby spinach, roughly chopped (see notes)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or marjoram, chopped, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, plus more for serving
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, for garnish (optional)
Crushed red pepper flakes, for sprinkling (optional)
1. Heat a wide, 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter. After foaming subsides, add the cubed chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook, turning chicken over frequently, until chicken is just cooked through and slightly browned. Remove chicken from pan, transfer to a bowl, cover, and keep warm.
2. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter to the skillet and allow to melt. When foaming subsides, add the onion to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the chicken. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.
3. Add the orzo to the pan. Stir well and cook, allowing the pasta to toast and become a light to medium golden brown.
4. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up any more of the fond from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat. Stir occasionally, especially if the orzo is sticking to the bottom. As the chicken broth is absorbed, add more chicken broth 1/2 to 1 cup at a time. (The remaining 1/2 cup may not be needed.) When the pasta is almost cooked, just a step before al dente, turn off heat. Add the chicken back to the pan, stir well.
5. Add the baby spinach and gently stir so the spinach starts to wilt with the heat of the pilaf. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives. Let the pilaf stand for 5-6 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
6. Add the feta, fresh herbs, and lemon juice. Taste and add sea salt and black pepper, if needed. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, more herbs, and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4-6 servings
-To make this gluten-free, substitute arborio (risotto) rice. The amount of chicken broth needed may vary.
-To make dairy-free, use olive oil instead of butter and omit feta cheese.
-To make vegetarian, omit the chicken step. Follow recipe for sautéing the onion, garlic, and eventually the orzo. Add the broth as directed. Add the spinach and add one 15-ounce can (drained) Great Northern beans or chickpeas along with the sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and kalamata olives. Proceed with recipe as written.
-A 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach can be used in place of the fresh spinach.
Oh my goodness. Thank you, Lindsey. All those colors and flavors. I can practically smell the sautéing orzo. Yum.
What about you, Dear Readers? Do you have any favorite odds-and-ends recipes? This one looks amazing!
P.S. — The most popular one sheet pan dinner.
Credits: Recipe and photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.