Orzo (also known as melon seed pasta, due to its shape) is one of my favorite choices for pasta salad. I really like the shape and texture, and it makes for a very interesting cold salad. Here, I had the idea of using it for a hot dish in the same way one would use an Arborio rice to make the classic Risotto. Instead of boiling the Orzo in salted water and draining, I thought it would be interesting to cook it the same way risotto is cooked, by adding small additions of flavorful stock until it’s tender (or al dente if you prefer). I made that flavorful stock by braising chicken and sausage as you’ll see.
This dish is really all over the place; most of the ingredients are kind of Spanish/Portuguese, there are techniques from India and Italy involved, and just to make things even stranger, I use a chili pepper usually found only in Mexican cuisine. But, none of that matters, this dish tastes great and is really not hard to make. The other good thing is, whoever you serve this to probably hasn’t had it before, so no matter how it comes out you can always say, “yeah, that’s how it’s suppose to be!”
I’ve had many requests for a risotto demo. The reason I haven’t done one is because who wants to watch someone stand at a stove and stir a pot of rice? Well, I tried to edit this to make it somewhat bearable, but the basic technique is the same; slowly adding stock and stirring until its almost absorbed and then adding more. This is a dish that will be great the first time you make it, and REALLY great the second time you make it, as you get the timing down. My orzo took about 15-20 minutes to absorb enough stock to become tender – but that’s just a very rough guide for you since there are so many factors; the heat, size of your orzo, shape of pot, etc. Be brave and enjoy yourself…you're cooking!
By the way, I didn’t mention it in the clip, but I removed the skin and bones from the chicken thighs once they were cool enough to handle, before I added them back into the final dish. Also, this is one of the VERY rare dishes I didn’t add garlic to. The sausage I used had a lot of garlic in it so I didn’t think it was needed. Enjoy.
1/2 pound orzo pasta
6 chicken thighs (seasoned with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper)
1 lb. Linguisa sausage (or any spicy sausage)
1 quart chicken stock
1 red bell pepper
1 green Pasilla or bell pepper
1/2 yellow onion
1 tbl paprika
1 tbl cumin
1 tbl Herb de Provence
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf