What a chef eats at home
Rarely do I take the time to prepare myself dinner – no matter how simple of a recipe. But when I treat myself, it’s with simple dishes like this humble home-cooked, braised chicken breast.
This braised chicken recipe is easy and nutritious. But its combination of bold and subtle flavors satisfies my taste buds and soul as much as a restaurant meal. The sharp, salty, brined taste of olive combine with the chicken, crisp on the edges and juicy in the center, you can’t beat these flavor sensations. And don’t forget the citrus spark of the lemon, the calming orzo pasta, a welcome pillow of blandness to cushion your senses from overload.
Why make a braised chicken breast?
If you’ve yet to master the technique, you might be surprised to learn that braised chicken breasts are succulent and easy to make. Once you get the technique of braising chicken down, it’s sure to become one of your go-to’s for a fast and wholesome dinner.
Notes on ingredients in this chicken and orzo dish
If you don’t love orzo, you can substitute with your favorite pasta or grain. (Whole wheat fusili does a nice job of catching the sauce.) But orzo is what I love to have with my braised chicken. I think the combination is a classic. (I also love to slice the chicken and serve the leftovers as a cold orzo salad.)
If you want to make it part of a complete meal, serve it with a simple, green vegetable like steamed asparagus or broccoli rabe.
On using organic chicken
We talk a lot on this site about choosing organic meats, particularly chicken. I recommend using organic chicken breasts for this recipe – and all chicken recipes.
Although there is little to no nutritional difference between organic and factory farmed chicken, those given antibiotics can develop antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria. They are also more likely to carry salmonella. And you will hopefully cook out any harmful bacteria, I prefer to err on the side of caution.
In addition, I am among those chefs who maintain that organic meat is more flavorful. I absolutely prefer it not just for health and safety but because I like the flavor. I also like supporting small farmers and believe in the use of organics for the health of the planet. You can, of course, make your own decisions about whether or not to buy organic chicken breasts but at least I know I’ve made my case for superior meat.
Braised Chicken Breast with Orzo
For the braised chicken:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 preserved lemon inner flesh removed, cut into thin slivers
- 12 large Sicilian green olives pitted and quartered
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 lemon washed and cut into eights
- 1 tbsp butter
For the orzo:
- 1 quart water boiling
- sea salt
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- In a large straight-side skillet with a snug fitting lid, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic softens. Add the oregano, preserved lemon, and olives. Sauté 2-3 minutes then carefully add the wine and lemon juice.
- Pat the chicken breast dry and season well with salt and pepper, then place in the simmering liquid. Return to a simmer. Arrange the lemon wedges among the chicken breasts. Cover and simmer over low – medium heat for approximately 20 minutes.
- While the chicken cooks, cook the orzo (approximately 5-7 minutes in boiling salted water), drain and transfer to a bowl; toss with olive oil. Add crumbled feta, lemon juice and oregano. Hold.
- Returning to the chicken – at the end of 20 minutes, remove the chicken to a plate to drain briefly. Raise the heat on the liquid and begin to reduce. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add butter to the hot sauté pan and immediately place the chicken breasts, presentation side down first. Arrange the lemon wedges in the pan as well. Sear both sides until golden brown and the lemons are caramelized on all sides.
- Remove the chicken and lemons to the plate again and immediately pour the hot braising liquid into the hot sauté pan to deglaze and reduce further (it will be very hot and bubbly when poured). Reduce heat to simmer. Season to taste.
- Chop the caramelized lemon peel into small bits and mix into the orzo; season to taste.
Place a scoop of the orzo on a plate. Arrange a chicken breast (whole or sliced and fanned) on the orzo. Spoon sauce over the chicken, including olives and preserved lemon bits. Serve with a simple green vegetable on the side. To store:
Place chicken breast in a shallow container (cool thoroughly) and pour the cooled sauce over the top. Can be held in the refrigerator for approximately 2 days. Re-heat thoroughly. The orzo can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for approximately 2-3 days. Can be enjoyed warm or cold like pasta salad.
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