Monday, June 11, 2012

Mediterranean Chicken with Lemony Spring Vegetable Orzo

One of the things I was determined to set up as soon as I found out I'd have a little bit of outdoor space was an herb garden. I grew up with an outdoor garden where my Mom grew everything from tomatoes to peppers and of course a few herbs and although I didn't fully appreciate that idyllic sort of self-sufficiency at the time, now I would give anything to gather edibles from my backyard for the dinner table. So I'm flexing my untried thumb to find out exactly how green it is with a few staple herbs: rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro, sage and mint. I'm a little over a week into it but being my usual impatient self, the other night I decided to snip some rosemary, oregano and thyme to make a modified version of Mark Bittman's Grilled Mediterranean Chicken I saw on Serious Eats.

I was drawn to this recipe not only for the herbs, but for the brightness that the lemon added and to give me a chance to grow to love my temperamental oven by roasting some chicken (as sadly I do not own a proper grill, only a stove top one that seems to work best on veggies and shrimp). Combined with a light and creamy orzo flecked with some grilled asparagus and thawed out peas and corn kernels, it was a perfectly light and yet deliciously decadent week night meal. Eaten cold the next day, with the crispy skin removed it was a different, yet equally tasty result, somewhat like an herby cold rotisserie chicken (does anyone else out there enjoy cold chicken, or am I just a weirdo?). But the fresh herbs really helped to push the whole meal into an over the top type of wonderful and just served to remind me how delicious something fresh and simple can taste.

Mediterranean Chicken Thighs
Modified from New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook
4 bone-in skin on chicken thighs- patted dry
1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
2-3 Tbl. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. lemon zest plus 1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbl. olive oil (possibly less)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Combine all the herbs, salt, lemon zest and juice in a bowl. Add in enough olive oil to make a paste. Lay out chicken pieces in a deep baking dish, separate the skin from the meat and spoon the herb mixture liberally under the skin. Top each piece with a pinch of salt and pepper.

2. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 then lower heat to 350 and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until fat has rendered and juices run clear or until internal temperature for the thighs is 170.
My pretty herbs freshly planted
Lemony Spring Vegetable Orzo
1 c. orzo
6-10 good sized asparagus stalks
1/2 Tbl. olive oil
2 Tbl. frozen peas- or fresh, if available
2 Tbl. frozen corn- or fresh, if available
2 Tbl. freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat water to boil in a sauce pan and set a stove top grill to medium high heat. Toss asparagus stalks with olive oil and add to the grill pan once it's hot. Grill each side of the asparagus until they have nice grill marks and set aside to cool, then cut into 1" pieces.

2. Once water is boiling add int eh orzo and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Add in the asparagus, corn, peas and lemon zest. Grate in the Parmesan and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper and then serve.

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