Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Chicken casserole with Orzo
Despite a leaking under-sink and a dishwasher suffering from reflux, I managed to cook a three-course dinner last night for Peter, a colleague, and myself.
And quite pleased I was too.
The weather has broken recently, and it's been quite a bit cooler, due to the absolutely incredibly beautiful thunderstorms. I therefore did not cook too much "height of summer" food, but didn't go too far in the other direction either.
We started off with a traditional insalata caprese- buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes from the farm, and basil that I was given by a neighbour. A drizzle of olive oil, some cracked black pepper, and a nice seed-covered crunchy baguette.
This gave me a chance to practise my presentation skills- which, quite frankly, suck. I'm working on it!
We then moved to the East, and had a main course from Vefa's Kitchen, which I've been meaning to peruse in detail ever since I got my hands on a copy about 3 months ago. I love Greek food- its flavours appeal to almost all of my tastebuds at the same time! Mm, I'll never forget having dinner with Peter in Nafplio and having grilled octopus tentacles- they were absolutely delicious. The suckers were all crunchy, the meat soft, and the lemon and olive sauce on top was just perfect...
Back to last night's dinner!
Chicken Casserole with Orzo (adapted from Vefa's Kitchen)
- 3 small aubergines, cut into bite-size pieces
- olive oil
- 1 humungous courgette, given to me by the same neighbour who gave me the basil, sliced
- 1kg skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 small-ish onions, chopped (there should have been 2 cloves of garlic, but my last head had dried out so went in the bin- and I'd have put in probably at least half the head to boot)
- 5 large Roma tomatoes, seeded, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow, julienned
- 1 cup orzo
- dried thyme, oregano, and marjoram
Sprinkle the aubergine with salt and leave to drain in a colander for an hour. Rinse, squeeze out the water, pat dry.
I've read that instead of this step, which is pretty much pointless these days as our aubergines are not as bitter as they used to be, you can stick them in the microwave for a few tens of seconds. As the other point of the maneuvre is to bust the cells so that the aubergines don't gulp all the olive oil as soon as you drop them in.
Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish, add the pieces of aubergine, cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly brouwned. Remove, set aside, add courgette slices, do the same, remove. Heat some more oil if necessary, add the chicken, cook 6-8 mns until lightly browned, stirring. Add the onion (and garlic!), cook stirring frequently until softened. Add tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and courgettes, season, add herbs, cover, simmer until the vegetables are half cooked.
Heat olive oil in a small frying-pan. Add the orzo, cook over high heat, stirring constantly (like you'd start off rice for a risotto) for a couple of minutes, then stir into the pan.
Vefa says you should add stock here- I added a little bit of boiling water, not much, covered, simmered until the orzo was tender, and served it up in the dish.
It was perfectly pleasant- but it needs a little something. I'll definitely be making it again, once I've figured out what that little something is. A friend has suggested lemon juice, and that might be it.
On the other hand, Peter and I finished it for dinner tonight, and, re-heated in the casserole dish over the gas, with plenty of fresh olive oil, it was absolutely a perfect dinner.
For dessert (which we also finished tonight), I had made a fruit salad- left-over greengages, nectarines, muscat grapes, and watermelon. And we had it with crême de Gruyère, which my parents had brought us on Monday, as they were in Gruyère over the weekend. This is one of Switzerland's great specialties- a thick, very sweet cream (although it's not sweetened), which is often served with meringues. An absolutely lethal dessert, but very yummy.
I was quite pleased with the meal. It could have been better, but, for a mid-week supper which I hadn't had more than 24 hours to plan, it wasn't bad. And the fact that I had to stop half-way through cooking the courgettes and rescue Greta from a glass-covered floor (she had knocked a glass off the kitchen table and we were both standing in the middle of it in bare feet) and put her to bed didn't do more than make it all a bit later than I had planned!
Fortunately, the sink and the dishwasher were fixed today.