Chicken Orzo with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pecans

Goat cheese chicken orzo | Forks in the Road

“What’s your favorite food?” is a question that’s never been easy to answer for me. I mean, what course? In what season? Every day for the rest of my life? My “cheat” answer is usually noodles. Noodles come in all shapes and sizes in various forms all over the world, and can be topped an infinite number of ways. Potato noodles. Fried noodles. Noodle Soup. Stuffed noodles (ravioli! shells!). Heck, there are even rice-shaped noodles, aka orzo – not to be confused with rice noodles. In this recipe, crumbled goat cheese and chicken broth make a creamy, flavorful base for the orzo to cook in. Toasted pecans add nutty crunch. Generous handfuls of greens to round out the food groups.

Orzo has quickly become a go-to for how versatile it is to cook with. I especially love how it pairs well with different veggies, and really absorbs the flavor of the liquid you cook it in. I made this recipe multiple times with different variations to vouch for its adaptability, given the times we’re in.

goat cheese chicken orzo | Forks in the Road

Gone are the days of running to the store to grab that one missing ingredient for a recipe. No pecans? Sub walnuts, pine nuts, or just leave them out. No chicken broth? Try veggie stock or even water. Fresh garlic has been oddly difficult to find lately – so I’ve had to be flexible with pre-minced garlic, garlic powder, even dehydrated garlic. In addition to the jars of minced garlic, I now keep a tube of ginger and tomato paste in my fridge since both keep well. Anything to avoid another trip to the store! The herbs and spices in this recipe can totally be modified according to what’s in your spice cabinet.

goat cheese chicken orzo with toasted pecans | forks in the road

Tip: you can chop and freeze a lot of fresh herbs (like basil, cilantro, green onions, garlic, chives) in plastic baggies. Left on the stem, hardier herbs like rosemary, dill, thyme, bay or sage can be spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate and placed in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer into any airtight container for freezer storage without clumping. 

chicken orzo with goat cheese and pecans served with broccolini | forks in the road
Shot on iPhone late at night, for the sake of having a visual to go with the instructions below. Served with broccolini!

In testing this recipe over the past month or so, I snapped some quick iPhone photos and tried different baking dishes to see which worked best. Spoiler: they all tasted fine. While I intended to have consistent photos, I realized the beauty of its versatility and its reflection of how we are all making do with what we have. This might just be a recipe for chicken orzo with goat cheese and toasted pecans, but I hope it can also serve as a glimpse of my imperfect reality. In normal times, but especially now.

Chicken Orzo with Goat Cheese & Toasted Pecans
Print Recipe
    Servings
    4 servings
    Servings
    4 servings
    Chicken Orzo with Goat Cheese & Toasted Pecans
    Print Recipe
      Servings
      4 servings
      Servings
      4 servings
      Ingredients
      Servings: servings
      Instructions
      1. Thoroughly mix the goat cheese, basil, nuts, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 clove garlic, in a bowl.
      2. On a large cutting board, salt and pepper both sides of each chicken tender and then line up half of them so they're touching. Spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over the first half.
      3. Drizzle honey in a zig-zag over the cheese. Layer the remaining chicken tenderloins over the cheese mixture, sandwiching the filling between each tender. Preheat the oven to 400F.
      4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, use tongs or a wide spatula to transfer each chicken "sandwich" to the pan (touching, as to keep as much of the filling inside as possible). Sear for ~5 minutes per side. Be careful when flipping the chicken, but a little spillage is okay! When both sides are seared, transfer the chicken from the skillet to a baking dish (around 8x8 but anything that will contain all the chicken "sandwiches" in one layer with a little extra room).
      5. Heat more oil in the skillet and sautee remaining garlic until fragrant. Add the orzo and toast for a few minutes before adding the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring so the orzo doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. When the mixture is bubbling, add the spinach to the pan and turn off the burner, letting residual heat wilt the greens.
      6. Pour the broth mixture into the prepared baking dish with the chicken, scraping down the pan and arranging the chicken evenly in the pan. Transfer to the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

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      Chicken orzo with goat cheese and toasted pecans | Forks in the Road

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