Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Leave your salt shaker in the cabinet

Here is one of the only recipes in the history of time that does not require salt, because instead it relies on two delicious ingredients (olives, feta cheese) to pack the flavor. Creamy, nutty, tangy and sweet What more do you need?

Pistachio-crusted chicken served on a baked orzo "risotto" cake with balsamic glaze


2 chicken thighs
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
3 Tbsp. kalamata olives
parmesan cheese
pine nuts
olive oil
1 white onion
chicken broth
cooking wine
lemon juice
balsamic vinegar

The Chicken
Note: I used chicken thighs because I like dark meat, but they are a lot more work because it's hard to find them any way other than bone-in. Using boneless/skinless chicken breasts would have cut my prep time about in half, but I need to practice these kinds of skills. On another night where I have less time to play around with I would like to try this recipe with other kinds of meat, like strips of salmon.

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Remove skin and bone from the chicken, trimming off any fat.
2. Roughly chop pistachios and place on a small plate.
3. Dump kalamata olives in food processor with 2 Tbsp grated parmesan and 1 clove garlic. Drizzle generously with olive oil and blend to a thick paste.
4. Spray or grease an oven
pan. With a small spoon, spread a thick layer of the olive paste onto the tops of the chicken pieces, then turn them face-down onto the pistachio plate one by one to get an even coating of nuts. Lay them in the pan to bake for 30 minutes.

Orzo Cake
1. Finely chop 2 cloves garlic, onion. Measure 1/4 cup pine nuts. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and add garlic, onion, pine nuts, and stir on medium heat for 2 minutes.
2. Add 1/2 cup dry Orzo, season with black pepper and dry basil. Stir in just enough cooking wine to barely cover ingredients, along with 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice. Simmer for several minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Slowly stir in 1/4 chicken stock, in increments to allow some simmering off of vapor each time. Frequently test the orzo. Continue until it is just barely al dente. It could even still have some crunch to it.
4. Remove from heat and pour contents into a large mixing bowl. Mix in 1/2 cup feta cheese and 1/3 cup grated parmesan.
5. Check the consistency. It should be creamy, not clumpy. If it's too thick, add a splash of each of the three liquids: cooking wine, lemon juice, and chicken broth.
6. Grease 2 ceramic soup bowls and sprinkle the bottoms with a layer of bread crumbs. Spoon orzo mixture into bowls, spreading evenly to fill each bowl to about 1.5" . Bake 10 minutes at 350° F. After cooling to the touch, remove the cake from bowl by running a butter knife around its rim and flipping it upside-down onto a plate.

make a 75% balsamic reduction to drizzle on the sides of the plate.

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