Mediterranean Orzo and Cheese with Chicken

I’m taking a break.

A break from school and a break from recapping Italy. I have one exam left and then I’m done [minus three or so classes I’ll have to take at some point to meet the credit requirement if I ever want to sit for the CPA exam]. Done as in degree in hand [a BSc in Accounting]. Finally.

I’ve missed cooking. I’m still making things, but it’s “throw it together” stuff or grilling. Easy stuff. I want to stand in front of the stove for awhile and create something awesome. Soon.

This ooey, gooey, cheesy mess of awesome was made before we left for Italy. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I had ever bought orzo [it’s a type of pasta]. Now I use it all the time. Figures. It also required 5oz of white cheddar cheese. I couldn’t find a small brick to save my life, so I picked up a massive Tillamook loaf. I’m not complaining. There are a lot going on your mouth with a dish like this. It’s creamy and comforting, but occasionally kicks you with some zing—hello feta and kalamata olives! If you’re not a feta cheese fan, fear not. It’s not that intense in-your-face flavor. The white cheddar tones it down a lot. It brings it to a much more manageable level.

I also poached up a few chicken thighs and shredded them because I always love a little extra protein with my carbs and cheese.

Inspiration: Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup dried orzo
  • 2 cups [5oz] shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup + 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 cup canned fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1lb chicken thighs [or breasts], poached and shredded [or grilled and cut into chunks]
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and prepare a 9×9 pan.
  2. Cook the orzo according to the directions on the package. Rinse and set aside.
  3. In a heavy sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour.
  4. Whisk together for 30 seconds.
  5. Add one cup of milk. Whisk until smooth.
  6. Add another 1/2 cup and continue whisking. Save the 1/2 cup. Let the mixture get thick.
  7. Add the shredded cheddar and 3/4 cup of feta.
  8. Continue stirring until the cheese melts.
  9. Add the oregano, salt, pepper, remaining milk, tomatoes, and olives.
  10. Once everything is incorporated, add the orzo and chicken.
  11. Stir well, coating everything.
  12. Pour into the prepared pan.
  13. Top with remaining feta cheese.
  14. Bake for 15 minutes, and let stand 10 minutes before serving.