Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spicy Orzo

A girl I know had cravings for Long John Silvers' hush puppies when she was pregnant. Ordinarily, this wouldn't seem odd. But she had, in fact, never eaten a hush puppy before in her life, so the sudden desire for them was inexplicable. It turned out that she loved them. Go figure.

I am no longer pregnant, but I can totally relate with the inexplicable-craving phenomenon. I once craved sweet-n-sour sauce even though I'd never had it before, and I, too, loved it. It was as if my taste buds had become ready for it and let me know when it was time. A similar thing happened with this dish: I woke up one morning craving orzo. I'd had orzo before, and all it is is rice-shaped pasta, so it was strange that I would crave orzo and not a pasta more familiar to me, like farfalle or rotini. But there it was: I HAD TO HAVE orzo.

Wouldn't you know it? I couldn't find orzo anywhere. I didn't think it was that uncommon of an item until I was craving it and couldn't find it in any store I visited. I even visited stores I don't usually frequent in the hope that they would carry these tiny little bits of pasta that were driving me slowly insane. They didn't.

Then some WEEKS later, when the craving had subsided, I was making my routine pass through the pasta aisle, and there they were, plain as day. Maybe they had been there all the time. I will never know. But I was still ready for them, so I purchased three boxes. I didn't want to be caught craving them with no recourse.

I still didn't know what I wanted to do with the orzo, but garlic sounded good. And butter. And my garden was exploding with basil; that sounded pretty good, too. And you know what else? Heat. Heat sounded good. When all is said and done, this recipe is probably closer to authentic Aglio e Olio than my actual Aglio e Olio recipe. But I think it works better here in this application with orzo than it would with any other pasta. The resulting dish is creamy, reminiscent of a risotto, with a lot of heat and flavor. AND it only takes about 12 minutes to make! Now, not only is the original orzo-something-or-other craving satisfied, but I've created a new item for me to crave. Let's get started, shall we?

Spicy Orzo

3 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
1/8-1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (depending on your preferred heat level)
ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. uncooked orzo
2 c. chicken stock or broth
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh basil, or 1 Tbsp dried basil

Melt butter in a saucepan and add garlic, dried red pepper flakes, black pepper, and he dried basil (if using--if you're using fresh, WAIT.). Saute over low-ish medium heat for about 30 seconds, just to infuse the butter with the flavors, then add the orzo. Saute for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Slowly pour the chicken stock into the orzo mixture, and bring to a boil. After it comes to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the stock is nearly absorbed and orzo is tender, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, stir in parmesan and fresh basil (if using), and serve immediately. You may add a tablespoon or two of olive oil if you wish to keep the grains more separate or don't plan to serve it in the next three minutes.

Serves 4 as a side dish.


Katrina said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe, one favorite of the whole family. I'll try this over the weekend!

Anonymous said...

This was awesome! I used hatch peppers since they are jn season, and cilantro instead of basil. Thanks for posting!!

Christina said...

Just wanted to share-- Years after discovering this recipe, I've made it a bunch of times. It's a classic-- also good with some broccoli (charred or steamed, just tossed right in.) YUM.