For a little background, the other night we were cooking steak and I was combing my cupboard to figure out side dishes. I noticed we had some orzo, which I probably haven't cooked with in a year or more, but I decided to use it since I was getting tired of our usual sides. I googled the orzo to water ratio, and to my surprise, the vast majority of the recipes call for you to cook orzo in a large pot of boiling water, then strain it, then use the cooked orzo in whatever preparation you're looking for.
But in my mind, I really felt like I wanted to cook it more like rice than like pasta. I wanted the orzo to soak up all the water and keep all the starch that is often lost when tossing out pasta water.
I found a lone recipe that finally gave me what I wanted (1 cup orzo to 2.5 cups water, but we'll get to that in a bit) - but the recipe itself was incredibly basic. It was just orzo, water, butter. Since we were having steaks, I decided I wanted more acid in a side dish to compliment the fat of the steak. And so using only the orzo:water ratio as a guide, I made the dish using the flavors I was looking for.
My husband and I both took a bite and realized it was something truly special.
By cooking the orzo with a specific ratio of water to pasta, all the starch that usually transfers into the pasta water is retained and creates this incredibly silky, almost creamy, texture on the dish. The lemon was just enough, but not too much, to bring some brightness to the pasta, and the chicken stock I used brought just enough salt and depth of flavor. And finally, using fresh herbs to finish really brought the whole dish together.
Needless to say, we absolutely could not get enough. The pasta was al dente, the mouthfeel of the starchy "sauce" that remained after cooking was incredible, and the flavor was a perfect balance. This is going to be a mainstay in our household going forward for sure.
Silky Lemon Orzo
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup orzo
2.5 cups chicken broth
Pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Heat the olive oil in a small stockpot on medium-high heat. Add the orzo and stir continuously, toasting the orzo until about 50% of the "grains" have browned.
Remove from heat and carefully add the chicken broth. Return to heat and bring to a boil. Boil on medium heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper and lemon juice. Cover and remove from heat and let sit undisturbed for 7 minutes.
Uncover and add the fresh herbs and stir until all the herbs are incorporated and they begin to brighten/wilt a little from the heat.
Serve immediately and enjoy!