Skillet Chicken and Orzo

Skillet Chicken and Orzo

Weeknight cooking can be hard!

You forgot to take something out of the freezer, the fridge is empty, and you only have an hour to get something on the table. This is just a few of the hurtles busy families face daily in the quest to enjoy a family meal together. Skillet Chicken and Orzo is a great weeknight meal that’s easy to prepare, dirties only one pot and can be on the table in about an hour. It’s also super delicious with minimal effort.

A shallow serving dish with Skillet Chicken and Orzo garnished with fresh herbs by Compelled to Cook. A cast iron skillet with a serving spoon sits in the background.

Tips to easier weeknight meals

1. Make a meal plan for the week which can be as simple as writing down what meals you intend to prepare. Have fun with it by including the family in your choices. Including others helps to identify preferences and dishes that everyone likes.

 2. Make only one trip to the grocery store by purchasing the ingredients needed for each meal in advance.

3. Take items out of the freezer to have completely thawed and ready for use.

4. Make simple dishes that can be on the table within an hour or so.

5. Make dishes that other family members can help with such as washing and chopping vegetables.

6. Make only one meal that everyone can/will eat. So if you have a dish that everyone loves except the “onion” hater, then make the dish without onions and therefore suitable for everyone.

7. Don’t be afraid to settle for something as simple as eggs on toast for supper.  Eggs are very nutritious and quick to prepare. Make them a great meal by simply sauteeing up a few greens, sausage and/or vegetables.  Top with olives, cheese, breadcrumbs, or chives for a great weeknight meal.

8. If you gotta give your 5-year-old a “grilled cheese night” in exchange for eating other meals later in the week, then everyone eats grilled cheese, making it about balance and compromise.  Besides, who doesn’t like grilled cheese!!

9. Stick mostly to recipes/dishes you are comfortable and familiar with making during your busiest days.  No one wants to fumble around with a new recipe when time is tight.

10. Make extra when you can and freeze for use later, either as a leftover lunch or a meal for someone who gets home late.

 

Panfried chicken thighs in a cast iron skillet in preparation for Skillet Chicken and Orzo.
Sauteed mushrooms in preparation for Skillet Chicken and Orzo in a cast iron skillet on a metal trivet.

The key to Skillet Chicken and Orzo is to give the chicken and mushrooms a good sear. The mushrooms need a very hot pan and should not be overcrowded. Resist the urge to stir them and you will hear them “squeak”. That is a sign that they are becoming golden on the bottom and starting to release some of their liquid. The chicken also benefits from a good sear that helps to render the fat and crisp up the skin. Taking the time to brown both ingredients lends to a more flavourful dish that you’ll want to make again and again. Enjoy!

A cast iron skillet with Skillet Chicken and Orzo ready to be served and garnished with fresh herbs by Compelled to Cook.

Want more great weeknight options? Here are a few of my favourites.

Tarragon Chicken Cutlets

Red Curry Coconut Shrimp

Mushroom and Arugula Quinoa Bowls

 

A shallow serving dish with Skillet Chicken and Orzo garnished with fresh herbs by Compelled to Cook. A cast iron skillet with a serving spoon sits in the background.

A shallow serving dish with Skillet Chicken and Orzo garnished with fresh herbs by Compelled to Cook. A cast iron skillet with a serving spoon sits in the background.
Skillet Chicken and Orzo
Print Recipe
    Servings Prep Time
    3-4 people 50 minutes
    Cook Time Passive Time
    25 minutes 2 minutes
    Servings Prep Time
    3-4 people 50 minutes
    Cook Time Passive Time
    25 minutes 2 minutes
    A shallow serving dish with Skillet Chicken and Orzo garnished with fresh herbs by Compelled to Cook. A cast iron skillet with a serving spoon sits in the background.
    Skillet Chicken and Orzo
    Print Recipe
      Servings Prep Time
      3-4 people 50 minutes
      Cook Time Passive Time
      25 minutes 2 minutes
      Servings Prep Time
      3-4 people 50 minutes
      Cook Time Passive Time
      25 minutes 2 minutes
      Ingredients
      Servings: people
      Instructions
      1. Preheat oven to 350℉
      2. Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a cast iron or oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel. When the oil is hot add chicken thighs and cook about 5-6 minutes per side until skin browned. Remove to a plate.
      3. Using the same skillet, heat the remaining oil until hot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and allow to cook without stirring until bottoms are golden and moisture is starting to evaporate. Once they have browned give them a stir and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until starting to soften, stirring occasionally.
      4. Add wine and allow to reduce for about 3 minutes. Stir in broth, orzo, cream cheese, herbs, salt and pepper. Once the cream cheese is fully incorporated add the chicken back to the pan with the skin side up. Push chicken down into pasta as far as they will go. Cover with a lid or tin foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.
      5. Remove from oven and turn oven to broil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and broil for 1-2 minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 2 minutes prior to serving.
      Recipe Notes

      I personally like the garden vegetable cream cheese, however you may also like the garlic cream cheese.

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      I may receive compensation for purchases made through this site, at no cost to the purchaser. Compelled to Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
      Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets

      Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets

       

      Why are chicken cutlets so good?

      Simply put, they are pounded thin.  This not only makes them tender but makes them cook quickly leaving them little chance of drying out. The trick is to pound them out as evenly as possible which results in even cooking.  Breading the cutlets isn’t always necessary but it does help to keep in all the moisture as does a good sear if opting not to bread them. Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets is a good example of both pounding thin and breading.

       

       

      I love versatile food!

      Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets are a great example of how one dish can become 3 different kinds of meals.  These crispy cutlets slathered with pesto are fantastic served with buttered noodles for a quick and easy weeknight meal.  They’re also great cut into wedges and served atop a crisp salad. I’m thinking my favourite though is nestling said cutlet between chewy bread and tomato slices for an upgraded sandwich that ‘s good for lunch or dinner.

       

      Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets are cut into strips in the foreground, while whole cutlets remain on a parchment lined tray in the background. A black kitchen towel, knife, fresh basil and pesto adorn the scene.
      Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets
      Print Recipe
        Servings Prep Time
        8 cutlets 35 minutes
        Cook Time
        12-15 minutes
        Servings Prep Time
        8 cutlets 35 minutes
        Cook Time
        12-15 minutes
        Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets are cut into strips in the foreground, while whole cutlets remain on a parchment lined tray in the background. A black kitchen towel, knife, fresh basil and pesto adorn the scene.
        Breaded Pesto Chicken Cutlets
        Print Recipe
          Servings Prep Time
          8 cutlets 35 minutes
          Cook Time
          12-15 minutes
          Servings Prep Time
          8 cutlets 35 minutes
          Cook Time
          12-15 minutes
          Ingredients
          Servings: cutlets
          Instructions
          1. Using a blender or mini processor combine the first 7 ingredients and blend until combined but still has some texture. Set aside.
          2. Using three shallow bowls, combine flour and 1/2 tsp salt in one, breadcrumbs and 1/2 tsp salt in the second and the eggs whisked with the milk in the third.
          3. Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. Cut each breast in half horizontally and then cut each half into half vertically, giving you 4 pieces per breast.
          4. Place chicken pieces between 2 pieces of parchment. Pound to about a 1/4" thick (no thinner).
          5. Dredge chicken cutlets with flour, shaking off excess.
          6. Dunk floured cutlets into egg wash and then into bread crumbs, turning to coat evenly. Arrange prepared cutlets onto a clean plate or tray.
          7. Add enough oil to a large skillet to come up about an 1/8" of an inch. Heat over medium until hot. Add 4 cutlets and cook approximately 2 1/2 minutes per side depending on thickness. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining cutlets.
          8. Turn oven to broil, with rack 8-10" from heat.
          9. Arrange cutlets on a foil lined tray. Spread 1 tbsp of pesto onto each cutlet and sprinkle lightly with grated parmesan cheese. Broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
          Recipe Notes

          -You can use any pesto you'd like here, however, the one included with this recipe contains less oil than regular pesto.  I found regular pesto makes the cutlets too oily.  This slightly drier version gives the same great flavour but less oil and better results. If you'd like to use a classic pesto, here's the recipe Classic Pesto

          -These cutlets are also great on top of pasta drizzled with extra pesto or in a sandwich.

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          Affiliate Disclosure

          I may receive compensation for purchases made through this site, at no cost to the purchaser. Compelled to Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
          Crispy Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Slaw

          Crispy Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Slaw

          I love, love, love crunchy food! For me, the crunchier and saltier the better.  I’m the gal who’ll choose a bag of Doritos over a piece of cake. This may be why I love these amazing Crispy Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Slaw.  The traditional three stage breading using Panko or coarse homemade bread crumbs, makes the crispiest little chicken cutlets that are so perfect with creamy crunchy slaw.  And this slaw has a nice, but not too hot, nasal clearing heat from the wasabi.  It’s a fantastic combination.

          Yes, you heard me right, there’s wasabi in the slaw, and it’s my new favourite coleslaw.  Creamy, crisp and cool with just enough wasabi to create a warming bite and provide a definite sense that you’re not in coleslaw Kansas anymore.  It’s not “reach for water hot” by any means, but if serving this coleslaw on the side, I’d warn the kids and grandparents…just saying!  With its creamy and tangy dressing, the coleslaw is absolutely perfect with the crispy chicken cutlets.  I like to really pile it on for the ultimate little slider.  Don’t forget this amazing slaw is also great with pulled pork or as a side to BBQ’d meats. But don’t take my word for it, go on and give it a try.  You’ll love these wonderful, easy to put together Crispy Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Slaw.  Enjoy!

          Recipe source for Crispy Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Slaw:  Compelled To Cook

          Crispy Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Slaw
          Print Recipe
            Servings Prep Time
            8 sliders 55-60 minutes
            Cook Time
            10-12 minutes
            Servings Prep Time
            8 sliders 55-60 minutes
            Cook Time
            10-12 minutes
            Crispy Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Slaw
            Print Recipe
              Servings Prep Time
              8 sliders 55-60 minutes
              Cook Time
              10-12 minutes
              Servings Prep Time
              8 sliders 55-60 minutes
              Cook Time
              10-12 minutes
              Ingredients
              Wasabi Slaw
              Chicken Cutlets
              Servings: sliders
              Instructions
              Wasabi Slaw
              1. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, wasabi, salt and pepper. Cover and keep chilled until ready to use.
              2. When ready to assemble sliders, toss cabbage, green onion and grated carrot with dressing.
              Chicken Cutlets
              1. Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally and then cut each half into half again, getting 4 pieces (each being about 1.5 ounces) out of each breast. Place the chicken pieces between two pieces of parchment or wax paper and pound with a rolling pin or flat side of a mallet to 1/4" thick.
              2. Using 3 shallow bowls, to the first, add the flour, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. To the second, add eggs and water and whisk to combine. To the third, add the bread crumbs.
              3. Add several chicken pieces to the flour bowl and flip around to coat. Shake off excess and add pieces to egg bowl. Using a fork, flip to coat with egg and place in bread crumbs, turning each piece and patting gently to adhere crumbs. Place breaded portions onto a clean plate or wire rack and repeat breading procedure until all pieces are done.
              4. Add enough canola oil to a large skillet to just start to cover the bottom. Heat over medium high until hot. Add breaded chicken to pan, being careful not to overcrowd pan. Cook for approximately 2 minutes per side until golden. Remove from pan to a paper towel lined tray to dab off any excess grease and then to a clean plate. Keep warm in a low 225℉ oven while remaining cutlets are fried. Wipe out pan with a paper towel to remove excess crumbs that may start to burn prior to frying more cutlets.
              5. Slice slider buns in half and brush lightly with butter. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel and place slider buns buttered side down in pan and heat over medium until starting to brown and become warm. About 2 minutes.
              6. To each slider bun, add a chicken cutlet and top with a generous amount of wasabi slaw. Secure each slider with a long toothpick if desired and serve immediately.

              Catalina Wings

              Catalina Wings

              A long, long time ago I used to make wings similar to these piquant Catalina Wings.  I was in college and had a summer job cooking at a golf and country club.  The food was basic fair, nothing too over the top, catering to the golfing crowd, small banquets and business meetings. It was a fun job, good people to work with and a happy crowd, because they’re golfing of course.  It wasn’t unusual for the dining room to be filled with thirsty golfers looking for a mid afternoon snack and beverage.

              Like many places of the time, we offered hot wings, but not everyone liked there wings “hot”. So to please the masses we mixed the hot sauce with Catalina Dressing to lighten some of the heat.  The ratio of dressing to hot sauce was adapted to make the wings mild, medium or hot.  We didn’t have a formula, it was always eye balled, so I doubt anyone ever got the same plate of wings twice.  It’s the memory of this job and the tossing of bowl after bowl of chicken wings that Catalina Wings are derived.  Not new in concept but these Catalina Wings are made with fresh Catalina dressing, making them zesty and sticky.  You’ll love them! 

              Recipe source for Catalina Wings:  Compelled To Cook

              Catalina Wings
              Print Recipe
                Servings Prep Time
                30 wings 20 minutes
                Cook Time
                16-18 minutes
                Servings Prep Time
                30 wings 20 minutes
                Cook Time
                16-18 minutes
                Catalina Wings
                Print Recipe
                  Servings Prep Time
                  30 wings 20 minutes
                  Cook Time
                  16-18 minutes
                  Servings Prep Time
                  30 wings 20 minutes
                  Cook Time
                  16-18 minutes
                  Ingredients
                  Dressing
                  Wings
                  Servings: wings
                  Instructions
                  Dressing
                  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Makes about 1 cup of dressing. Refrigerate extra dressing for up to 1 week.
                  Wings
                  1. In a large heavy duty pot fitted with a clip on thermometer, heat a minimum of 3" of canola oil to 350℉ 375℉. (oil will cool when wings are added)
                  2. Pat chicken wings dry with a paper towel. Add half the wings to the hot oil, dropping them in one by one. Cook for 5-6 minutes, depending on size, until no longer pink. Remove with a slotted scoop to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining wings.
                  3. Preheat broiler and line a large baking tray with foil. In a large bowl stir together Catalina Dressing and Franks Red Hot sauce. Add wings and toss to evenly coat.
                  4. Arrange wings in a single layer on baking tray and broil 8" from broiler for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
                  Recipe Notes

                  Wings can be made hotter if desired by decreasing the amount of dressing and increasing hot sauce to your preference.

                  Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles

                  Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles

                  Did you ever eat celery with peanut butter as a kid? Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles combines this great flavour combination with a touch of spice, tender chicken, and saucy noodles. It’s a quick and delicious weeknight meal that the whole family will enjoy!

                  You’ll love how the peanut butter virtually creates a creamy sauce on its own as it warms and coats the noodles and everything else that’s all tangled up in them. Along with the peanuts, the celery brings its inherent crunch to the dish, enhancing its texture and flavour. Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles is a fantastic combination of flavours and textures but you don’t have to stop there. Celery is also great stir fried with beef, so next time you grab the wok be sure to reach for that crisp bundle of fresh celery to add to your veggie mix.

                  Recipe source for Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles:  Compelled To Cook

                  Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles
                  Print Recipe
                    Servings Prep Time
                    4 people 20 minutes
                    Cook Time
                    15 minutes
                    Servings Prep Time
                    4 people 20 minutes
                    Cook Time
                    15 minutes
                    Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles
                    Print Recipe
                      Servings Prep Time
                      4 people 20 minutes
                      Cook Time
                      15 minutes
                      Servings Prep Time
                      4 people 20 minutes
                      Cook Time
                      15 minutes
                      Ingredients
                      Servings: people
                      Instructions
                      1. Cutting against the grain, slice chicken breast into thin strips. Set aside.
                      2. In a small bowl whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar and chill paste.
                      3. Cook noodles as per package directions and allow to drain in colander while proceeding.
                      4. Heat approximately 1 tbsp of oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet with sides. Once hot add half the chicken and cook, stirring once or twice for 3-5 minutes until chicken is no longer pink and starts to brown. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken.
                      5. Add a little more oil to the pan and sauté garlic for 1 minute, stirring often. Add chicken broth and celery. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes until most of the broth has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Stir in red peppers and sauté for 1 minute. Reduce heat and stir in peanut sauce, chicken, noodles, half of the peanuts and half of the green onion. Toss to combine, adding a little more chicken broth if needed. Divide among serving dishes and top with peanuts and green onion. Serve immediately.
                      Recipe Notes

                      I used thick noodles for this recipe, but feel free to use your favourite size.  Fresh Chinese noodles can be found in the produce section of most supermarkets.

                      Tarragon Chicken Cutlets

                      Tarragon Chicken Cutlets

                      So let’s talk chicken, chicken breasts to be exact. Unless they’re bone in, skin on, it’s hard not to overcook them. Everyone’s been there if they’re honest with themselves. Myself included, more than I care to admit. This is why I am a huge fan of making chicken breasts into cutlets. Because by splitting them and pounding thin, a tender cutlet is formed that takes mere minutes to cook, leaving little chance of them turning into sawdust. Tarragon Chicken Cutlets are a fantastic use of such cutlets with a tangy buttery tarragon sauce that just happens to be splendid with mashed potatoes.

                      Naturally not all chicken dishes can be made using cutlets, but when given the opportunity, it’s the path I will take. Not only because because they’re tender but because they cook quickly, making them great for busy weeknights. Additionally, they can be paired with almost anything. For example, marsala sauce, piccata, creamy mushroom and the list goes on. Tarragon Chicken Cutlets are a classic pairing of tarragon and chicken, adding a splash of Dijon and butter makes for a simple yet drool worthy sauce. So versatile and delicious!

                      Recipe source for Tarragon Chicken Cutlets:  Compelled To Cook

                       

                      Tarragon Chicken Cutlets
                      Print Recipe
                        Servings Prep Time
                        3-4 people 20 minutes
                        Cook Time
                        20 minutes
                        Servings Prep Time
                        3-4 people 20 minutes
                        Cook Time
                        20 minutes
                        Tarragon Chicken Cutlets
                        Print Recipe
                          Servings Prep Time
                          3-4 people 20 minutes
                          Cook Time
                          20 minutes
                          Servings Prep Time
                          3-4 people 20 minutes
                          Cook Time
                          20 minutes
                          Ingredients
                          Servings: people
                          Instructions
                          1. In a shallow bowl stir together flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. Cut off fillet from chicken breast if attached. Slice each chicken breast horizontally into two pieces. Cut each piece in half, giving 4 pieces of similar size per chicken breast, plus the fillet if included. Place each piece, including fillet between two pieces of parchment paper. Pound with a flat mallet until 1/4" thick.
                          2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Toss chicken pieces in flour and shake off excess. Fry half of the chicken pieces 2 minutes per side and remove to plate and keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and chicken.
                          3. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tbsp of butter to pan, add chopped shallot and sauté for 1 minute until softening but not browning. Add wine, stirring and scraping the pan to remove all the cooked bits. Stir in broth and reduce for 3-4 minutes until about 1/2. Whisk in mustard and butter, 1 tbsp at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding more. Stir in lemon juice and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken cutlets back to pan and spoon with sauce. Serve immediately.