This skillet chicken dinner celebrates spring with leeks, greens, peas, lots of fresh herbs, and bright lemon. This is a classic chicken braise where the chicken gets browned first, then leeks get cooked in those delicious chicken bits and juices. Dried herbs and butter get added for the orzo to get toasty and warm in before adding our liquid. Finally, the chicken gets nestled back in and everything gets cooked together until the orzo is perfectly cooked. Peas get added at the very end so that the steam cooks them just perfectly until bright green. Tons of herbs, lemon, and cheese top it all off!

Ingredient highlight

Leeks! These alliums are rich in iron, folate, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C along with flavonoids (particularly kaempferol), which can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

Servings 4
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, excess skin trimmed off
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek (about 8-10 oz), halved lengthwise, rinsed, then thinly sliced (about 4 cups, use the whole leek)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 4 cups chopped loosely packed greens (mustard greens, kale, swiss chard, etc…)
  • 1 tbsp butter (optional*)
  • 1 ¼ cup (8 oz) orzo
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen green peas (optional)
  • Grated parmesan, crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese, for topping
  • Chopped dill, parsley, mint, chives and/or scallions, for topping
  • Lemon wedges, for topping
  • *Adding butter here adds richness and helps the orzo toast better in the skillet to add more flavor. It’s not essential so feel free to leave it out.

Instructions

  • Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle all over with enough salt and pepper to lightly coat and use your hands to press the salt/pep into the chicken so that it sticks.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil and swirl it to coat the skillet. Add the chicken, skin-side-down, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the skin is deeply golden and crispy. Flip and cook for 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a plate.
  • To the skillet over medium heat, add the leek and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until the leek has softened and is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the greens and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. If using butter (see note), push the veg to the side to create space in the center and add the butter. Once melted, add the orzo, oregano, and fennel and stir to coat in the butter and then stir everything together. Let it cook to toast the orzo for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway.
  • Add the water and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Nestle the chicken pieces back into the skillet, skin-side-up. Make sure no orzo pieces are exposed. Cover with a lid and simmer rapidly over low or medium-low heat for about 18 minutes or until the orzo is cooked through. Scatter the peas over top (if using), cover with the lid, and continue to cook for 1 more minute or until the peas are bright green/cooked/no longer frozen.
  • Serve it up topped with cheese, herbs, and a generous squeeze of lemon.

Items you can prep ahead (optional)

  • Halve, rinse, and thinly slice 1 leek (about 4 cups)
  • Chop 4 cups loosely packed greens (mustard greens, kale, swiss chard, etc…)
  • Chop herbs, for topping
  • Make the soup

Substitutions:

  • To make vegetarian, skip the chicken and increase the oil to 2 tablespoons. Follow the recipe as is. Serve it topped with a couple of fried eggs or any cooked protein. 
  • To make vegan, see above and substitute olive oil for the butter and skip the cheese.
  • To make gluten-free, substitute the pasta with 1 cup of jasmine rice (rinsed). 
  • You can use boneless skinless chicken if you prefer that over BISO (bone-in skin-on). You can cook both sides for a bit less time – just until it’s lightly golden (about 2 minutes).
  • Substitute the leek with a yellow onion.
  • Any other very small or short pasta shape can be used.

Storage:

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Leftovers + Repurposing:

  • Warm up leftovers in the microwave until warmed through. The chicken will reheat better if you cut it up before microwaving. Top with all the toppings.
  • Put a fried egg on it!

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