Lemon Chicken Thighs with Zucchini and Orzo

Who doesn’t love a one-pot dinner you can get on the table in less than an hour? Sign me up as there are plenty of days, as organized as I am with meal planning, when 4pm rolls around and plans need to change.  Someone has practice, a class or a call and what I originally planned is no longer a good idea.  This dish is a variation on one created by @thehungryhutch (currently a food writer at the Washington Post and one of my fav food bloggers – check him out).  I’ve only tweaked it a bit as it’s a great recipe and the star ingredient in my opinion is lemon.  Some people are obsessed with chocolate or truffles – I love lemons.  I love the way they taste – fresh, tart and juicy – I love having them in a big bowl on a table, I love the way they smell (I buy the William Sonoma Meyer Lemon candles in bulk!) and I especially love to cook with them.  This recipe calls for only one lemon but when you cut a lemon and cook it, the flavor gets ratcheted up and the amount of juice seems to double.  When I grill, I always cut a lemon or two and grill them to serve with steak and chicken.  Even if you don’t love a spritz of lemon on your dinner, they look great on the serving platter.

I made this dish a few times with skinless, boneless chicken thighs and with bone-in, skin on too.  The skin on, bone-in thighs are 100% the way to go.  The crispy skin is not only delicious but the fat you render from cooking them first adds lots of flavor to the overall dish.  The skinless thighs were good and I might make this again and shred them so everything is mixed together but until then, I’m sticking with the skin on thighs.

The original recipe calls for broccoli which is great and you can use fresh florets or frozen but I swapped broccoli for zucchini this time and I really liked it.  You need a sturdy vegetable since it cooks with the orzo which takes a few minutes to absorb the liquid so if you want to substitute your favorite vegetable just make sure it’s something that won’t fall apart as it cooks.  

We eat a decent amount of rice (always on Tuesdays with tacos) but lately I’ve been using more orzo which we really like.  I like it in place of rice for a “risotto” and it’s wonderful in pasta salad, casseroles and soups because it’s a sturdy pasta and doesn’t get mushy. 


4                           Bone in, skin on chicken thighs

1 tsp                    Salt (I use Kosher)

1 tsp                    Seasoned Salt (I use Lawry’s)

½ tsp                   White pepper

2 tbs                    Olive oil

3 tbs                    Butter

1                           Lemon (medium), sliced thinly

4 cups                 Zucchini (you can use broccoli or another sturdy veggie too), cut into ½ inch, half moons

1 ½ cups             Orzo

1 sprig                 Thyme

1 clove                Garlic, grated on a micro plane

½ cup                  White wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

2 ½ cups             Low sodium chicken broth


Pat the chicken thighs dry and sprinkle the seasoned salt on both sides.  In a heavy bottom pot or skillet (I use a Cuisinart dutch oven which lives on my stove) heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Place the chicken skin side down and cook till they release from the pot (that’s when you know it’s time to flip!) and are golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Flip them over and cook the other side, about another 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Add 2 tbs of butter and the lemon slices to the pot, spreading them out to a single layer and cook for about 3 minutes until the juices are released (they will also start to pick up some color which is great).  Remove lemon to a plate and reserve.

Add the orzo, zucchini, garlic, thyme, 1 tbs butter, salt and pepper to the pan and cook until coated and orzo is toasted, stirring for approximately 3 minutes.  Stir in the wine and cook for about a minute and then add the stock.  Stir well to release the bits off the bottom of the pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the lemons and chicken back to the pan along with any juices from the plates.  Make sure to place the skin side up and don’t completely immerse it in the sauce or you will have soggy skin.   Cook uncovered for about 10 – 15 minutes, carefully moving the orzo and liquid mixture around a bit if needed.  Once the liquid is reduced and the orzo is tender (I always go by the taste test rather than live and die by the time) you are ready to go.

I place the pot on the table and serve right from there.


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