Some of my favorite memories growing up and visiting my grandmother on 63rd and Richmond include eating her homemade soups. She made all her broth and stock from scratch, and most soups included a heavy helping of orzo pasta instead of egg noodles. Where my grandmother came from, egg noodles weren't available and she never even heard of them until she moved to the United States. Orzo was a favorite staple in her kitchen, in part because during the war it was cheap and available when so much was rationed.
A few months ago I saw recipe upon recipe that called for orzo pasta. My local grocery store didn't carry it. With such a heavy Hispanic population, the local stores don't carry items that won't sell amongst the majority population. I checked with an Italian grocery store a few miles away, and they order it and run out of it as soon as it comes in. So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I wandered down the pasta aisle and saw delightful 1 lb. boxes of orzo available! A flood of memories came back, including eating at my grandma's tiny excuse for a kitchen table and marveling at her speed with a knife. These memories are so precious to me, and I love the sentimental quality orzo brings to my life. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to find it again, so I bought 4 boxes! (Look for orzo recipes in the very near future.)
This was a really simple, easy, and filling meal. Dinner was ready in under 30 minutes, and just about anyone can make this meal with little difficulty. I got the recipe from The Pampered Chef, Ltd. (No link because I can't find it online, but it came from one of my cookbooks.)
Shrimp & Orzo Skillet
(Adapted from The Pampered Chef)
8 oz. large uncooked shrimp (21-25 per lb)
1 T. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. sugar
8 oz. (1/2 lb) orzo pasta
1 garlic clove, minced
2 c. chicken broth or stock
1 c. clam juice
1 small lemon
1 T. thinly sliced fresh mint
1 c. frozen peas
1 T. butter
Peel and de-vein shrimp if not already done. Combine salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat evenly.
Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Arrange shrimp in a single layer in the skillet and cook 1-2 minutes, or until one side is browned and the edges are pink. Turn over shrimp and cook for 1 minute, or until centers are opaque and shrimp is cooked. Remove to platter and set aside.
In the same skillet, combine chicken broth, clam juice, garlic, and orzo. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 10-12 minutes or until orzo is cooked through.
While the orzo is cooking, zest lemon and measure 1 T. lemon zest. Thinly chiffonade mint leaves to create thin strips.
When orzo is cooked through, remove skillet from heat and stir in peas and butter. Cut and squeeze lemon and sprinkle 1 T. lemon juice over orzo mixture. Arrange shrimp over orzo, cover and let stand 5 minutes. When heated through, sprinkle with lemon zest and mint. Serve warm.
- An 8 oz. can of clam juice will yield 1 cup. This is a major money saver, especially if you don't have any meals planned to use up the juice before it goes bad.
- The sugar doesn't really season the shrimp--it burns easily and helps caramelize the shrimp.
- Next time, I think I'll season the shrimp with some Old Bay seasoning instead, just to shake it up. I've got it and I think it would really help the taste.
- Graham really liked this and liked how all the flavors stood together but weren't too overpowering.
- What I really love about this meal is that it's simple but looks and tastes impressive. It's definitely a quick-cooking "wow" meal.
- Next time, I'll add in some sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms to really round out this meal. It was good, but I think it would have been "heartier" with some more mix ins.