Warm your body and soul with a bowl of Creamy Chicken and Orzo Soup. This comforting recipe is rich and thick with a hint of lemon.
Enjoy a bowl of this filling and hearty soup with chunks of chicken, vegetables, and orzo pasta.
Like many college graduates, my first job was not going to make me rich. Just a cog in the wheel, my job was entry-level. But I felt I was on my way, full of enthusiasm and ready to tackle anything.
My little paycheck was just that, little. There was not a lot of wiggle room for anything but paying bills. However, I did treat myself once in a while to a special lunch. Across the street from my job was a restaurant that had been around for years. The menu had the usual lunch favorites like club sandwiches and burgers. But there was one item the restaurant was known for, cream of chicken soup. It was so thick it was nicknamed wallpaper paste. It was thick and rich and deeply satisfying. On my meager budget, a cup of that cream of chicken soup was an extravagant meal, but so worth it. I had a full stomach, certain that the splurge was worth it.
Cold weather meals
It took a while for the midwestern winter to arrive, but we are feeling the cold temperatures and living with the snow. Single-digit temperatures are on the horizon. The snow has that crunchy sound you hear when you gingerly step outside in the frigid air. This is when the hunkering down instinct kicks in around here.
After the gluttony of the holidays, I yearn for more basic meals. That means soup, something hearty, and stick to your bones. Also, I like the idea of making a big pot of soup to last for a day or two. While I enjoy cooking, a break once in a while is welcome.
I don't know anyone who does not like cream of chicken soup. Instantly comforting, you have to slow down, savor a spoonful, and let out a sigh of contentment.
This Creamy Chicken and Orzo Soup recipe is not complicated and uses ingredients you may already have in your pantry and refrigerator. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, basically because that is what I had in my freezer when I tested this recipe. Boneless, skinless thighs will work as well.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place them in a dutch oven or stockpot that is heating over medium heat.
Two tablespoons of olive oil help to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The most important thing to remember, do not let a fond start forming on the bottom of the pot. This is so the soup broth stays a golden color.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside.
Mirepoix, a fancy word for the tried and true combination of onions, celery, and carrots. Dependable and readily available, these vegetables are generally always on hand in my fridge. However, for this recipe, I did a little switch - leeks instead of onions. The mild flavor of leeks is a nice companion to the creamy chicken broth.
The vegetables are gently sweated with the celery and carrots getting a head start. They are started early in the pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil because of their crunchy texture. After 5 minutes the leeks and some minced garlic are thrown in. I like to use a good amount of garlic. Sometimes chicken soup can be a little one-note so a decent amount of garlic will add a little complexity.
Cream soups should be thick. Just not too thick - I am thinking of the wallpaper paste analogy. Adding butter to the cooked chicken and vegetables, I wait for it to melt. In the spirit of making a roux, I sprinkle flour and give everything a good stir to combine. I don't want the roux to turn color but I do want to cook it for a few minutes to remove the raw taste. Just keep stirring.
After 3-4 minutes, I slowly add the chicken stock.
Let it come to a gentle boil. The soup will thicken slightly. It should feel like it has a little body to it.
Lastly, add orzo to the soup. It will take longer than you think for the pasta to fully cook. It always seems that the smaller the pasta shape, the longer it takes to cook. Give the soup about 20 minutes to simmer.
Add s small amount of cream to the soup for an unctuous and rich finish. Adjust your seasonings to your liking. I like to add some lemon juice to the soup. It isn't enough juice to totally alter the flavor of the soup but to give it a little kiss of fresh flavor.
If the soup sits for a while, the pasta will continue to absorb the broth. You will find a pot of enlarged orzo. I add two more cups of chicken stock to heat with the rest of the soup just before serving. Just make sure to test your seasoning after adding the additional stock.
Soup is one of my favorite meals as it forces you to slow down to eat it. I try to take advantage of that time. Savor the soup as you feel it warming your insides, sating your hunger, and comforting your soul.
Creamy Chicken and Orzo Soup is perfect for a weeknight dinner, maybe two. At least that is my plan.
Another comforting soup recipe - https://tenpoundcakecompany.com/oven-roasted-carrot-and-shallot-soup
Creamy Chicken and Orzo Soup
- 1 dutch oven or stockpot
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, diced (930 grams)
- 2 cups celery, sliced (7.5 ounces/213 grams)
- 2 cups carrots, sliced (8.6 ounces/245 grams)
- 2 cups leeks, sliced (6.4 ounces/178 grams)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 10 cups chicken stock (80 ounces/2365 ml)
- 4 thyme stalks
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ cup dried orzo (6 ounces/173 grams)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice juice of ½ lemon
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or a stockpot over medium heat. Add diced chicken, ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper, and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt.
- Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. The chicken shouldn't stick to the bottom of the pan. You do not want fond to develop.
- Remove chicken from the pan when it is cooked thoroughly.
- To the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat, add the celery, carrots, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper. Stir occasionally so that a fond does not appear on the bottom of the pan.
- After 5 minutes, add the leeks and the garlic and combine with the other vegetables. Saute for 3 minutes.
- Add 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, letting it melt. Stir the vegetables to coat with the butter.
- Sprinkle 7 tablespoons of all-purpose flour over the vegetables. Stir everything together to distribute the flour and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. This is to remove the raw taste of flour.
- Add 8 cups of chicken stock to the pan along with the thyme stalks and the bay leaf. Let the soup come to a gentle boil over medium-high heat so that it thickens slightly, after 15 minutes.
- Add the dry orzo to the soup. Let the soup cook for about 20 minutes, until the orzo is soft and cooked through. Once the orzo is soft, add the chicken back to the soup.
- Add the heavy cream, stirring to combine.
- Adjust seasoning with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper. Add the juice of a ½ lemon, a generous 2 tablespoons.
- Serve with toasted garlic bread.
- The orzo will continue to absorb the soup, even as it cools. If the soup becomes too thick, add up to 2 cups of chicken stock. Check the seasoning after adding the additional stock.