Cast Iron

Chicken Sofrito with Orzo

January 13, 2014
6 Ratings
  • Serves 4 to 6, or 2 to 3 with leftovers
Author Notes

This casserole with savory Spanish flavors can be modified to include pretty much any vegetables you have on hand. —zora

Test Kitchen Notes

This sofrito came together with very little effort and a big reward. It’s rustic but deep and flavorful. The sauce is rich and buttery from the chicken fat, with just the right touch of acid from the tomatoes and sweetness from the red pepper and onions. You’ll want to soak up every drop! The fennel adds a bit of crunch to the mostly soft textures and the smoked paprika brings depth to the stew. The chicken came out tender and juicy, but it wasn’t overwhelmed by the other ingredients. In addition to being satisfying, the finished dish is colorful and bright. —Patricia Price

What You'll Need
  • 6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (depends on the size of the thighs and of your casserole)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium white or brown onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 inches of the white part of a leek, chopped (optional)
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
  • 1 small bulb fennel, or small celery root, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons pimentón dulce (Spanish sweet smoked paprika)
  • one 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled and chopped (canned is okay)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • Aromatic herb bundle: 4 stalks each of fresh thyme and parsley, tied with twine
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo (about 2/3 of a 1-pound box)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 to 3 of the following vegetables: 1/4 pound of chopped kale, haricots verts, a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach leaves, 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 teaspoons salt (if using salted chicken stock, you may need less)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  1. In a 6 to 8 quart enameled cast iron casserole, brown the chicken thighs well in olive oil. Remove the chicken to a platter. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of rendered fat. Sauté the onion and leek with a sprinkle of salt until translucent. Add the chopped garlic, cumin, and pimentón, stirring to bloom the spices in the oil, then add the fennel or celery root. Cook briefly.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes and roasted pepper, and turn the heat down under the pot. Add the saffron, bay leaves, and aromatic herb bundle. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. While the sofrito is simmering, preheat the oven to 375° F. When much of the liquid has reduced, add the wine and turn up the heat to reduce further. Stir in the orzo, pour in the broth, then add the green vegetables, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Nestle the chicken thighs around the top of the pot. When the broth begins to bubble, cover the casserole and put it into the oven.
  3. Bake the casserole for 20 to 25 minutes, until chicken thighs are firm to the touch and orzo is tender. Remove herb bundle before serving. Serve family style, garnished with chopped fresh parsley.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Aspenglow
  • sevenfaces
  • Manhattan Tart
    Manhattan Tart
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx
  • zora

5 Reviews

Aspenglow June 5, 2019
Loved this colorful, earthy dish. I'll definitely be making it again!
sevenfaces March 26, 2014
I was daunted by the seemingly long list of ingredients, but this actually makes an easy tasty one-pot weeknight dinner. Not as deep a flavour as I was expecting, but I still found it delicious and warming. I used risoni instead of orzo; perhaps this is why I ended up with quite a bit of leftover liquid at first, but taking it out of the oven 5 minutes early and resting it for 5-10 minutes with the lid off meant the liquid was all soaked up as the risoni then finished cooking until it was al dente. It makes a LOT, serves 6 for sure... looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow :)
Manhattan T. March 22, 2014
I was so excited to make this and kept waiting for the opportunity. It finally happened last night and, while this was a fun dish to prepare and came together with relative ease -- especially since the orzo doesn't have to pre-boil and the roasted red peppers can be jarred. Though it was easy and made the house smell fabulous, we were really underwhelmed by the end result. I followed the recipe almost exactly (omitted the fennel since my daughter doesn't like it) and seasoned as I went along but just felt it was lacking a real flavor punch. I may make it again and up the spices or something, but wouldn't make it again as is. It sure looked pretty though!
sexyLAMBCHOPx January 30, 2014
Congrats on the CP! I've been eyeing this recipe since you posted!
zora January 30, 2014
Thanks for the congrats and the head's up--your comment came to my email box and otherwise I wouldn't have known that my recipe is a CP! Thanks also to new Food52er Patricia Price for the well-written and and very complimentary review of my dish.