Chicken with Saffron Mushroom Cream Sauce, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Favorite Orzo

It's been a sheet of rain all morning and this kind of day makes me want to hunker down and cook.  Always on a hunt for new chicken ideas, I debated this morning between marinating and grilling or pan/oven cooking and saucing.  I threw out the two options to Chris and guess which way it went... I had him at cream sauce.   I've set course for a 'cozy' meal.

I was discussing with a friend yesterday how much better tasting organic free range chicken is than regular mass produced chicken.  It's more tender, juicy, and well, more chicken like.  When I look at regular whole chickens in the store, I'm afraid to think how they got so large.  They are sometimes bordering on small turkeys.  Bigger is not always better.  I admit, I am not a die hard, never stray from organic, chicken buyer.  But I do go organic whenever possible.

Chicken with Saffron and Mushroom Cream Sauce
1 Whole Organic Chicken
1/4 lb Crimini Mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

Take your whole chicken and debone it.  You have a few options here.  Have your butcher do it, buy boneless chicken, or use bone-in chicken.   Because of the pan size I was using, I cut the chicken in half.  With the bones combined with 1 celery rib, 1 carrot and half a yellow onion, I made a little stock.  Or use carton/canned stock.

I soaked the chicken in a cold water and salt bath for about 20 minutes - about 1tbsp kosher salt in 2 cups of cold water.  Then remove and pat dry.

Sear the chicken over medium high heat in 1 tsp oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan, skin side down first.  The skin will release its fat, so you won't need that much oil.  Once browned, turn the chicken over to sear the other side.  Transfer to a baking sheet and finish cooking in the oven at 400f for about 15-20 minutes.  If you are using bone-in chicken, it will take a little longer, maybe 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, discard excess oil from the pan, but for about 2 tsp.  Saute the mushrooms over medium high until softened.  Deglaze with the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add in the saffron and then the cream and bring to a low boil until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed, sliced in half
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Toss brussels sprouts with olive oil and kosher salt.  Roast in a 400f oven for 25-30 minutes, turning and stirring them a few times to make sure they roast evenly.  Remove from oven and salt a little more if needed.  
I love brussel sprouts, Chris has warmed to them, I'm still working on the kids... 

Maggie's Favorite Orzo
I started making this orzo years ago from the Junior League's Simply Classic cookbook.  Since then, it has morphed into many versions.  Suffice it to say, it is a simple classic.  As such, it lends itself well to varying versions depending on what kind of cheese or onion family item you have.  And it is very forgiving on what proportions you use, allowing for no exact measurement needed.  This was tonight's version.
2 Cups dried Orzo
2 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock
4 tbsp butter
1 Shallot, minced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Cup grated Gruyere & White Cheddar cheese (I've used parmesan, a mixture of both, asiago, romano, etc., but this is what I had grated in the fridge.)  Gruyere is the favorite.

Melt butter in a medium pan, add in the shallots and saute for a couple of minutes, then add in garlic and saute until softened.  Mix in the orzo and then add the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let sit until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.  Turn the stove back on to low just to heat the orzo a bit and stir in the cheese until melted.  The original recipe calls for chopped chives.  It makes a beautiful presentation, but I usually don't have any in the kitchen, so I leave that off.  For the garnish on this, I thinly sliced the green part of a scallion.  

As it turned out, it was just the girls and I for dinner.  We felt bad for Chris.  Leftovers anyone?  Guess what the girls will have for lunch tomorrow!


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