Chicken from Heaven

Our wingless friend–the chicken from Rainbow Meadow Farms from last Sunday’s cooking extravaganza–was a testament to the local food movement. It tasted . . . like chicken. Like the hens my grandparents raised, almost as if you’d infused the chicken with a rich broth, or red wine, or even a little tiny hint of bacon. It tasted like real food.

For the purposes of our weight watching, it also offered a revelation. I served it in a variation of an orzo pasta dish from February 2007. That particular recipe included the ingredient “lots and lots of olive oil” and cheese. So when I went to prepare the dish in the weight watching version, I was grumpy. The orzo will be dry, I thought. And tasteless. And who wants to have a life with less olive oil in it?

But when we ate the dish, with only two teaspoons of olive oil and no cheese, we were stunned. Because the chicken actually tasted like something–and, admittedly, had been roasted with the skin on and basted in butter, as I always do–the whole dish was rich and flavorful. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the extra olive oil and cheese would have overpowered the flavor of the chicken.

I’ve long believed that much restaurant cooking in America relies on salt, fat and heavy flavors like bacon and cheese to cover up the poor quality of the ingredients. (You especially notice this if you travel to Italy and come back.) I think that our feathery friend drove this point home.

Orzo with Chicken and Squash (serves 2; 8 points each)

1/4 lb. orzo
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 – 3 medium crookneck/yellow/summer squash, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced
1 cup Rainbow Meadow farms or other great chicken, roasted with skin on, skin removed, chopped
1/2 – 1 cup homeade chicken broth

Cook pasta according to package directions. Saute onions in olive oil in large skillet on medium heat until translucent. Add squash and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir. Add enough chicken broth to moisten. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add parsley, oregano, and chicken. Uncover and cook for a few minutes more, until chicken is heated through, adding more chicken broth as needed to moisten. Transfer to bowl and stir in with pasta.

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