Add this skillet orzo with chicken to your weeknight dinner playbook

One-pot, sheet pan and skillet meals are the recipe darlings of the weeknight dinner world. They’re streamlined for efficiency, and there’s less to clean when mealtime is done. And when done right, they’re just as exciting and flavorful as more involved meals.

Exhibit A: this skillet orzo with diced chicken thighs, an entire package of baby spinach, tangy goat cheese and dried fruit that’s altogether comforting, savory, tangy and a little bit sweet.

Get the recipe: Skillet Orzo With Chicken, Spinach and Goat Cheese

You start by browning bite-size pieces of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a skillet. (Thighs are the choice here over boneless, skinless chicken breasts because they’re hard to make tough and dry due to overcooking — and they have more flavor.) Next, shallot and garlic help lay the savory foundation.

One of the tricks this recipe employs to build flavor is toasting the orzo in the skillet, which makes it richer and nuttier. I call for a light toasting, but you can take it further until the uncooked pasta is a darker shade for even deeper flavor. This technique is easy to implement in one-pot meals but can be employed with any type of dried pasta in whatever dish you want to give more oomph.

Baby spinach adds nutrition — yay, vegetables! — and ribbons of green throughout a sea of beige and brown, and the orzo cooks in chicken stock until tender but not mushy. Fresh goat cheese gets stirred in at the end to combine with any remaining liquid for a saucy, creamy tang.

That’s where I initially stopped with the recipe. I tasted it and was content, so I typed it up and moved on to my next assignment. But now I can admit that I didn’t think the recipe was particularly special. It was just fine.

I kept finding myself thinking about the dish, wondering if there was a way I could elevate it from merely good to great. My goal with this column is to share recipes that I truly love, and that are worth your time, energy and money. My first version of the recipe needed a little something extra.

In the 11th hour, it finally came to me: dried fruit.

I grabbed some raisins from my pantry to add to the leftovers sitting in my fridge. (Raisins were what I had on hand, but any dried fruit will do.) With that first bite, I broke into an uncontrollable shoulder shimmy — this happens whenever I eat something delicious — and I knew I had nailed it. It was a reminder of one of the tenets of my recipe development philosophy: If at first a dish lacks excitement, introduce a new taste, texture or sensation. The sweetness of the dried fruit combined with the tangy sourness of the goat cheese filled the dish with intrigue. Something one-dimensional became multifaceted, and a recipe I am proud to share with you.

Get the recipe: Skillet Orzo With Chicken, Spinach and Goat Cheese

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