The rice-shaped pasta called orzo or riso is wonderful for making stuffings for poultry. The grain-like pieces of this pasta stay distinct and retain texture during the bird's roasting time. Unlike rice and other noodles, orzo holds its shape well and doesn't get mushy, fall apart or turn into a dense, soggy mass.
In contrast to most bread stuffings, delectable stuffings can be made from orzo without large amounts of butter. Orzo has a satisfying, almost creamy texture even when cooked with very little oil. Orzo stuffing is faster and easier to make than bread stuffing. There's no need to cut and toast dozens of tiny bread cubes. The orzo needs only brief cooking. Like all stuffings, cooked orzo must be cooled before it is spooned into the bird.
You can prepare the orzo as a pilaf similar to rice pilaf by briefly sauteing before any liquid is added. This gives the orzo a slightly toasted, rich taste. Flavor the stuffing with dried fruits and fresh ginger for a pleasing sweet and savory touch, or give it a Mediterranean accent by combining with sauteed onions, garlic, hot pepper flakes and oregano. Using chicken stock as the cooking liquid further enhances the taste of the stuffing.
Toasted pecans, walnuts or other nuts add a terrific taste and pleasing texture to all types of orzo stuffings. To save time, buy ready-toasted nuts.
A great way to save time when roasting poultry is to roast it unstuffed and serve the stuffing separately. In the case of the orzo stuffings, cook the orzo for five minutes longer or until tender. To tie in the flavor of the roast bird, add a few tablespoons of the pan juices to the orzo and heat together just before serving.
\o7 Onions, garlic and hot pepper flakes give this stuffing lots of flavor; toasted walnuts add a slightly crunchy texture.
ORZO-GARLIC- WALNUT STUFFING
3/4 cup walnut pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups orzo or riso (rice-shaped pasta)
3 cups hot chicken broth or stock
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped parsley
On baking sheet toast walnut pieces at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool.
In medium saucepan heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion. Saute, stirring often, 7 minutes, adding remaining oil if needed. Add garlic and orzo. Cook over low heat, stirring, 3 minutes. Add broth, pepper flakes and oregano. Bring to boil. Cover and cook over low heat until barely tender, about 14 minutes.
Fluff mixture with fork. Add reserved walnuts and parsley. Toss to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let mixture cool before stuffing bird. Makes about 1 quart, enough for 1 chicken, with extra for serving separately.
\o7 Fresh ginger beautifully complements the orzo stuffing for these honey-glazed roast Cornish hens.
STUFFED CORNISH HENS WITH ORZO, RAISINS AND PECANS
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons oil
6 (1 1/4-pound) Cornish hens
In small bowl mix pepper, ginger, soy sauce, honey and oil. Rub hens all over with honey mixture. Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup Orzo Stuffing into each bird, packing lightly. Reserve remaining stuffing at room temperature.
Set hens in roasting pan just large enough to contain them. Roast at 400 degrees 50 to 60 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, and adding some hot water to pan if juices brown. Hens are done when thickest part of drumstick is tender when pierced with skewer and juices run clear.
To serve, spoon stuffing from hens onto platter. If desired, cut hens in half lengthwise with poultry shears. Arrange pieces over stuffing. Cover and keep warm. Add 3 tablespoons pan juices to reserved stuffing mixture. Reheat in skillet over low heat, stirring gently with fork. Serve in separate heated dish. Makes 6 servings.
1 cup pecan halves, broken into pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons minced ginger root
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 1/4 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1/3 to 1/2 cup raisins
4 1/2 cups hot chicken broth or stock
1/3 cup minced parsley
On baking sheet toast pecans at 350 degrees until lightly browned, 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool.
In large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add ginger root and green onions. Saute 1 minute. Add orzo and cook over low heat, stirring for 3 minutes, adding remaining butter if needed. Add raisins and broth. Bring to boil.
Cover and cook over low heat until barely tender, 14 minutes. Fluff orzo with fork. Add reserved pecans and parsley. Toss to mix. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let mixture cool.