Thank you to everyone who participated in the slow cook contest! The recipe today is a combination of many people’s ideas, starting with Lauren’s chicken tacos. Roasting a whole chicken at the beginning of the week is a great way to have enough meat to use in various dishes throughout the week (chicken tacos are in my future!). Later Mimi gave me a recipe for butternut squash orzo, which I thought would be perfect with some chicken. Finally, Elizabeth & Glenn suggested I slow cook the chicken with apple cider. And thus the fall medley orzo recipe was created.
I love this recipe because of all the fall flavors: apples, sage, and of course butternut squash. However, this was the first time I had cooked with butternut squash and I quickly realized I had no idea where to start with it. So if you find yourself in the same boat as me here is a quick butternut squash how-to guide. First, cut the top and bottom ends off. Next, slice the squash vertically down the center so there are two halves. You should see what look like pumpkin seeds in its “belly”. Take a spoon and scoop them out. Now comes the tricky part, peeling the outside. I would definitely recommend using a peeler, not a knife. My peeler is pretty dinky so I had a lot of little peels. Finally, cut the squash into 1 inch thick strips and then cut crosswise to make 1 inch cubes. Wah-lah, now you are a butternut squash pro! Now if I could only get motivated to carve my pumpkin …
Fall Medley Orzo, serves 3-4
- 1 medium sized whole roasting chicken
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 lb butternut squash, cubed (about 3 cups)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 cup whole wheat orzo pasta
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place in a crock pot or dutch oven. Spread 1 tablespoon of butter on the skin and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the apple cider, cover, and cook on low for 7 hours. If you are using a dutch oven, set the oven temperature to 200 degrees. If you have a crock pot and want to speed things up, cook on high for 4 hours. I used a dutch oven and after 7 hours I took off the cover, spread on some extra butter and put the broiler on for 15 minutes. Then take the chicken out of the oven, put the top back on and let it cool. Shred the chicken with a knife and fork and place into a medium bowl. Top with a little extra liquid. Reserve half of the meat for the orzo and save the rest to use for other meals during the week.
Re-set the oven to 450 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss the squash, onion, and garlic with the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Roast the vegetables for 45 minutes. Meanwhile bring the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to boil in a medium pot. Put in the orzo and lower the heat. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Combine the orzo, roasted vegetables, and chicken in a large bowl. Top with grated cheese and sage.
Next time I make this I may try to roast the vegetables along with the chicken to lessen the cooking time and dish washing. I was hesitant to do so because I thought it would be too long for the butternut squash to be in the oven. But I think if you cut the squash into bigger chunks it should hold up fine. Let me know if you try it this way or if you have any other thoughts!