Sometimes the best part of a meal is the side dishes. One of my favorite BBQ restaurants has an option on their menu called the "sidecar". It is basically four of their sides (choose whatever you want, from mac and cheese to okra to blues on the cob to sweet potatoes and more) as your main course meal. Genius.
Thanks to Kelsey Egan, I have recently discovered orzo as a quick, simple, and versatile side dish that can complement just about any meal. The recipe below offers orzotto in its simplest form, but it can also be dressed up and added to to match the style of your main course. Variations on this recipe (including one with bacon...yum) can be found at the bottom of this post.
*from Kelsey's Kitchen
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups orzo (or pearl barley)
1/2 cup dry white wine or red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated cheese (I use parmesan)
salt and pepper to taste
herbs or fresh aromatics as desired
In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant and translucent. Add the orzo or barley and toast for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and cook until absorbed.
Gradually add the stock, stirring frequently. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 8-10 minutes until liquid is almost absorbed and orzo or barley is tender. Remove from heat.
Stir in heavy cream and cheese. Season with salt and pepper or any other desired seasonings and serve.
Lemon Asparagus Orzotto: add 1/2 cup steamed diced fresh asparagus, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and zest from 1/2 lemon.
Mushroom Orzotto: add 1 cup wild or cultivated mushrooms. Substitute chicken or beef stock with mushroom stock. Add 3/4 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.
Sweet Corn with Bacon Orzotto: Add 1/2 cup sweet corn, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon.