Creamy Lemon Chicken and Orzo with Spring Vegetables


As winter turns toward spring, what sounds good for dinner can change as rapidly as the weather. Your appetite can become as fickle as the forecast, craving something light and veggie when the sun peeks out, or wanting something bubbly, warm and stewy when the clouds turn grey. You still need something that’s a little stick to your ribs to get through these days, but why not give it a glimmer of springtime? 

This Creamy Lemon Chicken and Orzo with Spring Vegetables will help you bide the time. Made with springtime faves asparagus and sugar snap peas, it’s brightened with a little zesty lemon to give you just a taste of the warmer days to come. The chicken is pan-browned and delectably moist, served with toothsome orzo that is simmered risotto-like, in white wine and broth with a little cream. It’s a hearty dish that’s warm and cozy, with a touch of spring – just what you need to brighten the dourest of days. 

When you go to the store, look for chicken cutlets. They are thinner and cut to size, and they’ll work perfectly for this recipe. If you can’t find cutlets, tenderloins will work fine, too. I used about 1 1/4 pounds of chicken, but went generous with the veggies and added a little more than the recipe called for. Because you will be using the peel of the lemon, it’s a good idea to buy organic if you can, to avoid pesticides and other chemicals. 

I used Barilla gluten-free orzo to make this gluten-free. Its one and only ingredient is chickpea flour and one serving has 12 grams of protein, 34 grams of carbs, and 8 grams of fiber. I used cornstarch instead of using all-purpose flour, but you could also use a gluten-free flour that you like as well. Go ahead and measure the wine and the chicken stock, but don’t bother measuring the cream. Pour in a splash and it will be enough to give your dish a little richness. 

Start by getting all of your ingredients ready. Once the actual cooking begins, this will come together very quickly. Give your asparagus a good soak in cold water, gently agitating it every so often to loosen any sandy soil that may be trapped in the tips. I found my asparagus to be especially gritty, maybe because it’s so early in the season, so I did this twice before giving it a good final rinse. Cut your asparagus into 2-inch pieces, and rinse your sugar snap peas. I used one lemon and didn’t bother to measure the peel or the juice. You can zest directly over the cooked vegetables and zest and juice directly into the skillet. 

Slice your shallots, mince your garlic, or shave it thin like I did. Set out your butter and olive oil, so that you can drizzle the olive oil as needed, and quickly add a knob of butter to your sauce. Measure out your orzo, white wine and chicken stock. Set out your cream, and have salt and pepper nearby. Rinse and dry your basil and chives; mince your chives. Have parmesan cheese ready to grate over your skillet. 

Use a 9-inch pie plate to dredge your chicken cutlets. Try adding just 1/4 cup of flour or cornstarch to begin, and add more if needed, rather than using the entire 1/2 cup. This cuts down on kitchen waste and prevents having a large portion that goes unused. 

This dish is a one pot wonder that can add a bit of sunshine to these waiting for spring days. Work it into your meal plan for one night this week. You’ll be glad you did. 

Creamy Lemon Chicken and Orzo with Spring Vegetables

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 lb asparagus, trimmed, peeled and sliced into 2-inch pieces on an angle
  • 1/4 cup sugar snap peas
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest, divided
  • kosher salt, as needed
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken cutlets
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free, if needed, or cornstarch)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup orzo (gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 Tablespoons minced chives
  • freshly ground black pepper

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to an 11-inch skillet set over medium heat. Once hot, add the asparagus. Sauté 4 to 5 minutes, until caramelized and tender. Transfer asparagus to a plate. Add another tablespoon of oil, then add sugar snap peas. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer peas to plate with asparagus, then season vegetables with 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and salt to taste. 

While vegetables are cooking, season chicken cutlets with a pinch of salt on all sides. Add 1/4 cup flour to a pie plate or other shallow dish, then dredge chicken lightly on both sides, adding more flour if needed.

Using same skillet, add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Working in batches, sear the chicken, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. 

Add butter to skillet and let melt. Add shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in orzo; add wine and bring to a simmer. Cook 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer again. Cook for 8 minutes, or until the orzo is al dente. Stir in heavy cream, remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon zest, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, then add parmesan cheese and let melt. Add chicken back into the skillet. Simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes until heated through. Stir in asparagus, sugar snap peas, basil and chives. Top with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and serve. 

-adapted from recipe by Kayla Howey

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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