No, it's not as good as the real thing. It doesn't have the creaminess, the richness, the elegance. But I wanted a big bowl of creamy starch for dinner, I wanted it quickly—and real risotto will never be quick. This was a pleasant surprise: the orzo spends four or five minutes boiling to accomplish most of the cooking, then a short simmer in stock with some fresh thyme and orange zest completes it. Like the real deal, butter and Parmesan are stirred in at the end—unlike the real deal, this was ready in 15 minutes, including waiting for the boiling water.
The flavors are exceedingly subtle, and The Best of Gourmet: A Year of Celebrations recommends it as a side dish, which is probably wiser. If I made this again, it would be next to a roast chicken. It's more of a wingman. But if it had to be a main course, maybe some shallots or onion, sautéed beforehand in butter along with that thyme and orange zest, would boost the flavors; the parboiled orzo could be added to that along with stock. I'm also curious how long this would take without the pre-boiling: just dry orzo added to stock, simmered until tender and absorbed, more like a real risotto. Has anyone tried that?
- 1 pound box orzo
- 2 cups chicken stock or other broth
- Zest of one orange
- 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Bring a pot of salty water to boil, and cook orzo for 4-5 minutes, until softened but still hard in the center.
Meanwhile, bring a saucepan to a simmer with the stock, thyme, and zest. Add parboiled orzo and stir well.
Simmer orzo in stock, stirring regularly, until all the liquid is absorbed.
Off the heat, stir in cheese and butter, and season with salt and pepper.