Winter Chicken Soup with Orzo, Delicata Squash, and Sage

Aah, winter. Even in California, winter does eventually arrive. We’ve been having quite a series of rainstorms over the last couple weeks, and chilly winter rains call for warming winter fare.

I regularly read several food blogs, and am always stumbling upon an intriguing recipe and bookmarking it to make later. But too often, I simply forget about this accumulation of things-I-want-to-make until the next time I stumble upon a cool recipe and take stock of just how long that list has grown.

As I prepare to move to Sacramento next month, I’ve been trying to clean out my fridge and pantry, and shopping for only what I absolutely know I will use up. The farmer’s market is perfect for this- only need 3 carrots? Then only buy 3 carrots! But with this cleansing process, it’s also fun to scan my recipe collection for something new and fun to try, rather than always falling back on old favorites.

Enter this soup from Williams&Sonoma. I’ve made a few tweaks, but the essence is the same as the original recipe. A perfect accompaniment to chilly winter nights, no matter what your form of precipitation, rain or snow. Enjoy with a hunk of crusty baguette or my current favorite, spelt bread from Companion Bakeshop, a Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market establishment. This recipe makes 5 servings, so you can have a few friends over or eat it for dinner all week long.

I must admit that I was so excited about eating this soup that I didn’t take quite as many photos as I usually do. But, I think the only photo you need is at the beginning of this post- the finished soup in all of it’s soul-warming, stomach-satisfying glory.

Ingredients

3 medium delicata squash

cooking spray

pepper

1 cup orzo

2 large shallots

15-20 sage leaves, fresh

4 tbsp olive oil

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

5 cups unsalted vegetable broth (homemade if you have some around!)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the top and bottom from the squash, then slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the cut squash halves on a baking sheet, spray the cut side with cooking oil, then sprinkle with pepper.

Roast for 35-45 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside and once cool enough to handle, remove the outer layer. Often, it will peel right off, but sometimes you may need to use a sharp knife. If using a knife, take care to remove as little of the squash as possible when “peeling” off the outer layer.

Set 1 cup orzo to cook according to package directions, making sure to season the water with salt. Drain, and set aside.

Mince shallots and sage leaves. Add olive oil, shallots, and sage to the bottom of a medium-large pot. Cook on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, until shallots begin to turn translucent.

Add chicken thighs in a single layer, nestled among the shallot and sage. You may need to do this in multiple batches, depending on the size of your pot. Brown chicken on both sides, then set aside to cool.

Once cooled, cut chicken and squash into 1/4 inch thick pieces, then add to the pot used to cook the chicken. Add the orzo and vegetable broth, then bring the soup to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine, then serve.

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