Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Whiskey Butter Basted Chicken Breast with Orzo and Arugula

The idea of using the whiskey to baste meat while cooking has been in my mind for a while, and I decided to try it out with these chicken breasts. It was so simple, but the taste and tenderness of the chicken was out of this world! I love it when something so easy gives such great results...everyone thinks I spent hours making the meal...

I chose to accompany the chicken with warm orzo and arugula. This allowed me to use the arugula I had bought and not yet used. Folding it into the hot orzo wilted it, and I added in the last handful of grape tomatoes to make a very satisfying side dish.

Steamed green beans and a quick crumble of goat cheese and dinner was ready!

While the chicken is cooking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook 1 1/2 cups of orzo. Drain and return to the pan when it is done.

In a heavy bottomed pan that is large enough to hold your chicken breasts, melt:

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

When the butter starts to bubble, add:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place the chicken skin side down, and keep the heat at a medium high temperature.

When the first side of the chicken is seared, turn the breasts over.


1/4 cup whiskey

Turn the heat to medium low and cook the chicken, turning often, as well as basting with the whiskey and pan juices, until it is fully cooked.

The liquid will slowly reduce and glaze the chicken as it cooks.

Remove the chicken from the pan, and allow it to rest in a warm place, loosely covered.

Keeping the heat on, add to the pan:

1 handful of grape tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Season with salt and pepper, and cook quickly, shaking the pan to move them around until the tomatoes start to colour and the skin blisters slightly.

Immediately scrape the tomatoes, onions and garlic into the pot of cooked orzo.

Reserve the pan to make a quick sauce for the chicken.

Turn the heat on, and add:

1/2 cup chicken stock

Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove all the browned bits (they have all the flavour).

Allow the stock to reduce down by half while you finish off the orzo.

To finish off the orzo, add:

a handful of grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Gently stir this into the orzo, taste and adjust the seasoning.


2 large handfuls of washed baby arugula into the orzo.

To serve, place some orzo and arugula onto the plate, and top with steamed fresh green beans and a bit of crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle the reduced chicken stock over the chicken breast...this simple sauce has all the flavours of everything that was cooked in the pan...whiskey, chicken, tomatoes, green onions and garlic.

  • The simplicity of this dish is hidden by the tenderness, moistness and amount of flavour in the chicken. By searing the vegetables in the same pan, you tie the two items together nicely.
  • You can use all butter or olive oil if you choose. I used both as I wanted the richness of the butter, but if not watched carefully it can burn. Adding a bit of olive oil to the butter reduces the chances of burning the butter.
  • If you have a prepared flavoured butter, this can also be used.
  • Whiskey was my choice because I am slowly working my way through the bottle that we have, which no one drinks! Any liquor can be, bourbon, rum.
  • The orzo can be served hot, or can be made ahead and served as a cold salad, which is what happened with the leftovers...lunch the next day.
  • Other greens can be substituted for the baby arugula. Try regular sized arugula (shredded or torn), spinach, shredded Brussels sprouts, beet greens.
  • The basting method can be used with pork chops, or pork tenderloin. It also works well with fish such as salmon, cod or scallops.
  • By basting, or frequently turning the chicken, the meat is kept moist, and as the liquid reduces it creates a glaze on the outside of the meat. If the liquid is reducing too quickly, you can either add more, turn the heat down or cover the pan for a while.

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