It's a Labor of Love
Do you have an older relative who was an amazing cook (in your eyes)? Some parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or even family friend who made amazing food your mouth yearns for even now? I think almost everyone has a story of one such relative who slaved away in the kitchen out of love for family and food. Stories that usually lead to the common phrase "like how ________ used to make it".
Those stories for me usually revolve around my parents. They would spend all day working in whatever family business we had back in those days, then come and prepare a hot home-cooked meal for my brother and I. Now in my adulthood, I can only imagine how difficult it could be to muster up the energy to cook after a long work day. I know I could not, which is why I spend a good part of every Sunday making food for the week.
You have to admit, cooking is both an art and a chore. Sometimes you’re excitedly concocting and preparing amazing meals you can’t wait to serve, and other times you honestly would rather be doing something else...but you still slave in the kitchen. It could be out of necessity, or just love. Love of not seeing your cherished ones go hungry or eat crappy processed foods.
I recently reconnected with one of those dishes that my parents lovingly made in my childhood. To the normal eye, you might think it's just chicken with rice in a tomato sauce. I know that was my first impression as a child, but I did like it. The reality though was the "rice" was really a pasta.
Orzo, or Rosa Marina in some parts, is a small pasta made to look like large grains of rice. Its origins are hard to trace, but the pasta has found much love in soups, salads, and other purposes where one would like a "wheat-based rice". Now you could just use rice, but I like the slightly larger grains or orzo, and for me to make this dish with simple rice would just not feel like my childhood.
Chicken Rosa Marina really doesn't have a deep, traceable origin. I'd simply look at it more the way we look at Greek tomato/pasta dishes such as pastitio. It's one of those results of the past melding of Italian and Greek cultures, with a splash of influence from the Turks (note the use of cinnamon). It's a wonderfully easy dish to make that can feed many. Ideal for a warm family dinner, or tasty lunches in your work week.
Chicken Rosa Marina
- 4 tbsp of olive oil
- 4-6 lbs of chicken, cut into small pieces
- 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tsp of cinnamon
- 2 tsp of oregano
- 1 tsp of paprika
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1 can (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes in their juice.
- 1 can (8 oz) of tomato sauce
- 16 oz of Rosa Marina or Orzo, cooked halfway
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat your oven to 350°.
- Place a Dutch Oven (or oven-safe pot) on your stove and heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Working in groups, place the chicken into the oil and brown them (2-3 min per side). Set aside.
- Add the onion and garlic into the pot and sauté until soft.
- Stir in the cinnamon, oregano, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring the chicken back into the pot.
- Pour in the chicken stock, tomatoes, and tomato sauce.
- Stir it all up and bring the mixture to a boil.
- When the mixture is boiling, cover the pot and place it into the oven.
- Bake the chicken and sauce for an hour, or until the meat is tender.
- Add in the Rosa Marina or Orzo. Stir gently and thoroughly.
- Place the pot back into the oven for ten more minutes.
When browning the chicken, you just want a nice sear. You don't have to cook it fully.
It's not ideal to cook the pasta fully, but more put it into hot salted water for 3-5 minutes, then drain and finish cooking it with the sauce in the oven.
I've seen some use lamb or beef in this dish. I'd suggest you cook it all the same way.
You can try to use rice instead of Rosa Marina or Orzo. My suggestion would be to either put uncooked rice in as you're readying the pan for the oven, then bake it to perfection. That or cook the rice separately and then stir it in later.
Best way to serve Chicken Rosa Marina is with some kind of grated cheese on top. Grated Parmesan, Romano, or even kefalograviera are ideal choices.