Imagine the best homemade chicken noodle soup you’ve had and then add a little “zing” of lemon and some wonderful fresh dill. And there you have it: Comfort in a bowl. Packed full of rich flavors and healthy ingredients, this Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup is destined to become a household favorite.
This soup can be made on the stovetop or in the slow cooker. The reason I recommend the slow cooker is because the long, low cooking time really brings out the flavor of the chicken and creates a base broth that is simply out of this world. For ultimate flavor be sure to use bone-in, skin-on chicken. Boneless chicken breast just doesn’t even begin to compare in flavor. Use bone-in chicken, preferably thighs and drumsticks (dark meat yields the most flavor), and let the slow cooker work its wonder in creating a truly delicious soup.
Now here’s the thing: As wonderful as slow cookers are, they have their limitations. Big ones. As delicious as slow-cooked food is, it misses out on so much potential flavor because you’re unable to brown and saute the ingredients. For example, the key to a great tasting roast or stew is browning the meat first. But most slow cooker recipes involve just throwing in all the ingredients and pushing the “start” button. Because that’s the whole point of a slow cooker, right? To save you steps and to cut down on the fuss of extra dirty dishes. But as anyone with cooking experience knows, you really sacrifice flavor by skipping those steps. And not only does it impact flavor, it also affects the texture. For example, sauteing the onions and vegetables first, like in this Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, improves their texture and brings out their sweetness and flavor.
So how do you think I reacted when I heard that Cuisinart has a multi-slow cooker that can also brown, sear and saute?
Well, first I think my heart skipped a beat. Then I let out a shriek of delight. And then I paced back and forth at the front door on delivery day awaiting this new wonder. (Yes, I get excited about these things.)
And so I received one for review and it was dropped off at my doorstep. And it remained in its packaging all of 2 minutes before I threw open the box, yanked it out, and stripped it down to its naked beauty. Everyone, meet the Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker.
This sleek and sexy slow cooker not only browns, sautées and sizzles, it’s steamy, too. That’s right, it even doubles as a steamer.
Here’s what I’m most excited about: It lets you bypass the stovetop by browning ingredients right in the unit before switching to Slow Cook! That means you don’t have to brown the beef or sauté the onions in a frying pan first, transfer them to the slow cooker, and then be left with the extra dirty dishes – you can do it ALL right in the slow cooker!
Yes, it’s pretty much the coolest thing EVER.
Here are few other features: It lets you brown/sauté with temperatures up to 400°, it also comes with a steaming rack and lets you steam foods for up to 90 minutes, and it includes an automatic Keep Warm feature. With one touch you can switch modes when a recipe calls for combination cooking. Its extra-large blue black-lit LCD displays are easy to read, the 6-quart aluminum cooking pot is removable, and its removable parts are dishwasher safe. And it comes with a 3 year limited warranty.
I made the Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup in this multi-cooker and then wanted to try it out on something else to test its browning capacity. Check this out – everything is done in the same unit and then the seared chicken can be left to slow cook to tender perfection while you run your errands. Sweet!
Can’t you just imagine making Julia Child’s famous beef bourguignon in this? The sizzling browned beef, the seared pearl onions, the red wine, that magnificent flavor…and all done in the slow cooker while you’re out shopping.
I ask you, has life ever been so good?
Here’s to a long future together with my Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central®!
Okay, let’s get started on that delicious Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup!
I’m going to describe the directions as if you’re using a regular slow cooker (ie, you’ll need to use a skillet initially) but in the pictures I’ll be demonstrating my new multi-cooker from Cuisinart.
Cut up your veggies. Be sure to thoroughly wash and drain the leek – they’re notorious for trapping dirt and sand inside.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic, leek and carrots and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
I couldn’t believe I was actually sauteeing the vegetables directly in the slow cooker! I had to ask my husband to pinch me to see if I was dreaming!
Add the broth and seasonings except for the dill.
Add the chicken.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or on LOW for 6-7 hours.
When you lift the lid…oh, the aroma!! It’s simply heavenly!
Remove the chicken, discard the skin and bones, and cut the chicken into small pieces. Return it to the slow cooker along with the orzo and dill. (If you don’t like dill – which is just mind-boggling to me – you can use fresh parsley instead or half the amount of fresh rosemary).
Cover and cook on HIGH for another 30 minutes or until the orzo is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Dinner is served! Enjoy!
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large leek, sliced, rinsed and drained
- 3 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (thighs and drumsticks yield the most flavor)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of one lemon
- ¾ cup uncooked orzo
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (see note for substitutions)
- Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook the onions until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the leek, carrots and garlic and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a slow cooker.
- Add all remaining ingredient except for the orzo and dill. Cook on LOW for 6-7 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. Remove the chicken pieces, discard the skin and bones and cut the meat into small pieces. Return the chicken to the slow cooker along with the orzo and dill and cook on HIGH for another 30 minutes or until the orzo is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- FOR STOVETOP: Follow the instructions as written except simmer in a stockpot over low heat with the lid on for 90 minutes before shredding the chicken and adding the orzo and dill. Then increase the heat and continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until the orzo is done.
*This soup tastes fantastic as leftovers. The orzo will expand and the soup will become thicker, so add a little more chicken broth when reheating.
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Disclosure: I received a multi-cooker from Cuisinart to try out with no obligation to write a review, let alone a positive one. I’m sharing my experience with you only because I really like this product. As always, all opinions are entirely my own.