Sunday, July 13, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Italian Orzo and Turkey Casserole

© Constantine William Spyrou

It's always better to eat food that is home-cooked when you're working rather than going to the nearest fast-food restaurant and picking up something quick. This is because you have control of what goes into your food, and you can customize your dishes to the flavors you enjoy. The easiest way to make dishes at home is to make ones that last a while and you can cook easily in bulk. 

Casseroles are a classic way to do this, because you can bake off a large amount and have it last for a while. This is what I did with this dish - I took the flavors of turkey, tomato, and orzo that I really like and turned it into a casserole. I utilized an eggy bechamel - similar to what goes into a patsitsio or moussaka - and placed it over the top with pepper jack cheese to create a great balance of flavors that works great, and kept me happy over a few meals! 

Recipe serves up to 12 people.

For the Turkey and Orzo Base:

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1 14-18 oz jar marinara or canned tomatoes (if you use canned tomatoes, added extra garlic, basil, salt, and oregano to make up for the herbs that you miss otherwise)
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 dried bay leaf
1 package orzo
Salt and pepper to season

For the Bechamel Topping:

2 cups milk
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season
12 slices pepper jack cheese


1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Just as it all gets melted, stir in your flour to make a roux. Cook it out for 3-4 minutes on medium heat to get a blond color with all of the flour flavor cooked out.
3. Whisk in your milk in slow batches to keep the roux from lumping and making a clumpy sauce. When its all in, bring up to a boil and then down to a simmer immediately for 5-6 minutes.
4. Whisking rapidly, slowly add in your egg to ensure it all is equally incorporated and no scrambled egg pieces form. The sauce should begin to tighten up even more at this point.
5. Stir in your basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, then set aside to cool.
6. In a large pot, sear off all of the turkey meat with your basil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.
7. After about 10 minutes, all of the turkey should be colored and cooked. Deglaze your pot with the Worcestershire sauce, and add in your liquids and combine well.
8. As the mixture comes up to a boil, add in your bay leaf and lemon pepper, then bring down to a simmer and cover for about an hour.
9. Add in your orzo and bring the mixture up to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the orzo doesn't stick to the pot. If needed, add more water. The final product should be thick with no runny liquid, as the orzo should absorb all of it.
10. Add the orzo mixture to your baking tray, making sure to remove the bay leaf at this point. Evenly spread the bechamel over the top of the orzo, then layer with the pepper jack slices.
11. Back for 40 minutes, let cool, and serve!

This dish combines warmth and richness with the bechamel, sweetness and savory from the orzo base, and rounds out with a touch of heat and sharpness from the pepper jack. Everything really comes together to make something delicious!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

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