Mexican style orzo features chilies and clams

Yankee Chef logoBy Jim Bailey

Not only do dried chilies give a uniquely piquant flavor to just about any recipe, when you briefly toast them their flavor comes out.

If you cook them too long, they become bitter and it’s quite noticeable, so keep a close eye on them. Try this fragrant hot tomato-chili sauce tossed with any pasta for a true taste of the South of the Border.

Mexican orzo with clams.

Mexican orzo with clams.

1 1/2 cups dried (3 cups cooked) orzo, kept warm
2 dried chili peppers of your choice
1/2 cup hot vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon each minced garlic in oil and salt
1/2 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams, drained well

­If using dried orzo, cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, place a skillet over medium high heat. When skillet is hot, add the whole, dried chilies and toast for 15 seconds per side. Try to do this on all sides of the chilies, as if they were square. Immediately remove from heat to cool enough to handle. Split each in half lengthwise, removing the stem, seeds and pith (the white membrane) and discard. If you want more heat, retain the seeds. Roughly chop toasted chilies and place in a bowl with hot vegetable broth, garlic and salt. Let rehydrate for 30 minutes. Place liquid and chilies in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse, on high, until size desired.

Transfer to a large saucepan with diced tomatoes and juice, tomato sauce, tomato paste and oregano. Blend well and bring to scalding over medium heat.

When hot, remove, add cooked orzo and 1 can chopped clams; stir well. Divide among three serving plates, topped with additional, hot chopped clams and serve immediately.

Yankee Chef book coverSchiffer Books of Pennsylvania has released Jim Bailey’s new book The Yankee Chef: Feel Good Food for Every Kitchen. It contains more than 550 traditional New England comfort-food recipes tweaked for today’s palates with hundreds of kitchen tips and food facts. The hardback book is 312 pages and contains 200 color images. Its ISBN is 978-0-7643-4191-5 and the cost is $34.99. The book can be ordered through Misty Valley Books, 802-875-3400.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at

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