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Whole head pesto chicken
This photo provided by Matthew Mead shows head case pesto chicken from J.M. Hirsch's cookbook , "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." This recipe is named for the whole head of garlic used in the pesto, which doubles as marinade and sauce.

This recipe is named for the whole head of garlic used in the pesto, which doubles as marinade and sauce.

This is a great dish to prepare in the morning and let marinate all day. The pesto can even be made a day ahead.

Serve the chicken with plenty of pasta or rice to sop up the sauce. If you have the time and own a mortar and pestle, use it instead of the food processor to make the pesto. The flavor is better, and bashing garlic is oddly therapeutic.

And don't be intimidated by the amount of garlic. The flavor is assertive, but not overpowering.

 

HEAD CASE PESTO CHICKEN

Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)

Servings: 4

1 small head garlic (about 8 cloves), peeled

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for frying

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch red pepper flakes

1 1?2 pounds chicken breasts

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons (1?2 stick) butter

In a food processor, combine the garlic, 1/2 cup of olive oil, basil, salt, black pepper, vinegar, Parmesan and red pepper flakes. Pulse until chunky smooth.

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Transfer half of the pesto to a glass or stainless-steel baking dish. Cover the remaining pesto and refrigerate until ready to serve.

One at a time, lay each breast on the counter and carefully slice across the center horizontally to create 2 thin halves. Place each half between sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet, rolling pin or heavy skillet to pound it to an even cutlet about 1/4 inch thick.

Place the chicken in the baking dish with the pesto, turning it to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.

When ready to cook, remove the reserved pesto from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

Place the flour in a wide, shallow bowl. Use a fork to lift each piece of chicken from the marinade and dredge it through the flour, lightly coating both sides.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine the butter and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat until the butter is melted and sizzling.

Several pieces at a time, fry the chicken until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Repeat with remaining chicken.

To serve, drizzle the chicken with the reserved pesto.

 

Nutrition facts per serving: 606 calories; 299 calories from fat; 33 g. fat (11 g. saturated; 0 g. trans fats); 134 mg. cholesterol; 27 g. carbohydrate; 46 g. protein; 1 g. fiber; 481 mg. sodium.

(Recipe from J.M. Hirsch's "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking," Ballantine, 2010)

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