Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Deliciously different pesto

It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow. – Aesop

I made 1/2 a recipe because there was only two of us.

I’ll be glad when I can start relying on the garden as opposed to the grocery store for dinners. It hasn’t been put in yet, but the weather is definitely turning, so soon the seeds will be in the ground.

It’s pretty easy to get sticker shock when you go to buy vegetables at the the grocery store. Big sticker shock.

But if you’re clever you can still find a deal or two. I “bought cheap” at the grocery store on Sunday, and now have to deal with my purchase. The purchase was a bunch of cilantro. I believe it was $1.29. Pretty cheap.

So what can you do with so much cilantro? I usually think of making Thai food, but that uses a few tablespoons at most. So there’s lots left to deal with, but how? Pesto. Cilantro is quite common as an ingredient in pesto, usually paired with walnuts instead of pine nuts. 

It’s essentially just a substitution of two ingredients in regular basil pesto. If you have a favourite recipe just substitute the cilantro for the basil, and walnuts for the pine nuts. But now I have to deal with a bunch of pesto. Alas, first world problems.

I found a reference online about stuffing chicken breasts with pesto so I thought the same could be done with thighs. Why not? The recipe was simplicity itself, just the chicken, pesto and some salt and pepper. 

I believe this would be stunning rubbed between the skin and meat of a turkey if anyone is thinking of roasting one for Easter. Hint, hint...

I served this dish with a variation on one of my all-time favourite Italian recipes: pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes. If you’ve never tried that combination before you have no idea what you’re missing. It’s a well-worn page in my copy of Marcella Hazan’s “Classics of Italian Cooking” recipe book.

I had no green beans so substituted Romano beans and the cilantro pesto for the basil variety. You have to only cook the potatoes until “al dente.” Still a little crisp. Heat the beans in the same water with the potatoes for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time. It's always good to not dirty a pot.

Cilantro Walnut Pesto
Time: 10 min  | Yield: about 1-1/2 cups
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted if you wish
3 cups chopped cilantro
6 garlic cloves
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 tsp salt
about 1/2 cups olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor and purée. With the motor running pour in enough olive oil to make a loose mass. By that I mean it moves fairly easily around the bowl.

Remove to a covered dish and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cilantro Walnut Pesto Chicken
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook: 40 min  |  Serves 4
8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
8 heaping tsp pesto
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Loosen the skin on each chicken thigh. Place 1 tsp of pesto between the skin and meat and smooth it around so it covers the inner surface. Season each thigh with salt and pepper.

Place the thighs bone-side down in a hot dry sauté pan and let brown until the release easily. Chicken fat will render out while it fries. There is no need to add oil.

Turn and repeat on the pesto side, taking care not to break the skin free of the thigh. The chicken will release when it’s ready.

Place the thighs in an oven-proof baking dish and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with the potato bean side dish described above.


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