Chicken with pesto is a crowd pleaser | NevadaAppeal.com

Chicken with pesto is a crowd pleaser

Diane Rossen Worthington
Tribune Media Services
Crispy Roast Chicken with Pesto Cream.
Maura McEvoy |

It’s graduation, wedding, shower and anniversary time. If you are planning a luncheon or dinner, try this amazingly simple and flavorful dish. It’s a great entree for large parties, and it can be served hot, at room temperature or chilled with equally delicious results. You can also serve this at a cocktail party by cutting each piece into small slices. Serve with toothpicks.

If serving hot, roast the chicken while your guests are enjoying their drinks and first course. The smell of the roasting, pesto-marinated chicken sweetens the air. Remember that you can double or triple the recipe, if necessary.

Feel free to use your own blend of herbs for the pesto. Be sure to omit the cheese in any pesto recipe you use for this dish. A simple pesto recipe can be found below.

Layering flavors is a cooking technique that infuses the food with a particular flavor in successive steps. This chicken is first marinated with a pesto base and then is stuffed with pesto-flavored breadcrumbs. Finally, cream and pesto are blended together for a smooth sauce that is poured over the hot, crispy chicken. A triple taste of pesto may sound excessive, but in fact it is an ideal balance.

Crispy Roast Chicken with Pesto Cream

Serves 6 to 8

Sauce:

1⁄2 cup favorite pesto (without the cheese)

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1⁄2 cup creme fraiche

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Marinade:

1⁄4 cup dry white wine

1⁄4 cup favorite Pesto

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stuffing:

1 cup bread crumbs (panko works well here)

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons favorite pesto

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 large whole chicken breasts (about 13⁄4 pounds each), boned and halved

Garnish:

Red and green basil leaves and flowers

1. To make the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Taste for seasoning and refrigerate.

2. To make the marinade: In a small mixing bowl combine all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Arrange the chicken breasts in a large, shallow, nonaluminum dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken until generously covered. Marinate for 1⁄2 to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

3. To make the stuffing: Combine all the stuffing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix together until the pesto has been absorbed. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and place in a large roasting pan, skin side up.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place a heaping tablespoon of stuffing underneath the skin by carefully lifting up the skin, being careful not to tear it, and evenly spreading the stuffing mixture. Place the skin back down and pat it to help distribute the stuffing.

5. Place the chicken breasts in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes. They should be golden brown and crisp. If not, remove them from the oven and preheat the oven to broil. Broil the chicken breasts until the skin is very crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and drain off any excess oil.

6. Arrange the chicken breasts on a serving platter and spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce on each breast. Garnish with basil sprigs and flowers and serve immediately.

Advance Preparation: The sauce may be prepared 1 day in advance and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator half an hour before serving. The marinade may also be prepared l day in advance and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator l hour before using. If you are serving this chilled, this may be prepared through step 5 up to 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Classic Pesto

(without the cheese)

Makes 1 to 11⁄2 Cups

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves (about 2 medium bunches)

1⁄2 cup firmly packed parsley leaves

2 tablespoon pine nuts

1⁄2 cup olive oil

Salt and black pepper

1. While the motor is running, add the garlic to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until pureed. Add the basil and parsley and process until finely chopped. Add the pine nuts and finely chop.

2. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a fine stream. Add the salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate the pesto in a tightly covered container until ready to use.

Advance Preparation: Can be prepared up to 1 week ahead through step 2 and refrigerated.

Note: If you want to add cheese, add 1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmesan just before serving.