Monday, March 15, 2010
Pesto Chicken Salad
Rachel here: So, my mom's on vacation this week in St. Croix with my dad and S while G is off in Florida participating in some ungodly spring break scene and I, little old me, am left with the blog all to myself. It oddly conjures feelings of having the house to myself while growing up. Anyway, in case any of you are worried about whether my mom will be enjoying herself enough this week or not, she sent this photo to assure us all that she's well.
If you want to join me in a moment of bitterness, feel free to.
But anyway, I digress (oh, and I really can't complain since John and I are off for our own little vacation in a week or so). It was sort of exciting to think about what I wanted to make for the blog this week without any input from my mother (though, in typical mom fashion...and I use "mom" to refer to mom-esque behavior generally and specifically...my mother had plenty of ideas that I should "feel free to use"...I told the woman to chill out and go on vacation). Initially, I decided I was going to teach myself to pickle so that, when she came back, my mom would have a moment of bitterness towards me comparable to the one I experienced when I received her photo (see above). Then I realized that, though I really do want to learn to pickle, perhaps the person who would be left with feelings of bitterness would be me instead of her if I tried to cram pickling 101 into a weekend filled with a million other tasks. So, I filed pickling for a later date.
What I decided to make in the end (for this post) was pesto chicken salad. John and I have been eating it at Meal Ticket on a near weekly basis as of late and I figured it would be fun to try to duplicate it for our very own at-home consumption. I looked in Chez Panisse Cooking (by Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters) and was delighted to discover they had a simple pesto recipe. All I needed to pull this one off perfectly was a mortar and pestle, something I figured I could pick up at our fantastic local grocery store, Berkeley Bowl. When I was at the store, though, I discovered that they only had mini mortars. This seemed ridiculously tedious to me and so I figured I could rig something on my own at home. Let's just say that though this whole dish turned out fantastically (if I do say so myself), I will not be making it again without a mortar and pestle.
For the chicken part, I bought a small whole chicken and made chicken stock with it to cook it. We were out and homemade stock is so much better than anything you can buy at the store and plus, I figured this would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. I will post the stock recipe another time (unless anyone's dying for it, in which case leave a comment and I will post it sooner). Once the chicken was done I just shredded it by hand and tossed it in the pesto. The ratios were perfect. The pesto really could have been used on any number of things, though, and is a deliciously simple recipe. What do you like your pesto on?
I doubled the recipe, so feel free to halve it
1/2 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted
6 cloves garlic
4 c. basil leaves, finely chopped with a sharp knife (dull knives=lost flavor)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. melted butter
3/4 c. Reggiano Parmigiano cheese
1/4 tspn. salt
1/4 tspn. freshly ground black pepper
Using a mortar and pestle (or, the end of a wooden handled spatula and a pyrex bowl...no, don't do this...go buy a mortar and pestle), smash the pine nuts and garlic into a paste. Add the basil leaves, a few tablespoons at a time, and mash into a coarse paste. Add the olive oil and continue to grind mixture into a paste. Once the paste is smooth (or smooth enough for your liking...mine was pretty rustic but, again, I was mortar and pestle-less), use a rubber spatula to incorporate the cheese, salt and pepper, and melted butter.
I promptly dumped this all over my chicken (which I had shredded into a large bowl) and tossed. I suggest always serving warm . The first time we ate it with greens and tomatoes tossed in balsamic vinegar. The second time we ate it with cornbread and slices of tomatoes (again, with balsamic vinegar...the stuff is an excellent balancer for the richness of pesto). And yes, those two times were within 24 hours. Anyway, give it a try and let me know what you think!