The state of my taste bud affairs as I write you is less than ideal, but I promise the dish on the table will exceed your expectations. At the moment I'm a food blogger with a cold. A cold where I'm stuffed up and can barely taste anything. In fact I just had a fresh brewed cup of fair-trade-shade-roast-expensive hipster blah blah joe and all I got was liquid and warmth. The notes were widely detectable this morning but not now. So harumph to that. And to top it off, despite the caffine I do believe my bed and blanket are calling.
But by golly, I still have stuff to tell you. We had dinner recently while it was still light out, which never ever happens; the sun remaining its bright Sunday self while we enjoyed...dinner? Granted, it was an early dinner, the kind you have on a day when you had brunch, but it's been a goal to share more savory meals with you around here (I don't want you to think I live on cookies), so as the days go longer, here's to more Spring mains. These pesto chicken plates are one of my new favorite things. They are Italian-ish, which is my favorite form of Italian, and simple, the way it should be.
You start with a couple boneless breasts I prefer to cook only a certain way. Low/slow. You save the pan juices. You make pesto. You set the breasts in a bowl to cool a bit and because they are inherently tender as cooked, they won't dry out on you. Then you do a little shred/tare dance with your hands, you dollop over some juices, you dollop some pesto and you stir and stir and it all melds together. You are possibly barefoot and it makes everything flow like you'd imagine an old Italian farm kitchen might.
You can serve the chicken warm or a little warm or even a kind of chilled (I vote for a little warm). In the meantime, you roast some asparagus, season/dress some greens, grill a bit of bread, and let the same processor in which you made the pesto chop a handful of kalmata olives for you. Scrape those into a bowl with some cubed feta, lemon juice, Maldon salt and olive oil, spoon it around, and you've got a topping for your bread. And then, you plate.
Don't forget the wine.
Pesto Chicken Plates Recipe
(serves two with possibly extra)
2-3 boneless chicken breasts
salt + pepper
1/2 Tbs each butter and olive oil
2 c basil leaves washed and thoroughly dried (salad spun!)
1 clove garlic
scant 2 Tbs pine nuts very lightly toasted
2 heaped Tbs fresh grated parmesan
3-4 Tbs olive oil
sea salt + pepper
squeeze of lemon
Small bunch asparagus
salt + pepper
1 oz feta
8-10 pitted kalmata olives
Pinch Maldon or coarse salt + pepper
Squeeze lemon juice
1-2 tsp olive oil
Sourdough or Italian bread, sliced and lightly toasted under the broiler
-Toss asparagus with oil and a generous pinch salt/pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 425 oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness, shaking tray halfway, piercing with a fork to check for desired done-ness. Squeeze over lemon. Set aside to cool.
-For Chicken: Adapted from thekitchn. Pat dry and lightly pound breasts to even thickness, then season with salt and pepper. Heat up frying pan med-high. Swirl together butter/oil to melt. Add chicken; sear 60 seconds on one side. Flip, turn heat to lowest setting, cover with lid, and wait 10 minutes. Turn heat off and wait another 10. Take temp or pierce to check for near-clear juices. They will finish up as they rest. Remove to bowl or cutting board and tent lightly with foil. Reduce juices a bit in the pan by heating on medium and stirring. The breasts resting in the bowl will also release juice you can throw back into the pan too.
-While that cooks make pesto. In a food processor, combine half basil with garlic + nuts, pulse to break down, then add the rest of the basil and parm. Drizzle in olive oil until emulsified, scraping down sides. Add pinches of salt + pepper to taste and a squeeze lemon. Adjust with a little more oil, salt or lemon if needed and scrape into a bowl or jar. Drizzle a smidge oil and cover with plastic. More thorough instruction.
-Add olives to processor and pulse a few times to break up. Scrape into a bowl and add cubed feta, a little lemon juice and salt. Stir to combine, set aside.
-After chicken has cooled/rested a bit, use your hands to tear into small strips, shreds. Add some pan juices and a big dollop or two of pesto and stir.
-Serve w/ bread, olive tapenade, asparagus and mixed greens