Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jun 18, 2013

Parsley Walnut Pesto Chicken Salad

Libations used: 1/4 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
I love making chicken salad, and it's one of my go-to's during the week for lunch.  Usually, I cheat and just make it with canned chicken, some celery and chopped nuts.  If I'm feeling adventurous, I'll throw in some pickled red onions, pickled blueberries or curry with raisins.  I knew I had a busy week coming up with plenty of dinners out, which ultimately meant I'd be eating lunch at my desk to save money, so I wanted something somewhat healthy and hearty.  The Kitchn had posted a recipe a while back for a Creamy Chicken Salad with a Parsley Walnut Pesto.  It's a relatively quick dish to make, and yes, I recommend cooking the chicken and not cheating with the canned stuff.  Because why waste good pesto on canned chicken?  The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but I picked up some nicer looking free-range chicken breasts that still had all the rib bones and skin on.  The chicken is poached in a white wine braising liquid and takes only about 15-20 minutes.  I bought plenty of fresh, flat-leaf parsley from Maggie's Farms at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market to use for the pesto.  Yes, it's a lot of green on the plate, but I also used Maggie's arugula to serve with the chicken for some extra flavor and texture.  Top it with some pretty cherry tomatoes, chopped walnuts and a little shaved Parmesan, and you have yourself a simple and gourmet, summer meal.  The leftovers will also make a killer sandwich...

Parsley Walnut Pesto Chicken Salad - serves 6-8
Ingredients for the chicken: 
  • 2 1/2-3 lbs chicken breasts, with skin removed (about 4-6 breasts)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Flo Chardonnay)
  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley (both leaves and stems)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for the pesto:
  • 2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (Umm, I skipped the toasting part and they were all in halves too)
  • 1/4 cup and 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 heaping Tbs of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice, to taste (I used about a teaspoon)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
To garnish:
  • Toasted, chopped walnuts
  • Sliced cherry tomatoes
  • Grated Parmesan
To make the chicken:
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add the chicken, garlic, shallots, wine and parsley.
- Season with salt and pepper and top with enough water to cover the chicken by about an inch.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Immediately remove from heat and cover.
- Let the chicken stand for about 15-20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and tent it with foil to finish cooking.
- When it's cool enough to handle, slice into bite-sized pieces.

- To make the pesto:
- In a food processor or blender, add the parsley, garlic, walnuts and oil and process until smooth.
- Add the Parmesan and pulse until incorporated.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise, sun-dried tomatoes and some lemon juice, to taste.
- Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Add the chicken to the bowl and gently toss to combine.  
- Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight so all the flavors have a chance to marry.
- Serve over a bed of arugula and top with chopped walnuts, tomatoes and Parmesan.