9.02.2016

champagne wishes and parmesan dreams...

no exaggeration... this is the single tastiet meal i have had in a very long time.



it all began when i plucked a leaf from a basil plant....



then realized that i have way more of the stuff than i can use.



i took this as a sign from the cosmos that it was time to make more pesto, so i snipped a healthy bouquet of the fragrant leaves, and headed for the kitchen.



it takes very little to make a pesto. purists may scoff at the suggestion, but it really is a "use what you got" sort of recipe. the classic formula consists of basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of pine nuts. i buy pine nuts maybe once every two or three years, but i almost always have walnuts on hand, so... walnuts it is! note, i did not bother to crush the peppercorns or the coarse sea salt (the pinkish stuff next to the peppercorns). life is too short.



i did, however, take a minute to faux-blanch the basil leaves, as it helps to preserve that beautiful green color. this step required a container of ice water, a kettle of hot water, and a heat-proof container.



the whole process took about a minute flat.



spread out the basil on the paper towel...



and give it a roll and a light squeeze to soak up all the water.



then toss all the ingredients into a blender, along with a very healthy drizzle of olive oil. do peel the garlic, but the blender will do the rest of the work. ditto for the parmesan, which i broke into small chunks, but i skipped the grater.



all it takes is a few pulses in the blender...



and a quick transfer to a clean jar. worry not. the stuff left on the sides and bottom of the blender will be put to use in a minute.



air is the enemy of pesto, as it will turn the whole mixture to a muddy brown. the blanching slows down that process, but you still want to add a thin layer of olive oil to the top of the pesto and keep it capped and refrigerated. use fresh pesto within one to three weeks, or it can be frozen and stored for several months. pro tip: pour it into an ice tray, then store the frozen cubes in a freezer bag, and you have handy portions of pesto to add directly to hot pasta.



at this point, add a splash more olive oil to the blender, just enough to mobilize the residual pesto, and pour it over some pieces of chicken (i used boneless, skinless thighs), along with a dash of salt and pepper.



give it a mix to coat the chicken...



then the container of chicken and the jar of pesto are ready for the fridge.



here you can clearly see the oil layer on the pesto. i tend to add a splash more olive oil to the jar after every withdrawal to keep that layer intact.



some few/several hours later, put a grill pan on medium heat and open a bottle of white wine. i happen to have a bottle of bubbly on hand, so that i what i am using. i will not go so far as to actually call this stuff champagne, as it is an incredibly affordable (cheap!) sparkling white wine bottled right here in Quebec. you can buy it—along with a decent assortment of other affordable wines—at your local d├ępanneur (which is Montreal for bodega... which is New York City for convenience store). seriously, any white wine will do, and i suspect beer would work equally fine.



add the chicken pieces to the heated pan, and cook undisturbed for approximately eight to ten minutes (depending on size and thickness). this is a good time to grab a glass and have a splash of that affordable champagne sparkling white wine.



flip the chicken, and wait another eight to ten minutes...



then pour in some of the bubbly.



i did not measure, but there was about a cup and a half of wine added to the pan. the objective is to have enough liquid for about five mins of cooking.



it looks pretty yummy at this point, but we need to finish cooking the chicken and reduce the wine to make the tastiest sauce imaginable.



you can either stick it into a hot oven, or cover the pan and finish cooking on the stove. it was not worth the trouble to heat the oven, so i covered it with foil and left it on simmer for about five minutes (peering in once or twice to make sure the wine had not evaporated completely and adding a small splash as needed).



when the chicken is ready to go, grab that jar of pesto from the fridge...



and add a dollop to the reduced wine sauce.



swirl/tilt the pan to combine, and spoon the heavenly nectar over the pieces of chicken.



then grab a plate and enjoy!



for the most enjoyment possible, serve with pasta tossed with even more pesto. you will thank me in the morning.