Thursday, April 12, 2012

Basil Pesto Roasted Chicken

Now that Easter is over, and you've had all the ham you ever wanted (at least until next Easter), I wanted to show you a quick, delicious chicken recipe that's as simple as they get.  

I still have plenty of basil pesto in the freezer, which I put up nearly every fall, and I use it in pasta, sandwich spreads, bruschetta, soups...just about anything I want!  It's perfect for seasoning a whole, butterflied chicken, roasted in the oven and there's seriously very little effort involved. 

If you don't have homemade pesto, rest assured, store-bought pesto is just fine.  Once you try this, you will kick yourself for not having done it sooner.  And when you do...not try using my cilantro pesto recipe to roast a chicken...it's really good too! :-)

Basil Pesto Roasted Chicken

One recipe basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
One whole chicken, 3-4 pounds, butterflied and patted dry
Nonstick cooking spray
Salt and black pepper to taste

To butterfly the chicken, lay it on a large cutting board backside up.  Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut out the backbone.  Never done this before?  It's a piece of cake.  Here's a tutorial if you're nervous:


Once you've cut out the backbone, flip the chicken back over and press down on the breastbone until you hear it crack.  See, nothin' to it!  Show that chicken who's boss! Prepping the bird this way helps it cook more evenly that if you left it alone.  Of course, you don't have to butterfly the chicken, but I like to do this when I'm seasoning it...it helps me ensure the pesto gets into every nook and cranny. 


Now spread some basil pesto all over the chicken.  Make sure to gently work some in under the skin too!  I probably used about 1/3--1/2 cup total.  I honestly didn't measure. ;-)


If you can, do this ahead of time and let the chicken chill out in the fridge for a few hours before roasting.  This gives time for the meat to marinate and soak up some of that delicious flavor. 


Before you're ready to cook it, season the exposed skin of the chicken with salt and pepper.  You don't want to go overboard. The cheese and basil in the pesto are often enough for flavor, so you can skip this step altogether if you'd like.  


Now, remember that weird looking broiler pan your oven came with when you moved into your house?  You know...this funny lookin' thing?  




You can use the broiler rack and tray, or a rack like mine. I like to line the bottom tray with foil for easier cleanup later. Spray the top tray/rack generously with nonstick cooking spray.  Don't have a broiler pan?  No problem.  Just use a rimmed baking sheet and a cooling rack or a 9x13 baking pan with a rack inside.  The point is to use something that will allow heat and air to circulate all around and underneath the chicken. 


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  


Lay the chicken breast side up on your prepared rack. Place the legs out with the ends close together, and tuck the tips of the wings underneath the breasts, like this:



This will help the whole bird cook evenly. 


Roast at 375 degrees until a meat thermometer registers 165 in the thigh.  Just remember the temperature will rise 5-10 degrees as it rests.  I usually go to 160, take it out, and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving it.  I also leave the meat thermometer in to ensure the temp gets to 165.  


Look at that..."winner winner, chicken dinner, right? :-)



Once the bird is cool enough to handle, carve it up and serve immediately.  I made roasted green beans and pan-fried polenta on the side.  


I'm nearly at the point where one chicken isn't enough for us anymore.  There's just enough for 2 meals for our family of 7.  Pretty soon, I'll have to roast 2 birds instead of one.  What can I say...my kids love roast chicken.  I mean seriously, who doesn't?  And BTW, leftovers make amazing sandwiches, with some basil pesto mayo (just mix a bit of pesto into some mayonnaise!).  Rebecca always makes herself a sandwich like that the next day.  Smart girl. ;-)


So that's another tried a true chicken recipe for ya.  If you're like me, you can never have enough good chicken recipes in your arsenal. 


God bless your table tonight!

1 comment:

Debbie @PinkTexasChick said...

I love pesto and I'm always on the hunt for recipes with pesto. I can't wait to try this. I'm sure my whole family will devour it. Thanks for always sharing your recipes! :)