Saturday, June 8, 2013


Around 1994, I got a new boss at the meat-packing plant who was the first "foodie" I'd ever met. So new to this concept, I didn't know what it was - I'm not sure there was a name for it then. Michelle learned that I liked to dabble in food and scoffed when learning I was still teething on recipes from Better Homes and Garden magazines of my mom's. Subtly schooling me on food, she brought in a bunch of old copies of Gourmet magazine. Mesmerized, yet realizing this was all way over my head, I found the simplest chicken recipe from the stack of magazines - a chicken recipe I'd ended up adapting to two ingredients: a chicken and a jar of pesto.

Shopping, I picked up my first whole chicken ever, and scrounged the store for a jar of pesto. It was an expensive little jar, the ingredient statement I still remember: basil, olive oil, pine nuts. What the hell is a pine nut?! I was clueless.

The entire quantity of pesto went under the chicken skin, over the skin, and in the cavity. Without a meat thermometer, I relied on the directions which told me the leg would wiggle loosely when the chicken was cooked through. And I let the cooked bird rest. Mutilating the bird in attempts to carve it, it was the best chicken I'd ever eaten. Leftovers I took to work to share with my immediate coworkers and I still remember Toby, mouth full of chicken, exclaiming, "this is the best chicken ever! it is so moist!"

Here it is, nearly 20 years later and I'm making my own pesto. I'm getting there. If you do't have a chopper, Deborah offers instructions using a mortar and pestle at the link below.

adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, also found here
click to print

2 large garlic cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 c loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, leaves washed and dried
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

In a food chopper, process the garlic, salt, and pine nuts until fairly finely chopped.

Add the basil and olive oil and process until smooth, in batches if necessary.

Add the cheese and process just to combine.

  • garlic cloves: $0.16
  • pine nuts: $1.36
  • basil leaves: $5.85
  • Parmesan: $0.06
  • extra-virgin olive oil: $0.72
Total: $8.15 for about 1 cup. I think that's about how much you'd need to make that chicken. It'll be plenty for stuffing burgers.