Poached chicken breast with pesto dressing recipe image

Print Poached chicken breast with pesto dressing

Elegant slices of chicken breast topped with fragrant pesto, this goes well with buttery boiled new potatoes and a salad. Poaching yields a tender, moist meat, but only works well if you start with a with good, free-range chicken and don't cook it above a simmer. Any leftover pesto will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but if you don't fancy making your own, shop-bought is fine.

Ingredients

  • Whole chicken, minus legs & wings
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • Bouquet garni
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 4 tbsp sunflower seeds or pine kernels (sunflower seeds are a fraction of the price)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan or Pecorino, grated
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • About 100ml olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method

  1. Put the chicken, leek, onion, carrot, celery, bouquet garni and peppercorns in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, make your pesto. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Sprinkle all the sunflower seeds on a roasting tray and lightly toast in the oven until they just begin to colour. Put the garlic and a couple of tablespoon of oil in a small food processor or blender and pulse until the garlic is virtually emulsified. Add 2 tablespoons of the sunflower seeds and the Parmesan and pulse again until the seeds have broken up.
  3. Add the basil and enough oil to blend and pulse again until it is reasonably smooth. Season with pepper and add more oil so it is a little runnier than conventional pesto. I don’t usually add any salt because the cheese takes care of that. Mix the pesto, vinegar and remaining sunflower seeds and spoon into a small bowl.
  4. Carefully cut the chicken breasts off the carcass and slice as thinly as possible. Arrange neatly on the plates and serve with the pesto dressing, a green salad and a few boiled new potatoes.
  5. Return the carcass to the saucepan, simmer for another hour, strain, refrigerate and use for soups and risottos.
  6. During the basil season pesto seems to find its way onto my table at least twice a week so I tend to make it in fairly industrial quantities, put it in clean jar and cover with olive oil. It will keep in the fridge for two or three weeks.
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