Friday, March 8, 2013

Paleo Slow Cooking's Pesto Chicken

I am always in the mood for a good slow cooker recipe.  I've seen many recipes for paleo pesto, but generally avoid making any of them because they use nuts and I typically don't include nuts in my day to day cooking.  I was really excited to see that the Pesto Chicken recipe in Chrissy Gower's Paleo Slow Cooking: Gluten Free Recipes Made Simple did not use nuts!  I wasn't able to find a site where Chrissy has posted this recipe herself anywhere on the internet, so I encourage you to buy the book.

I gathered my ingredients, and decided to make the pesto first before loading the chicken into the slow cooker.  I used my mini-chopper to make the pesto.

First, I used the bottom of a glass to smash the garlic to easily remove the skins and I put the cloves into my mini-chopper. 

I washed and dried the basil, removed the leaves from the stems, and packed them into the appropriate measuring cup before adding them to the mini-chopper.  

To get the flavor of nuts without using nuts, the recipe uses walnut oil in the pesto.  It says you can substitute extra virgin olive oil.  I happened to have some unopened walnut oil that I bought for something else in my pantry, score!  I actually had to stop my official Paleo Review stopwatch as I could not get the lid off that new bottle of oil.  I pulled, I turned, I banged it on the counter (scaring the paleo kitties in the process) and that lid was not budging.  I ended up cutting it off.  Success.  After starting the stopwatch again, I added the oil to the mini-chopper.

Finally, I used my lemon reamer to add some fresh lemon juice to the pesto.  

I put the lid on the chopper and processed until things looked smooth which did not take very long at all. I took the lid off and scraped the sides as directed by the recipe.  There wasn't much to scrape.  I processed the pesto for a few seconds more after scraping.

Just to test out the accuracy of the recipe, I stopped my stopwatch again and poured the pesto into a measuring cup.  The recipe says you'll have about 3/4 cup of pesto, and look at that, I had pretty close to exactly 3/4 cup.  The pesto was much thinner than I expected.

I added some olive oil to the slow cooker crock and prepared the chicken thighs by trimming of the extra fat.  

I used 10 thighs, which is a few more than what is recommended, but I figured it would be fine.  As I trimmed each thigh, I put them in the slow cooker.  When they were all in there, I poured the pesto over the meat.  I put the lid on and set the cooker for 4 hours on high.

Here is what I had after 4 hours of cooking on high and 45 minutes on standby.  

Before plating a thigh or two, I thought I'd see how tender the meat was so I pulled one apart on a cutting board.  It pretty much fell apart.  

Here is my plate.

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients:  You should be able to find all of the ingredients for this recipe pretty inexpensively at your "big box" grocery store.  I bought a 4 ounce container of fresh basil at my "big box" for $4.47.  The container was more than enough basil for the recipe.  I am going to plant some herbs in my garden in the next few weeks and see if I can keep them alive when the heat hits.  It would be nice to not have to pay for basil.  I would spring for a bottle of walnut oil (see below) rather than substituting olive oil.  I had forgotten I had walnut oil in my pantry and don't remember what I paid for it.  

Preparation and Cooking Time:  The stated preparation time was 15 minutes.  It took me 14 minutes and 58 seconds to prepare the recipe before turning on the crock.  Talk about precision!
The recipe cooked for 4 hours on high and then another 45 minutes on standby waiting on me to get home from errands.  

Clean Up:  Everything I used to prepare this recipe went into the dishwasher.  Happiness.

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!  My house smelled like a pesto factory when I got home from running a few errands the day I made this.  If you like basil pesto, you will like this dish, because that's pretty much what it tastes like.  I'm glad I used the walnut oil as I believe it added a nutty flavor that you expect in pesto.  I don't think I would have had that complete flavor if I used olive oil instead.  It seemed like there was a lot of cooking liquid after cooking the dish, almost 2 full cups but that just gives you plenty to ladle over the chicken.  I suggest having some spaghetti squash ready to serve with this or maybe even cauliflower rice.  Judging by the picture in the book, I might have processed the pesto too much.  The picture in the book shows discernible pieces of garlic on the cooked chicken, and I didn't have any discernible pieces of garlic.  If I did over process it, I don't think it negatively effected the taste.  

I wonder how this dish would turn out on a workday for me when I couldn't possibly keep the total slow cooker time to anywhere near the four hours (on high) and 45 minutes (on standby).  I wonder if the chicken would just disintegrate even if the cooker went on standby for the majority of the time.  I'll do it one of these days and report back on my results.  I will also report back on how well it freezes.  

If you are looking for a easy, full flavor chicken dish with a quick preparation time, this is a recipe for you.  

Blog Note:  Keep your recipe suggestions coming!  Come on, you know you want to play with my recipe suggestion widget!