How’s everyone’s summer going? Here in the Lower Mainland in BC, Canada, we’ve had the driest July in history. That means we have an abundance of veggies and fruits compared to the past few years. It is indeed overwhelming to choose what to cook so as not to miss out on each food’s prime season. Thanks to the heat, we have been enjoying plump and juicy tomatoes every day!
Today’s recipe is a celebration of shiso (Japanese herb), whose scent always brings back memories of my grandma’s tiny garden, full of weed-like green and red shiso plants that she used to pickle umeboshi. Since this plant is prone to vigorous growth, one only needs to plant a seedling or two to obtain a sufficiently abundant supply.
In this recipe, shiso is used to create a pesto that is inserted under the chicken’s skin to impart a unique flavour to the dish. Make plenty so you mix the leftovers into pasta and/or sneak it into grilled sandwiches for easy weekday meals. We truly enjoyed sandwiches made the next day with the leftover shiso pesto chicken plus fresh tomato slices!
Shiso Pesto Roasted Chicken
Serves 4, or 2 plus leftover
½ heaped cup hazelnuts
¼ cup sunflower seeds
3 garlic cloves
¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
A bunch of shiso leaves, stems removed, rinsed and patted dry
1 sprig flat parsley
½ teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 free-range chicken, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A bunch of carrots, leaves removed, rinsed and patted dry
Make pesto. Roast the hazelnuts and sunflower seeds until aromatic and golden. Place all ingredients except oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Start adding oil in a steady drip, and continue to pulse until pesto becomes smooth. It is okay to leave some coarse texture. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the chicken on a roasting pan, chest side up. Salt and pepper the chicken. Insert the pesto from the openings and spread evenly under the bird’s skin through the breasts to thighs and repeat the same for the back–be careful so you don’t tear the skin.
Remove the pesto from your hands and smear on the outside of the chicken. You can add 2 more tablespoons or so of the pesto and continue to rub the entire chicken, making sure it’s well coated. Rub the inside of the carcass too. Finally, drizzle some oil over top, and coat the outside of the chicken evenly. Tie the legs with some kitchen string.
Roast until done; for example, it will take about 1 hour and 10 minutes for a small bird. Alternately, wait until a thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the poultry reaches 165F.
When the chicken is halfway done, add the carrots (lightly coated with salt, pepper and oil) to the roasting pan.
Baste the chicken and carrots periodically.
Remove from the oven, and rest for a few minutes. Carve the chicken and serve to individual plates with carrots. Serve immediately. Keep the rest of the pesto in an airtight container, and refrigerate for another use.