People have been stuffing food with other foods for a long time. A Roman cookbook from more than 2,000 years ago suggests that.
— Green peppers with a meat filling.
— Cabbage stuffed with meat and rice.
— Baked tomatoes that are infused with vegetables such as onions, spinach, carrots and nuts.
— Manicotti pasta with a luscious, creamy cheese inside.
— And the modern-day rage turducken, duck stuffed in a turkey.
Here’s another fowl idea: grilled chicken stuffed with basil pesto, a recipe that has been adapted from Cook’s Country magazine, the sister publication of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. It uses different versions of a pesto — without cheese for the marinade, with cheese for the stuffing and with more olive oil for the serving sauce.
It’s a three-step process but takes little time, according to Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky.
Grilled Pesto Chicken
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley
½ cup olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large, about 1¼ pounds, (or 4 small) skin-on, boneless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
In a food processor, place the basil, parsley, ¼ cup oil, garlic, lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt. Process until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping bowl as needed.
Remove ¼ cup pesto from processor and reserve for marinating chicken. Add Parmesan to pesto in processor and pulse until incorporated, about 3 pulses. Remove 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto for stuffing chicken.
Add the remaining ¼ cup oil to pesto in processor and pulse until combined. Set aside for saucing cooked chicken; you should have about 1/3 cup pesto.
Starting on thick side of breast, cut a horizontal pocket in each breast about 2½ inches wide, stopping ½-inch from edge so halves remain attached.
Season chicken, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of Parmesan pesto in pocket of each breast.
Fold the nonskin side of the breast in toward the pocket so the skin side folds over some. Using kitchen twine, tie the breast at intervals.
Place stuffed breasts in bowl and add pesto reserved for marinating. Rub pesto all over chicken, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat or prepare the grill for indirect heat. (For charcoal, place ash-covered coals on one side of the grill and replace grate. For a gas grill, light all burners to high and then turn all but one to medium-low.)
Oil the grill grate. Place chicken, skin side up, on grill away from the heat. Cover and cook about 10 minutes. Flip chicken skin- side down. If using charcoal, slide chicken to hot part of grill. Cover and cook until well-browned, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken to brown on all sides, and cook until it reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Transfer chicken to platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove twine from chicken, and cut into ¼-inch thick slices. Serve with remaining pesto sauce on the side.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 433 calories, 43 percent of calories from fat, 20 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 2 grams carbohydrates, 58 grams protein, 332 milligrams sodium, 153 milligrams cholesterol, no fiber.