Grilled Chicken with Basil Butter
'If I had to choose just one plant from the whole herb garden, I should be content with basil,' Elizabeth David, Italian Food.
It is the height of Summer and the basil in our little kitchen garden is in full production, so the time is ripe to pick the sweet spearhead leaves and savour their intoxicating fragrance and subtle aniseed flavour. Reading through my numerous cookery books in the search for unusual recipes, I am reminded by food historian, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, that basil is 'a very fragile plant... it must be used fresh... and should be used with care'. Indeed, fresh basil, once picked, will last if stored in the refrigerator for less than a week. It is best to either pop sprigs of basil into a jar of water, which you freshen daily; or pick the leaves and store them in an airtight container lined with paper towel.
I plan to make the most of this season's crop of basil, explore its culinary uses and share my findings with you in forthcoming posts. In this snippet, I will focus on one of my favourite Summer recipes: Grilled Chicken with Basil Butter. The recipe is based on five simple ingredients; and is fresh, fast and full of flavour. I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as Peter and I do. Add it to your repertoire.
GRILLED CHICKEN WITH BASIL BUTTER
2 boneless free range chicken breasts
60g good quality butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup fresh Sweet Basil leaves
freshly ground pepper
a little lemon juice
Carefully flatten the chicken breast pieces with the side of a meat mallet. If you prefer, leave the breasts as they are, rather than pounding them, but this will require longer cooking time. I have successfully prepared this dish by cooking the chicken in a hot wok and popping the lid on at the end of the cooking time to ensure that the meat is cooked through. Set aside while you prepare the basil butter.
Wash the basil leaves in cold water and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Put the butter in a food processor and, with the motor running, add the basil leaves and the lemon juice. Blend well. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper. Add a little more lemon juice if you wish. Spoon the mixture into a butter pot and chill slightly.
Sear the chicken pieces on a lightly greased hot grill or barbecue plate for a couple of minutes per side. Remove when cooked through and tender. Serve immediately with a dollop of basil butter and a light salad or some steamed garden vegetables. Serves 2. *This quantity will make enough for four or six serves. Store any leftover basil butter in the refrigerator.
Note: I used free range RSPCA-approved chicken and Pepe Saya Australian cultured butter.
... and an update on the kitchen garden
At the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself that I would spend more time in our kitchen garden to ensure a bountiful supply of fruit, vegetables and herbs. Here is a mid January snapshot of the kitchen garden. Our plants are making good progress and, to our surprise, the rich compost that we dug in a few weeks ago has seen a flourish of little seedlings, including tomatoes, carrots and, we think, cucumbers or pumpkins. See if you can tell me what they are. Tell me, do you grow your own produce? Which plants are your best performers?
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I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.