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March 14, 2014

BBQ MY WAY: Grilled chicken with fresh spinach pesto

Oh, my goodness. I actually grilled something this weekend. The weather has broken and there is now hope that spring might actually arrive in our neck of the woods sooner rather than later. Any potential dusting (or dumping) of snow will now be viewed as a short term inconvenience versus an extension of our modern day ice age. We decided to grill the most spring-like dish we could think of, and this certainly qualified.

Pesto is traditionally made with basil and can be used on chicken, in pasta, on tomatoes, it’s so versatile and delicious. The pesto we made for this column is milder because we use fresh spinach leaves versus basil. Pretty much everything else remains the same with the exception of adding some lemon juice and grated lemon peel. The result is a bright green pesto that will remind you that spring is almost here.

Liz shows you how to make this pesto and I show you how I grill the chicken on our YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay.

Pesto Recipe

3 to 4 cups fresh spinach leaves

1/4 cup (plus a little more) olive oil

1/3 cup roasted pine nuts

1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

3 to 4 cloves of garlic

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp grated lemon zest salt and pepper to taste

Place everything other than salt, pepper and cheese in an electric blender. Blend, then scrape the sides to push the ingredients back down to the bottom. Drizzle in a little more olive oil and blend till smooth. It should have the consistency of pancake batter. Add olive oil drizzle by drizzle until you get there. Place in a bowl and add the cheese. Taste and season to your liking with salt and pepper. Make sure you add the cheese first before salting as Parmesan tends to add a salty flavor of its own. Set in the fridge.

Set up your grill on indirect heat, meaning the coals are on one side of the grill, or one or two of your burners are off. Salt and pepper four bone-in skin-on chicken breasts which you have allowed to sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. For this grilling session I used hardwood lump charcoal, which tends to burn a little hotter and adds a natural flavor.

Set the chicken on the side of the grill opposite the coals. Place the lid on and let “bake” for 20 to 30 minutes. Now, move the chicken over the coals and finish grilling. This is where we add color and texture. You will occasionally need to put the lid on to kill the flames. Grill the chicken, turning frequently until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. When checking with a meat thermometer, do not allow the tip to touch the bone or you will get a bad reading.

Bring the chicken in and let it rest for five to 10 minutes. The temperature will go up another five degrees or so. Spoon the spinach pesto on top of the breasts and serve alongside a pile of grilled asparagus. Yep, spring time is almost here!

— Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones Financial Advisor in Jeffersonville by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. He is also a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. Liz is his wife. You can contact Dave with your BBQ, grilling or questions at BBQ-My-Way.com or at davelobeck@gmail.com

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