As my team knows, I love pistachio anything. And this version of pesto has earned a place in my repertoire. While my wife Meghan and I enjoy it on skin-on chicken thighs or breasts, it can be used on boneless skinless chicken pieces (or whole birds) as well. Leftovers are amazing on bruschetta, on sandwiches, or stirred into pasta.
For the pesto:
- 1/4 cup salted pistachios, shelled
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and spun dry
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the chicken:
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or breasts
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 325°F. Make the pistachio pesto: Place the pistachios in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes to lightly toast them. Let cool completely.
In the bowl of a small food processor or a blender jar, combine the toasted pistachios, basil, cheese, garlic, and lemon juice. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add the red pepper flakes, if using. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified, but still retains some texture. Taste, adding more lemon juice, if desired. (If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days, but the color and flavors will be brightest if freshly made.)
Increase the oven heat to 380°F if roasting the chicken immediately. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or foil and top with a wire rack. Gently lift the skin on the chicken thighs or breasts and push about a spoonful of the pistachio pesto under the skin. Massage with your fingertips to distribute the pesto evenly. Brush the skin on each chicken piece with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Arrange skin side up on the wire rack over the baking sheet.
Roast the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is nicely browned. The internal temperature when read on a meat thermometer should be 165°F. As a final step, for even crispier skin, set the oven to broil and broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 4 to 6