When I was in college there was a Wolfgang Puck Express on our campus. Why Wolfgang Puck ever thought that the success of his famous, high-end cuisine meant he should open a quick service concept in a university cafeteria is beyond me, but that’s another story. At this particular eatery, all the food was terrible except for one very popular item: the pesto chicken sandwiches. It was chicken salad unlike any I’d ever encountered: big chunks of chicken tossed together with a nutty, garlicky pesto, then piled high on ciabatta. So. good.
Since then, pesto chicken salad has become my favorite version of chicken salad. Forget the heavy, mayonnaise-y version — this stuff is way better, and just as versatile. You can eat it on ciabatta, like I did in college, or even spread it on little crostini for an appetizer. In the summer, Joe and I like to make a big salad and top off the greens with a big scoop of pesto chicken. Add a few slices of heirloom tomato on the side, and it’s heaven.
The no-fuss, I-have-no-time-to-cook way: buy some pre-made pesto and a rotisserie chicken from the market. Shred the chicken, mix with pesto. You’re done.
However, I’m a big fan of my own pesto, which I can make more garlicky (and okay, more cheesy too). Plus, this time of year, I can’t walk by all the basil in the store without wanting to take some home! Here’s my own recipe: