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Chargrilled Chicken Breast with Aligot and Walnut Pesto

This recipe comes from Chef Jim Fisher who now runs cooking holidays in the Dordogne.

If you would like to know more about Jim and how he gained his love of cooking why not have a look at his biography page <click here>

To find out more about the cooking holidays in France at Jim's cooking school in the Dordogne you will need to visit his web site <click here>

Jim said about this recipe:

The Aligot
I adore mashed potato. In fact, I could eat a whole saucepan of the stuff, then have it again for dessert. But hell, I'm a carbs man, so I would like mash, right? However, there is one dish that beats mash hands-down, and that's, well, cheesey mash!

I was on holiday last year with Lucy and Jenny (no mean mash fanatic, herself) in the pretty southern town of Millau (pronounced "meeoe") when we stumbled upon one of that region's numerous and very popular summer night-markets. This wasn't just any night-market, but one set up in honour of the greatest contribution to the high carb diet in living memory - Aligot (Aligot is to mash, what chargrilled seabass is to fish-fingers, and is a gooey stringy unction of mashed potato, butter, garlic, creme fraiche and a local cheddar-like cheese).

The market stalls themselves encircled the town square, which was itself packed with acres of trestle tables and bench seats. Seated cheek by jowel are hundreds of locals - no tourist area this - noisily chattering and munching away at piles of aligot and wild boar sausage.

It took a while to suss out the system whereby a brand new empty plate turned into a full one, but once mastered, it was easy; we each got into line at one of the stalls and gathered great tubs of aligot, sausage, chargrilled saddle of rabbit, barbecued chicken, crusty bread, gravy and mustard. Then, it was off to one of the wine stalls where we purchased a pre-opened bottle of local red and were given plastic cups to drink it from.

Once finally shouldered onto a bench we consumed one of the finest outdoor meals I have ever eaten then went back for more. Later, a reviving stroll netted more goodies in the form of freshly made crepes and doughnuts, eaten on the "fly". Finally, defeated, we retreated to a bar and, beer in hand, watched the locals promenading into the early hours - fantastic!

The Walnut Pesto
If you think that all recipes are derivative and that, in cooking, there's nothing new under the sun, you may well be right. But, that shouldn't stop you re-inventing a classic sauce like pesto. Traditionally made with pine nuts and basil, pesto is up there with the "greats". Here, however, is an alternative using seasonal locally grown walnuts and readily available sage.


The Aligot:
1.5kg (3lb - about 20) medium floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 glass dry white wine
100g (4oz) unsalted butter
25g (1oz) plain flour
4 tbsp creme fraiche
500g (1lb) cheddar cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Walnut Pesto:
2 handfuls shelled walnuts
3 garlic cloves, peeled
pinch of salt
a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp roughly chopped sage leaves
150ml (5 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
100g (4oz) fresh parmesan, grated

The Chicken:
6 breasts of the best free-range chicken, skin on
olive oil
sea salt
freshly grated black pepper


The Aligot:

  • Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Turn off the heat, drain, then return them to the hot pan to dry out for five minutes. Mash.
  • Gently sweat the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until translucent, then pour in the wine and turn up the heat. Allow to reduce until there is hardly any liquid left in the pan.
  • Reduce the heat and melt in the butter. Stir in the flour and allow to "cook-out" for a minute.
  • Add the mashed potato, creme fraiche and cheese, then stir over a medium heat until well combined. Continue to cook until the whole lot turns into a gloopy stringy mass which bubbles volcanically, then season with plenty of salt and pepper. Serve.

The Walnut Pesto:

  • Put the walnuts, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and sage in a mortar and pound to a rough "bread crumb" consistency.
  • Add the oil and parmesan, then stir to thoroughly combine.

The Chicken:

  • Bring a ridged cast iron giddle pan to a smoking heat.
  • Smear the chicken breasts on both sides with a little oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Lay the breasts, skin side down, on the griddle and grill for about five minutes, or until well marked.
  • Turn the breasts over, then turn out the heat. The chicken will continue to cook in the residual heat of the pan. Cook like this for another five minutes until a skewer, inserted into the middle of each breast, reveals a clear juice when extracted (if the juice is still a little pink allow the breasts to sit for a couple more minutes).
  • Remove the breasts to a plate and rest for a few minutes away from the heat. When rested, place each breast on top of a dollop of aligot and top with a generous spoonful of pesto.
  • Serve with seasonal vegetables of your choice and the chicken juice from the pan.

Serves 6

Chef Jim Fisher