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Beer Pesto Chicken with Creamy Parmesan Pale Ale Polenta


Beer Pesto Chicken with Creamy Parmesan Pale Ale Polenta. Best 20 minute meal ever.

Polenta makes me feel like an asshole, but I can’t stop making it. Like the way that Giada over pronounces Italian words and Midwestern transplants start using phrases like "taking holiday" once they move to Beverly Hills, it feels disingenuous. Polenta is corn grits, I live in America. I pronounce croissant and mascarpone in a way that would make Europeans cringe but it’s authentic to my California upbringing. Shouldn’t I call it grits? But I can’t. I learned how to make this bowl of creamy comfort from the back of box labeled "dry polenta" and I’m sticking with it.

Although if we really want to dissect it, I’ve trashed up this corn meal in such a way that neither the Italian or the American South would want to claim it. Beer isn’t in any recipe that any Alabama or Sicilian grandma would approve, but maybe I don’t care as much as I should. Tradition is fine for holidays and sporting events but food is meant for evolution or we would all still be putting pineapple rings on canned ham.

As a culinary man without a country, I should just make up my own term.  I can let Italy and the South off the hook and just call it something entirely different. Or I can just have a beer and forget about the whole thing.


Beer Pesto Chicken with Creamy Parmesan Pale Ale Polenta. Best 20 minute meal ever.


Beer Pesto Chicken with Creamy Parmesan Pale Ale Polenta


For the pesto:

  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup pale ale
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

For the Polenta:

  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1 cup pale ale
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup polenta also called corn grits or coarse ground corn meal
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

For the Chicken:

  • 1 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbs olive oil


Make the Pesto:

  • In a food processor add the garlic, pecans, parmesan, basil, and salt, process until smooth. While the processor is running, slowly add the beer and olive oil. Pesto can be made up to three days ahead of time.

Make the polenta:

  • In a pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the beer and milk, bring to a simmer.
  • Whisk in the polenta. Simmer until polenta is tender and thickened, whisking occasionally, about 18 minutes.
  • Stir in the parmesan, salt and pepper.

Make the chicken.

  • Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat until hot but not smoking.
  • Add the chicken, cooking on both sides until browned and chicken is cooked through.
  • Plate polenta, then the chicken, top with pesto.


If substituting chicken breast, filet the chicken breasts into two thin slices, rather than a thicker breasts. Season well before cooking, don't over cook, chicken breasts dry out easily.

Beer Pesto Chicken with Creamy Parmesan Pale Ale Polenta. Best 20 minute meal ever.

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Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness July 16, 2014 um 3:43 am

I seriously thought that I was the only one that thought Giada over-pronounced. Thank you for making me think I am less crazy.
Creamy polenta, pesto and beer? This. Is. Heaven. Pinned!


Meghan @ Cake 'n' Knife July 16, 2014 um 6:49 am

My mouth is watering!! This is so gorgeous, I can’t wait to try it!


Sophia @ NY Foodgasm July 16, 2014 um 7:04 am

LOL, I love the intro to this recipe! Grits and polenta are pretty much the same thing, one sounds fancier than the other. LOL, I am loving this really wondering how the beer tastes in it!


Jessica @ A Happy Food Dance July 16, 2014 um 11:17 am

Yes! I can’t watch Giada because she’ll pronounce everything like an average person and then go full-fledged, just landed here from the home country Italian as soon as she uses some Parmesan reggiano cheese! Everything you make looks amazing, including this! I make your recipes but don’t tell my boyfriend their true source, I fear he would leave me for you 🙂


Jackie July 16, 2014 um 12:39 pm

Your secret is safe with me 🙂


Meredith July 17, 2014 um 7:05 am

I call this delicious! I need a big bowl of this asap!


Coco in the Kitchen July 22, 2014 um 12:03 pm

You’re genuine and yes, you’re right, polenta is Italian for grits!


Lisa July 22, 2014 um 3:14 pm

Oh I love your sense of humor! I was drawn to this recipe from pinterest because I recently fell in love with recipes with beer & recipes with cornmeal/corn grits. So these two together make me heart smile. My husband shares my love of grits now but hates me saying 'polenta'—he says all he can think of is placenta! Ewe! Not a pleasant thought when serving food. ha ha
Anyway, I will be trying this recipe soon because it looks like a winner, I will be sure to stop in again and share my thoughts.


Bryan July 24, 2014 um 4:29 pm

I grew up in an Italian family and now live in the South. There is a difference between grits and polenta, for what it matters. It’s color. Grits are white corn meal and polenta is yellow corn meal.

And for the love of God can Giada pronounce spaghetti like a normal person!


meaghan (the decorated cookie) July 30, 2014 um 9:24 am

You can add beer to pesto?!? You may have just changed my life. Thank you. Also, my husband thanks you. Brilliant.


Kristin August 16, 2014 um 4:56 pm

LOVED THIS!! The dish was just exceptional and I couldn’t get enough of the Parmesan Polenta! Definitely adding this into the repertoire.

I would like to note I made mine with a kid-friendly version of substituting the pale ale for chicken stock.


Marsha Bowrin September 5, 2014 um 10:37 am

cant wait to try this…. How many can this serve?


Jackie September 5, 2014 um 12:53 pm

it makes 4 servings


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