Jalapeño Marinated Chicken with Spicy Pesto Gnocchi

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Today I have a recipe that is very green in color, but it’s far from Irish. It’s more of a Mexican-Italian fusion. I know that sounds weird, but bear with me. I made this with my husband in mind. He loves jalapeños and pesto so I wanted to find a way to combine them.

This also became a great opportunity to show that coming up with your own recipe hardly ever works the first time you try it. I have never had any culinary training. Instead I started to teach myself to cook in college. 10+ years (oh jeez, that makes me feel old) of experimenting, reading up and being obsessed with the Food Network and cooking competition shows has given me a surprising amount of knowledge. I say surprising because I am always the one most shocked when something I make up comes out delicious. My husband will tell you, I often take the first bite and end up yelling “YES” with my hands in the air and my mouth full. Very lady like.

Anyway, there were two versions of this recipe that made appearances in my house this week. Let’s start with the more successful version and then I’ll tell you what I fixed from the first try.

Yields 2 servings

  • 5 jalapeños
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp onion flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups ricotta gnocchi
  • 1/4 cup pesto sauce
  • salt & pepper to season
  • fresh parsley to garnish

  1. Roast the jalapeños using metal tongs or a metal skewer over a gas burner flame until they start to blister and wrinkle. Let them cool completely, cut them in half and  remove the seeds and membrane. (If you don’t have a gas burner, try this.
  2. In a food processor, combine the roasted jalapeños, sour cream, onion flakes, oregano, parsley and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Reserve about a 1/2 cup of the sauce to set aside in the fridge.
  3. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place in a bowl and pour the sauce over. Turn the chicken to make sure it’s fully coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prep a baking pan or dish with tin foil or cooking spray. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  5. Put the flour in a bowl. Coat the chicken breasts completely and place in the hot skillet. Sear each side for about 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to the baking pan and cook in the oven for an additional 12-15 minutes. Start boiling water in a pot.
  6. Combine the pesto and an 1/8 cup of the reserved jalapeño sauce (not what was used to marinate the raw chicken) in a medium bowl. Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for about 2 minutes until it starts to float. Using a slotted spoon, carefully strain the gnocchi from the water and place in the bowl with the sauce. Gently toss to coat.
  7. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before cutting. Plate with the gnocchi and dress chicken with the remainder of the reserved jalapeño sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Admittedly this recipe is not as easy of a clean up as some of my others. You need a few bowls and cooking vessels to get it done, but even though there’s a lot of steps, it’s fairly simple. Because I had to make the jalapeño sauce, I skipped making pesto from scratch like I normally do and just used the store bought variety.

The first go around with this idea, I used zucchini noodles. It was even greener that way. Take a look:

Ugh, even the plate is too messy for my liking.

The zucchini was really good. You could actually use any form of pasta you wanted in this recipe. I decided to use gnocchi because I ran out of zucchini and I happened to have a big bag of it I had made and frozen a few days earlier. Also, hubby loves it, so now there are three of his favorite things on the plate. My homemade gnocchi was ricotta, which is a little lighter than the standard potato version. I can’t take credit, I used this recipe by my favorite chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian.

The real problem with the initial version was the chicken. I didn’t dredge it in flour at all. The sauce kind of fell off in the pan and it came out a bit dry and colorless. It was OK, but I knew I could do better. By adding the flour coating and getting a quick sear on it, the sauce was encased in the crust that formed. This made for an extremely juicy and more flavorful piece of chicken. Here’s what the floured version looked like after the pan and before the oven:

You can really see all that green sauce in there, it looks a little crazy!

I also didn’t save enough of the sauce before marinating on round one. The already dry chicken didn’t even get the help of bring dressed before serving. It only had the marinade that survived cooking in the pan and the oven, which wasn’t a lot. If you try this recipe out, follow the chicken instructions carefully. The pasta element, feel free to use whatever you like.

Cooking should be enjoyable. No one hits a home run every single time, so once in while experiment and try new ideas. Those chefs on TV didn’t get there by just copying things from a book every time. You may come up with your new favorite meal. Sometimes you may have to quit and order a pizza, no big deal.

I hope you all have a fun and safe St Patrick’s Day, full of great food and a few drinks, of course. Cheers!

Trying New Things

I text my husband “what do you want for dinner?” He replies “to be honest, I’m in the mood for gnocchi. maybe with some pesto?” I say “no problem”.

I’ve never made gnocchi. But I like a challenge. Here are my tips for trying a new recipe:

  1. If you’ve never eaten it, don’t make it. How can a dish be successful if you’re not sure what the outcome is supposed to be? My husband is a gnocchi freak and orders it at Italian restaurants all the time. I don’t ever choose it for myself, but we always share plates so I knew the texture, flavor and look I was trying to achieve.
  2. If you don’t have the correct tools and ingredients, don’t do it. In this case, I didn’t have a way to properly prep potatoes (say that 5 times fast) so I opted for the ricotta gnocchi route. But make sure you find a recipe you can follow exactly. If it’s your first try, it’s not the time to to be substituting ingredients and improvising.
  3. Always have a back up. I’ve made homemade pesto before so I was confident in that, but I totally grabbed a package of cheese ravioli from the store in case this all went to hell.

They weren’t the prettiest, but it was delicious and blew my husband’s mind. I also had plenty of gnocchi leftover to freeze, so I can try again soon with a different sauce.

The funny thing is, anyone who knew me when I was young would never expect me to be writing a food blog. Or writing a post entitled “trying new things.”

I was an extremely picky eater thoughout my childhood and adolescence. There were years of my life that I basically only ate pizza, chicken tenders, fries, baked potatoes, yogurt and bread. I remember being embarrassed that my parents would ask, and even pay extra, for the waiter at the local Italian restaurant to go next door and get me fries. I remember pigging out before sleepovers so I wouldn’t be hungry when everyone else was eating food I was scared of. I remember any time I did attempt to try something new, everyone staring at me, waiting to see what I said and usually being disappointed in my negative reaction.

I got a little better in high school, but still avoided eating in public and having to explain all my self inflicted limitations. My turning point was the college cafeteria. I realized no one knew I was a picky eater unless I told them. So I didn’t. I went to lunch alone a couple times a week and used that time to try things. Then sophomore year I moved off campus and had my own space to cook and eat. No one was there to roll their eyes or sigh when I didn’t like something. No one made a big deal when I ate something new and liked it. It was like a weight being lifted.

So fast forward. I’m nearly 30, and I love food. What was once my enemy is now my passion. I’m still a little picky, hence the title, but I’m no longer scared of food and new things. The one big obstacle is that I have not eaten red meat since I was a toddler, and can’t see myself doing so in the future. Well, unless I’m at a bar and someone orders cheese fries… I’m not opposed to a couple bacon bits when I’ve been drinking.

So that’s the story behind The Picky Gourmet. I’m excited to have started this blog and I’m excited to learn new things and eat good food. Hope you all enjoy!


{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}