gnocchi with roast chicken, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes in pesto cream sauce

It’s a little heartbreaking to me that many of my favorite dishes are ones that I’m too terrified to attempt to prepare at home: fish and seafood, baking from scratch, soufflés, most of the French mother sauces—and gnocchi.

Every time Greg and I go to Muffuletta, I order the gnocchi. And every time it’s perfect, and more delicious than I remember, with light pillows of potato, rich duck confit, and fresh tomatoes in a bright lemon-infused olive oil. It just seemed like an awful lot to live up to.

I’m not ready (or rich enough) to tackle duck confit. But when I picked up the monthly Fare for All groceries that Mom and I share, and I stared down a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes, I was emboldened. It was time to take a stand. It was time to make homemade gnocchi.

I used Anne Burrell’s recipe for Light as a Cloud Gnocchi, and sadly, my gnocchi turned out considerably heavier than clouds. Don’t get me wrong – they were a fine vehicle for the killer sauce I made. But they were heavier and doughier than I was hoping for. I’m guessing that the recipe is fine and the issue was USER ERROR. I think that I waited too long after baking the potatoes before passing them through the food mill. A mistake I don’t mean to duplicate. /Princess Bride

And I think I cut them too big.

But I conquered my fear of gnocchi (OOGITY! BOOGITY!). It was a long process, and it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped, and I’m going to try it again. I feel a little less scared of seafood and those French mother sauces now.

The flavors in the sauce are some of my favorites – basil, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon, and asparagus. The only complaint I have about the basil cream sauce accompanying the daredevil gnocchi is the chicken. It was roasted just the way I like it, but it didn’t seem to belong in this dish. Next time I’ll skip the chicken, and keep the focus on the gnocchi, vegetables, and sauce.

Recipe below the fold

Gnocchi with Roast Chicken, Asparagus, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Pesto Cream Sauce

4 chicken thighs
Olive oil
Kosher salt

1-½ cups fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup walnuts, toasted
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ recipe of gnocchi (make a full recipe and freeze half for another use.)

Preheat the oven to 350⁰. Place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet, skin side up, and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside to cool. When the chicken is cool enough to touch, separate the meat from the skin and bones. Freeze the skin and bones for stock. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Make the pesto while the chicken is baking. Place the basil, garlic, lemon juice, and toasted walnuts in the food processor. Gradually add olive oil while pulsing, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in Parmesan and salt to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for about a minute. Add the cream, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

In the meantime, bring two pots of salted water to a boil. Cook the asparagus in one of the pots for 5 minutes, drain, and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Stir the sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, pesto, and cubed chicken into the cream sauce.

Add the gnocchi to the second pot of salted boiling water. Cook the gnocchi until they float and get very puffy. When the gnocchi are cooked, carefully remove them from the cooking water and add them to the sauce. Stir in the grated parmesan cheese.

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