Mama G. serves up a simple and flavorful dish that’s too good not to share

Crispy Red Potato Shish Kabobs with Walnut PestoNV Cook Aug Sept '16

Mama G. serves up a simple and flavorful dish that’s too good not to share.

By Leann Grunwald


I enjoy creating recipes for all types of foods, repurposing and reimagining. One of my favorite tactics is to make a side dish and serve it as an entree. Or, to create a gourmet meal with bits and pieces of previous creations.

This recipe began as pesto sauce only, which had origins in a side dish for my children’s cooking classes. I knew I needed to get my walnut pesto recipe into the hands of North Valley Magazine readers. It’s just too good not to share.

When I started, I had all the ingredients from teaching a class earlier that morning to make the pesto and take photos for this column. But, the recipe didn’t feel complete on its own. The following day I prepared my caramelized crispy potatoes. Once again, I knew I needed to also share this fabulous recipe. Quite simply, the pesto served over the potatoes is decadent gourmet made simple.

On day three, I had two fantastic dishes combined into one that I was ready to photograph. “Wait,” I thought to myself. “What about shish kabobs.” That’s it, I would serve the walnut pesto over crispy potatoes and grilled chicken on a skewer. It’s a tasty pairing that is quick, easy, and flavorful.


Pesto Sauce

1          cup chopped walnuts

1          jalapeno, seeded

3          cloves of garlic

2          cups fresh Parmesan cheese

1          tsp. sea salt, or to taste

1          tsp. cracked black pepper

1          lime, juiced

1          cup arugula

1          cup Spinach

1/4      cup olive oil


In a food processor, combine the walnuts, jalapeno, garlic, cheese, salt, pepper, and lime juice.

Process the mixture until smooth.

Add the arugula and spinach and process until blended.

Add the olive oil and blend.


Crispy Red Potatoes


10        small red potatoes, sliced in half

3          Tbs. olive oil

1          large red onion

3          garlic cloves, minced

1          sprig of thyme, chopped fine

1          tsp. sea salt

1          tsp. cracked black pepper

1          sprig of thyme, chopped fine


Preheat a cast-iron pan to medium high for 15 minutes.

Microwave potatoes for approximately 7 minutes. You don’t want soft potatoes, so gauge after 5 minutes.


Add olive oil into pan. If pan has wild smoke, you don’t want to add oil because it will catch fire. Turn heat down and allow temperature to change.

Add onions and allow them to caramelize, add garlic roughly three fourths of the way through.

Add thyme and push the mixture to the side.

Add potato flesh side down, being careful not to move the potatoes until they take on a golden brown appearance.

Fold potatoes carefully from the bottom up with the onions to prevent damaging the structure of the potato.

Add extra olive oil as desired.

Cook until caramelized together, using caution not to overcook so that the potatoes will retain their structure to thread onto skewers.


Shish Kabobs

Small chicken breast chunks.

Garlic salt (to taste)

Sea salt (to taste)

Fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)

1/4       cup olive oil

crispy red potatoes (from recipe above)

walnut pesto for dipping (from recipe above)


Combine the chicken chunks, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a bowl and coat chicken well.

Preheat large cast iron pan to medium high for 15 minutes.

Thread skewers with chicken and potatoes, leaving 1/4 inch between each thread.

Place into pan and cook each side rotating every 1 to 2 minutes. When chicken edges are opaque, it is time to turn.

Serve with pesto sauce


Keys to Success

Counter chicken a half an hour before cooking. This takes the chill off. If you try to cook cold chicken it will not sear and will take longer to cook, which will yield overdone results.

Counter crispy potatoes for half an hour to 40 minutes to remove the chill (if you’ve refrigerated them overnight). This ensures proper reheating.

Cast iron is perfect for searing because it conducts even heat and maintains temperature. It also yields non-stick results.


The History of Shish Kabobs

The shish kabob was born over the open field fires of the soldiers of the Turkic tribes. They used their swords to grill meat, as they pushed west from their homelands in central Asia.

Shish kabob means “skewer” and “roast meat,” and is a signature Turkish meal. Traditionally, unusual meats used in shish kabobs were marinated not only to tenderize, but also to get rid of gamy flavor.

The Red Potato

Small, round or oblong with a smooth, thin red skin

A waxy and smooth texture

Offers a sweet, mild flavor with a medium sugar content

Because of its waxy texture, the flesh of red potatoes stays firm throughout the cooking process


The Definition of Caramelize

  1. To turn into caramel.
  2. To cook food with sugar so that it becomes coated with caramel.


Basic Tips

Potatoes need lots of salt and pepper. Begin with 1 teaspoon and more add as needed.

Garlic burns. Turn it often in the pan.

You can buy fresh peeled garlic in a bag. It’s magnificent. Say goodbye to peeling garlic.

Do not overcrowd potatoes, they will not brown and crisp.

Soak wooden skewers in water before using.

Make sure the potato is not cold when threading skewers.












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