My first year out of college I had the privilege of living in the greatest city in the world, a city that so many others can only dream of: Edinburgh, Scotland. And yes, I have been to New York City (in fact, I currently live there), so I think I’m in a position to make this claim. Edinburgh is full of myths and history, arts and literature, good food and festivals, you name it. And you can find other people who agree with me here and here. If you still have trouble believing me, just see for yourself:
I moved to Edinburgh to earn my (first of two that I’m not currently using) Master’s degree. I chose to study Literature and Society from 1688-1900 at the University of Edinburgh (which is about 200 years older than our entire country, by the way) and spent a year reading and discussing my favorite authors from my favorite time period in my favorite city. And I still miss it just about every day.
Now, dear reader, to the point: if there’s one food that the UK makes especially deliciously, it’s the jacket potato (and yorkshire puddings, and meat pies, and fish & chips, and bangers & mash, and … now I’m salivating). What’s the difference between a jacket potato and a regular baked potato, you ask? Everything! One is a spud cooked to perfection, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The other is, well, a baked potato. And while I was living in Scotland, I regularly ate some of the best jacket potatoes.
See, on the corner of Buccleuch Street just past the Meadows where you turn to get to David Hume Tower, there is a magical place called Rotato. They cook their jacket potatoes on a rotisserie-style spit (hence the portmanteau of “rotate” and “potato”) and they come out perfectly every time. Rotato is essentially a jacket potato bar, where you can load up your spud with any of their delicious toppings. And I always, always got a Vespa, which is pesto chicken with cheese and rocket (and I might have added sour cream once in awhile). I’d occasionally tell myself I was going to try something new, but I just couldn’t resist that winning combination. While those flavors may not scream “Scotland” to anyone else (it’s no haggis, neeps and tatties), they can’t help but bring me back to the best place on Earth.
So when my husband was out of town again last Thursday (this time on retreat with his students), I decided to attempt a pesto chicken jacket potato. This jacket potato would have to be slightly different than the many I enjoyed in Edinburgh, since it would have no sour cream or cheese, but the craving would not be denied. I turned, once again, to my old friend Google for help.
There are two main components to consider when making the pesto chicken jacket potato. First, the pesto chicken. At it’s core, this is just a simple matter of mixing pesto with cooked chicken. But on Whole30, nothing is simple. Because every store-bought pesto has, you guessed it, cheese, Gromit, cheese! And we can’t eat cheese. So I was forced to make my own. I found a recipe for Roasted Garlic Paleo Pesto from Fed & Fit that uses roasted garlic to boost the flavor in place of cheese.
Honestly, this is probably the most I’ve ever used my little food processor, aka the attachment to our immersion blender. What a great wedding gift this has turned out to be! And the pesto was easy enough to make, if you followed the instructions, which was basically to combine the ingredients a few at a time. So I soon had a little jar of homemade pesto to spoon over my cooked chicken.
For chicken, I obviously went with chicken thighs, as they are far superior to chicken breasts, whatever the health nuts try to tell you. I roasted them in the oven, sprinkled with just some salt and pepper, before dicing and mixing with the pesto.
I finally turned my attention to the potato portion of the meal. Google turned up multiple results for “perfect jacket potatoes” but in the end it came down to either the BBC’s Good Food’s recipe or one from the Guardian. The Guardian won out, so I stuck my russet potato on the rack in a 425 degree oven, coated with the tiniest bit of olive oil and some kosher salt, for about an hour. When it came out, it was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, just as I was promised. I wasted no time loading that bad boy up with pesto chicken and digging in.
And it was just as delicious as I remembered it. Looks like jacket potatoes are back on the menu, boys!