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Chef's Corner: Jessica Rachel Conover - Executive Chef, McNally's Irish Pub

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Chef's Corner: Jessica Rachel Conover - Executive Chef, McNally's Irish Pub

I began cooking at the age of 16 in a small deli in my hometown, Sandwich, IL, Art’s Deli. The irony of my hometown’s name and a deli acting as the catalyst for my career has always been a joke in my family. Nonetheless, I developed a passion for food and hand crafting recipes while working throughout High school with Candy Gacek the chef at Art’s. (Free registration required.)

Upon graduation I attended Joliet Junior College for their school of Culinary Arts. I
obtained an internship while in the program at Courtwright’s in Willow Springs. Here I
learned the art of applying global influence to American Contemporary Cuisine under
Chef Gregg Lutes. It was also during this time that I made my first trip to Ireland with
my mother. The trip allowed me to trace my family’s roots and instilled in me a great
respect and fascination for Irish cuisine and culture.

Shortly after my graduation form Culinary School my father purchased a restaurant in
Sandwich. Kelly’s Pub and American Grill showcased our Irish heritage while allowing
me to develop a cooking style of my own. For seven years my family operated Kelly’s.
I managed the kitchen and all aspects of food development while my mother, brother
and father ran the front of the house. We prided ourselves in treating guests like family
and making sure everyone felt comfortable in our establishment. At the end of seven
years working with my family Ireland came calling once again.

An opportunity for me to work in Ireland presented itself and I couldn’t pass it up. I
spent four months working in Killarney at the Stonechat Restaurant. The owner was
Irish and the restaurant had been in his family for years. He took it over after moving
back to Ireland after ten years in New York and Chicago. His executive Chef Thomas
Kyba was originally from the Czech Republic but had lived in Ireland for several years.
Together they fused Traditional Irish Cuisine with the regional influences they had
acquired through their travels. When I returned home I used this experience to develop
my cooking style and began working at CityGate Grille in Naperville. I remained there
for two years until McNally’s opened their new establishment in St. Charles.

McNally’s and it owners seemed to be a perfect fit for me. At 30, I have spent the better
part of the last decade developing my passion for Irish food. Here I am able to apply
those skills to a restaurant that reveres classic Irish to food while still embracing the
eclectic influences of American cuisine.

The warm and inviting atmosphere of the McNally’s and its staff remind me so much
of what made my family’s business successful. It feels like returning home again after a
long and winding journey. I believe that our goal here at McNally’s is that every guest
new or old leaves feeling that same way. When I am not working, I love to travel and
spend time hiking with my Husky Marley.

Smoked Chicken Boxty
(Boxty is a traditional Irish Pancake)
Makes 4 Portions

Boxty Batter
4 lbs Quartered Yukon Gold Potatoes (skin on)
1.5 qt Buttermilk
3 Eggs
6 cups AP Flour
2 Cloves Garlic
1 TBS Shallot Minced
1 TBS Salt
1 TBS White Pepper

Directions - Blend quartered Yukon potatoes with Buttermilk in a
food processor. When mix becomes smooth add in
eggs, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Transfer ingredients
to a large bowl and gradually whisk in flour.

Once all the flour has been incorporated the mixture
should resemble thick pancake batter in consistency.
Heat a large sauté pan and coat the bottom evenly
with non-stick spray. Once the pan is hot fill the bottom
with enough batter to create a thin layer. When
the edges turn golden and air bubbles begin to
appear flip the Boxty. Allow the other side to cook
until firm then transfer to a plate to cool.

Fill the Boxty Pancake with Diced Grilled Chicken
Breast, Grilled Peppers, Onions and Gouda Cheese.
Top with Sweet Corn Chipotle Sauce and garnish
with fresh Cilantro.

Sweet Corn Chipotle Sauce
5 cups Roasted Sweet Corn
3 cups Heavy Cream
2 strips Thick Smoked Bacon (diced)
1 Tsp Roasted Chipotle Pepper (powder may be used)
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Lime Juice

Directions - Saute bacon until crispy then add sweet corn.
When the corn is tender add heavy cream and
remaining ingredients. Allow to simmer for about 15
minutes then puree in a food processor or blender.
Adjust salt and spice to taste.

Fill the Boxty Pancake with Diced Grilled Chicken
Breast, Grilled Peppers, Onions and Gouda Cheese.

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