Thoughts on Life


I’ve been back from Taipei for over a month, but I’m finally getting myself together to write and to share some of the photos I took. I decided to shoot film on this trip, and I’m so glad I did. The tones of the film captured the atmosphere of the city so perfectly. I’d forgotten how satisfying and surprising it is to get your film back from the shop and look through what you shot.

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Honestly, the trip was a blur. A stunning, delicious blur. Our schedule was packed from morning until night. We got by taking naps in the car most days. We packed so much into a short time, jet lag be damned. It was unlike any trip I’ve ever taken.

This was my first trip to Asia, and my first trip to a country where I couldn’t decipher any of the language, written or spoken. Hello and thank you are all I’ve got in Chinese. It’s such a different experience to visit a place where your brain doesn’t work in the usual ways. It was freeing to give up trying to figure anything out and just let the experience of the place wash over me. I felt like a kid, eyes wide, taking it all in, amazed because everything was so new and unfamiliar and beautiful. It is truly lovely to just follow along, knowing you’ll be taken care of and whatever comes next will likely top what was before it. I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Taipei is a beautiful city. And food city. I’ve never eaten so well in a single week. We had soup dumplings, traditional Taiwanese food, mind-blowing sushi, modern Cantonese food, Taiwanese noodles, Japanese barbecue, hot pot, Taiwanese street food, ramen, and so much tea. Chaz, our generous host, knows how to eat and he left no stone unturned. We’d sit down at a restaurant and food would appear at the table, more food than five people could possibly eat, and we’d dig in. I ate it all, and it was incredible.

Taiwanese food is a very fresh, clean cuisine. The seasoning is simple, a little ginger, soy, green onion, maybe a little chili if it’s a spicy dish. The focus seems to be on letting the ingredient—the meat, the seafood, the vegetable—really shine. Not to mention the quality and diversity of the seafood is unlike anything you can get in the United States. I had a clam soup made with only clams, water, ginger and green onion, and it was perfection. And the noodles. Oh the noodles. It was an education.

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We also visited museums, museums of historical Chinese artifacts and modern art museums. There were food markets, night markets, tea houses and temples. I rode a gondola plastered with Hello Kitty stickers into the mountains, and the fastest elevator in the world to the 88th floor of Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings ever built. I went to a five story electronics market and sang private room karaoke. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina might have been my best performance. I took baths and watched Project Runway at 3 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep from the jet lag.  Even looking at the photos, proof that it all happened, it still feels like a dream.

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I feel incredibly thankful to have had the chance to take such a phenomenal trip. Not everyone works with such good people every day, and even fewer are treated to trips around the world. Such friendship and generosity is not lost on me. I’m sure I’ll share more stories from the trip as they come back to me, and as they work their way into my cooking.

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And, before you go take a nap or a shot of whiskey to revitalize yourself after finishing this epic post, happy holidays, merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah! I hope your days are filled sharing food you love with the people you love. There isn’t anything better.

Xo, Emily


christmas cookie day

Every year, I host a Christmas cookie party. We bake and decorate, drink mimosas, eat take out tacos from spot next door. The tradition actually goes back further to when I was living in D.C. during college. My Maryland family, the Adinehs, would host a Christmas cookie party of impressive proportions. If there were not at least 12 types of cookies baked and two card tables piled high with delicious treats by the end of it, we had not done our job. I learned from the best, and try to recreate it every year in considerably less kitchen real estate.


This year, our friend Kelly brought a new technique to the table. She made her own cookie cutters! Using this tutorial, she made a cookie cutter based on her Boston terrier puppy Nibbler and another based on the artist Keith Haring’s work.  Serious cookie dedication. We were all impressed. Go Kelly!

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There were also Laura Bush’s famous cowboy cookies, whole wheat chocolate chip sablés, peanut butter and jelly sandwich cookies, pecan sandies, and double chocolate biscotti for my Food Blogger Cookie Swap friends. We baked from 11 am to 8 pm, which is precisely why Cookie Day is one of my favorite holiday traditions—pure dedication to the art of cookie making combined with very little restraint. I cannot wait for next year.


Granny’s Sugar Cookies, from Nonnie
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour

Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar and cream together for a few more minutes. Add the egg. In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until combined. Divide into two balls, flatten into discs and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Roll out into 1/4″ thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 400° for 6 – 8 minutes. These babies cook fast so set a timer!

For the icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (trust me, it will save you time in the end)
a few tablespoons of milk
food coloring

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Start with 3 tablespoons of milk and whisk together. It will be a big sugary clump. Add a tablespoon of milk at a time, until you get a smooth icing. Careful though, you don’t want it to be so runny it runs of the cookie. Divide into as many small bowls or cups as colors you’d like to make and add the food coloring. I’d recommend getting a pack of cheap paint brushes so you can get real precise with your icing.

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Double Chocolate Biscotti, adapted from my Nonnie’s recipe
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 cup neutral oil, like canola
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup flaked coconut
1 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Guittard)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the eggs, egg whites and oil. Add in the sugar, vanilla, salt, and flaked coconut, and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and baking power.  In a sauté pan, brown the nuts over medium heat. Pour the nuts into a food processor and pulse a few times, add the chocolate chips and pulse a few more times. This will chop both up a bit, and also start to melt the chocolate. Add the nut and chocolate mixture to the stand mixer, and mix to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture on low speed, and mix until all of the flour is incorporated.

Divide the dough into four parts. Scoop the dough onto four pieces of plastic wrap. Wrap in plastic and shape into a flat log shape. This takes a little maneuvering, but you can make it happen. Let the dough chill overnight.

Preheat your oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place two biscotti logs on each baking sheet whole. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and using a sharp knife, cut the logs into strips. Spread the strips apart and turn them onto their sides. Return to the oven and cook for about 20 more minutes. You want the cookies to be dry and crunchy. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Once cooled, melt about 12 oz of chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the bottom of each biscotti into the chocolate and then let them rest on their sides for the chocolate to harden, depending on the temperature and humidity, this can take an hour or so. You can also put them in the fridge to quicken the hardening process. Store in an airtight container.


Cowboy Cookies, by Laura Bush
These are Hilary’s go to cookie. They are huge, chewy and delicious. She says she likes to keep a roll of dough in her freezer and slice of a cookie or two when she needs a pick me up. I’m digging that idea.

Pecan Sandies, by Thomas Keller
Like all things Thomas Keller, these are lovely and refined. Kelly says that the batch is on the small side, and you should double it if you’re not making other types of cookies.

Whole Wheat Sablés with Chocolate Chips, adapted from Orangette
I follow this recipe, but swapped 2/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips for the cocoa nibs. I’d love to try them with nibs, I’m sure they’d be lovely. I also may have let mine cook a few minutes long, but that added a pleasant browned butter flavor, so no harm done.

Peanut Butter Cookies, from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Robin made a double batch and then sandwiched some jelly between two cookies. I’m working with a creative bunch here.

Almond Spice Cookies, from Epicurious
These were a bit of a challenge. We used them as roll out cookies for decorating, but they required quite of bit of persistence and wrangling on the behalf of Kelly to be shaped into submission. They’re tasty, but I think we’ll try something else next year.




almond cake and tea

I got back from my trip to Taiwan a week before Thanksgiving, and time has just been barreling forward since.  Work, work, work, Thanksgiving, weekend of wedding scheming with my mom, radio appearance, work, work, work, work, work, Christmas Cookie Day, try recipes from a friend’s new cookbook, back to work. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be moving at this clip through the end of the year.

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But, somewhere in there, I did have time to make this cake. This slow down and savor the moment with a cup of tea cake. Neither Jordan or I are big fans of almond flavored desserts typically, but this cake is really perfection. The crumb is tight, but not too dense, and not at all dry. The almond flavor is just right. Not enough to taste fake, just enough to say, ‘yes sir, I am an almond cake. Pleased to be your breakfast’.

I love a cake that transitions effortlessly from dessert to breakfast. Some days mustering up the strength to get out of the door is tough. Cake helps with that. This cake is my breakfast cake ideal, and I’ve been thinking about it every breakfast since I made it a few weeks ago. It feels almost premature to say this one is being promoted to one of my go-to recipes, but I’m going to put it out there. It really is that good.


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In Taiwan we drank a lot of tea. It was on of my favorite parts of the trip. We’d slow down from the marathon eating and sightseeing (which also was an absolute treat), to sit down in a quiet place and share some tea. There’s a whole ritual associated with having tea in Taiwan, which the server would walk us through every time before passing the responsibility of tea-brewer onto someone in our group. Quite possibly this whole routine was just putting on a show for tourists, but I loved it nonetheless. Sitting in a quiet tea shop in a jet-lagged haze, misty air blowing in through the open windows, the business of the city moving along outside, drinking delicately brewed tea, letting the experiences of the trip wash over me. It was good.

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I tried to recreate the experience at home with Jordan, but it really wasn’t the same. I’m not quite as experienced a tea preparer as those tea house employees. Though Jordan did say that the tea tasted better out of the little tea set I brought back from Taiwan than out of our regular mugs. So that’s something. Plus, there was almond cake. Where there is tea, there should also be almond cake.

Almond Cake, from Orangette and adapted from Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 (7-ounce) tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Butter and then line a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper, and then butter the paper. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste a few pieces at a time, and beat on medium speed for 8 minutes. Yes this is a long time, but want the almond paste to be nicely incorporated—no chunks.

Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Beat in the almond extract and the sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter a couple of times to make sure that all of your flour has been mixed in.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly. Bake for about 1 hour – the cake will be a medium brown color and pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack, and cool the cake in its pan. Slice and serve with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert, or a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast.



you grew it, now eat it

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that seasonal cooking is what we’re all about here at The Answer is Always Pork. I’ve written in the past about how eating with the seasons really changes your perspective on food, how your cooking simply turns out better with far less effort if you’re cooking what’s freshest, and of course about my love for the woman who made seasonal and sustainable cooking truly sexy, Alice Waters.

Now it so happens that this Sunday morning I’m teaming up with my mom and her good friend Farmer Fred to talk about seasonal cooking on the radio! The radio! We’ll be talking about growing food and then eating it, and about how you can keep that beautiful cycle of growing and eating going all year round. Listen to us live from 9 am to 10 am on KFBK, and from 10 am to noon on KTSE.

I’ll try my best to track down the audio file for those of you who can’t listen live but want some seasonal cooking fodder—or for those who want to hear my best Ira Glass impression. Update: You can listen to our show on KFBK here, and KTSE here, or download the podcast from iTunes by searching “Get Growing with Farmer Fred” and “KFBK Garden Show”.  Get the 11/30 episode if you want to hear me, though I’m sure the other episodes are equally good.

Fall into Winter Recipe Round Up


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Coq au Vin
Curried Butternut Squash and Farro
Crab Boil
Herb-crusted Rack of Lamb with Crispy Potatoes
Leek and Butternut Squash Risotto
Lentil Stew over Rice
Linguine with Leeks and Mushrooms
Oven Roasted Fish with Citrus
Pasta with Kale, Portobello and Parmesan
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
Sole with Leeks and Potatoes
Soup with Lamb Meatballs and Winter Greens
Squash Stuffed with Barley and Chorizo

A few other dinners that we’re experimenting with: spaghetti squash tacos with tangy cabbage slaw, butternut squash and onion gratin with comté cheese, spicy soba noodles over greens and herbs.


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Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger
Cauliflower Soup
Caramelized Onion Tart
Leek Bread Pudding
Roasted Cauliflower
Winter Greens with Garlic Confit

And two sides that don’t have their own posts, but are our go-tos throughout the fall and winter:
Winter salad – spinach or lettuce, plus persimmon or pomegranate or supremed citrus, tossed with vinaigrette
Roasted veggie medley – heat oven to 400 F, toss any combination of brussel sprouts, beets, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, or squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, roast until browned, about 40 minutes.


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Apple Galette
Blood Orange Cake
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Citrus Olive Oil Cake
Pumpkin Ice Cream

You can find all of the wonderful produce mentioned in these recipes at your local farmers market, by joining a CSA, or by planting your own garden! There’s still time in the growing season to plant all of these delicious fruits and vegetables: apples, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, persimmons, pomegranate, potatoes, spinach.

If you’re in the Sacramento area and need planting advice, go visit my mom and her A+ crew at El Dorado Nursery and Garden. You’ll be eating delicious produce from your garden in no time!

Now tell me, what are your favorite fall and winter recipes? We’re always on the hunt for new ones.



jordan’s margarita

We eat a decent amount of vaguely Mexican food at our house—quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, burritos. I say ‘vaguely’ because what I usually throw together is so gringa, it verges on embarrassing. But let’s get real, whatever vehicle I can use to get pepperjack and sour cream into my mouth, I’m down with it.

Guacamole, my ancho chili black beans (recipe: can of black beans + onion + ancho chili powder + salt, simmered 20 minutes) and cabbage slaw (recipe: cabbage + lime juice + sour cream + salt, tossed) commonly make an appearance, and if we’re lucky, so do Jordan’s margaritas.

Jordan’s been perfecting his margarita recipe for quite a while now, and this one packs a decent punch. None of that citric acid / corn syrup bullshit goes down around here, just the perfect union of lime and tequila. I’m feeling pretty good by the time I’m warming up tortillas.


Jordan’s Margarita, serves two
1 1/2 – 2 oz fresh lime juice (depending on how sour your limes are)
1 1/2 oz tequila
1 oz mezcal (use more tequila if you don’t have mezcal, but it does add a nice smokiness to the drink)
3/4 oz agave nectar

Combine ingredients in a shaker and stir with ice. Strain into two glasses with ice. Salt the rim if you’re feeling fancy, but we usually don’t bother. That lime wedge garnish, also totally optional.



Ps. Look at that bowl of pico de gallo! Our CSA is still somehow sending us tomatoes (global warming, impressive storage techniques?), and Jordan threw some salsa together. Those knife skills! Good thing I’m tying that one down.

Pps. I’m going to Taipei, Taiwan on Wednesday for work! My plan is to eat all the things and take many, many photos. Jordan’s dad’s Canon AE-1 is coming out of retirement for the occasion. More upon my return!

Recipes San Francisco Thoughts on Life

tomato sauce, chicken broth and wedding plans

Saturday was the first weekend day I’d spent at home in a month—October really was an exceptionally busy month.  I took the day to catch up on home things, which mostly meant clearing 20 pounds of tomatoes and three chicken carcasses out of my freezer. Glamorous.


While my sauce and stock were simmering, I started a new weaving. I’ve been pretty into this small-scale textile art lately. Like cooking, it requires just enough effort and concentration to occupy my mind, but not so much that it’s no longer is relaxing. On top of that, the states are low. If you make a mistake, grab a pair of scissors and you start again. Low stakes, moderate concentration, repetitive movements, reruns of Archer in the background—ideal hobby characteristics in my opinion.

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We’ve also began to really put our minds to planning this whole wedding thing. My mom has been a tremendous help so far, taking most of the dull tasks off my plate, like booking hotels and shuttle buses and tables and chairs, and leaving me with the fun stuff, invitations, food, flowers, photgrapher. It’s a pretty lucky setup.

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The more things we plan, the more real it gets. I’ve got our Save the Date cards mocked up, and Jordan’s favorite of those attempts is sitting on our kitchen table. Every time I look at it, I think, we’re really doing this thing, aren’t we?

Even though we’ve been together for ages, marriage still feels like a big step. I have no doubts it’s the right one, but hitching your wagon to someone else’s forever, it’s hard to imagine that not feeling pretty huge, even when you know it’s exactly right.


Ps. Tomato Sauce Recipe & Canning Instructions, and Chicken Stock Recipe.





You and tonkatsu have probably met each other’s acquaintance at your local sushi restaurant. It’s usually an option in a bento box of some kind, alongside other Americanized favorites—salmon teriyaki, vegetable tempura, California rolls. Like Argentine milanesa or Italian chicken parmesan, tonkatsu is basically a pounded piece of meat that is breaded, fried and served with sauce. It’s hard to go wrong.

We don’t do anything fancy with our tonkatsu. It is easy to prep and takes just 10 minutes to fry (and you can shallow fry it – no need to bust out the dutch oven and a liter of oil).  We usually serve it in a large bowl with shredded cabbage, vinegar rice and a few garnishes picked up during the occasional visit to Japantown. It’s not traditional to serve tonkatsu with vinegar rice, but I love vinegar rice and it’s my kitchen. Plus it helps jazz up cabbage.

Tonkatsu | The Answer is Always Pork

2 thin cut, boneless pork chops, pounded a bit (you could also use chicken)
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
high temp oil for frying (safflower, sunflower, or canola oil)

For Serving
Vegetable and Fruit Sauce (Japanese BBQ sauce)
Vinegar sushi rice (1 cup rice, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt)
Shredded cabbage, about 1/2 cabbage cut into thin slices (toss with some rice vinegar if you’re not making vinegar rice)
Pickled ginger (optional)
Togarashi (Japanese dried chili pepper, optional)

Tonkatsu | The Answer is Always Pork

Cook your rice according to your rice cooker or the package directions. While your rice is cooking, make the sushi su by combining 1/4 cup rice vinegar,  2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan and heating until the sugar and salt dissolve. Slice your cabbage into very thin slices and set aside. Then prep the pork.

Using a rolling pin or the flat side of a meat mallet, pound the pork cutlets until they are about 1/2 inch thick. Season well with salt and pepper. Then dredge the pork in the flour, then the egg, then the panko. Set aside or refrigerate if your rice still has a while left to cook.

When your rice is done cooking, heat 1/2 inch of oil in a heavy sauté pan or cast iron skillet. When the oil is hot (test by dropping a bit of panko into the batter. If it immediately starts to bubble, the oil is ready), add the pork to the pan. Cook 5 minutes per side, until the pork is golden brown. Remove from the pan and let drain on a plate with paper towels or a cooling rack. Cut into thin strips.

Add the sushi su to the rice and stir gently to distribute.  Split the cabbage between two medium bowls. Top with some rice. Then top with the tonkatsu. Serve with Vegetable and Fruit sauce, togarashi, and pickled ginger.


Tonkatsu | The Answer is Always Pork


San Francisco Thoughts on Life

off to a wedding!


This Saturday, my cousin Katie is getting married, starting a new chapter with the man who is her perfect compliment. And as a fringe benefit of celebrating their love, I get to spend three whole days off in a row with mine! I’m feeling so much excitement going into this weekend, most especially to celebrate Katie and Scott, but also to see our family and get our groove on on that dance floor. Jordan on the dance floor is one of my favorite things. It’s going to be a wonderful weekend.

Mostly this is to say, since I’m not making the cake for this wedding, the recipe blogging will be sparse for a week or two while we celebrate (and recover from said celebration). I hope you have a beautiful few weeks. Tell someone special you love ’em, and tell them why. You can never do that enough.

Xo, Emily

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coq au vin

The second way we wanted to test cooking our beautiful chicken from Eatwell Farm was to braise it. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of braised chicken is coq au vin, and the second is Julia Child. (I won’t be offended if you click that link right now and improve your day significantly by watching a few minutes of The French Chef).

My love for Julia is great. She’s taught me many things over the years, things that are just as useful in the kitchen as outside of it. The most important is probably confidence (Never apologize!!!), and the second, humor (“They’ll never know!”, she winks and scrapes an omelet that jumped ship right back into the pan). Julia’s warmth and enthusiasm for life are something I aspire to, and when I cook her recipes, I feel that much closer to it.


Coq au vin tastes like comfort. You can’t go wrong with the slow simmered combination of chicken, wine and vegetables, it turns out delicious every time. And it’s impossible to not feel taken care of after you eat it. Isn’t that feeling, that love and community, exactly what inspires us every time we prepare a meal to share.

Coq au Vin, adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1-3 to 4 pound chicken, broken down (legs, thighs, wings, breasts, you know the drill)
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/4 cup cognac
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock (homemade if you got it, but if not, Better Than Bouillon concentrate isn’t half bad)
a few sprigs of thyme
a bay leaf
salt, pepper
2 tablespoons of bacon fat or oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 pound cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters

Preheat your oven to 300° F. Sprinkle the chicken pieces on both sides with salt. In a dutch oven over medium heat, heat the bacon fat or oil. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides. I’d do it in two batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Remove the browned chicken from the pot and set aside.


Add a bit more bacon fat or oil and sauté the vegetables until the onions are translucent, 7 – 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of cognac and then pour in the wine and chicken stock. Add the chicken back in along with a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. Bring everything to a boil.


Once it boils, cover the pot and put it in the oven. Let simmer for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, brown the mushrooms. Warm 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan. Add the mushrooms and brown them, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and put them on a plate.

After about 40 minutes, though you could go longer if you have a tough bird, remove the braise from the oven, and put it back on the stovetop. Fish out the chicken pieces and put them aside on a plate.

In the pan you browned the mushrooms in, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, add 2 tablespoons of flour. Cook the roux for a few minutes, until it is a light golden brown. Add the roux to the braising juices and whisk to combine. Bring the braising liquid back to a boil and the sauce will thicken nicely. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and then add the chicken and mushrooms back in.

You can serve the coq au vin immediately, or turn off the heat, cover and rewarm when you’re ready to eat. We served ours with mashed potatoes, but rice or pasta would also do just fine. It’s good to have something to soak up the sauce.


Isn’t that roasted chicken head a sight to behold?! The coq au vin is on the left, and Jordan knocked that sauce out of the park.


Ps. If you really want to nerd out and love Julia Child even more, read My Life in France, and then read this phenomenal biography by Bob Spitz. And if you’re in a bad mood, watch a few episodes of The French Chef. You cannot help but smile.


roast chicken

This past week, we had a wonderful opportunity through Eatwell Farm, our CSA farm, to cook three very special chickens. The chickens are a heritage breed, Black Australorp, and were raised in the open air on pasture for the past four months at their farm as part of a sustainable poultry project they’ve been developing at the farm. The birds were harvested the very same morning they were dropped off with me. I know for a fact that I’ve never had the chance to cook a chicken as fresh or as humanely raised as these beauties, and the experience was delicious from start to finish.


In the United States, and especially in big cities, we’re incredibly distanced from where our food comes from. Our meat comes butchered, pre-packaged and shrink-wrapped, even if we’re shopping at quality markets. It’s very easy to forget that meat comes from animals, animals who gave their life so that we could take pleasure in eating them. It’s a convenient system, but I find, even as a person who thinks about food a lot, I often forget this incredibly important fact.

And so it was exciting, and intimidating, to be handed three large birds with head and feet still attached on Friday afternoon. They were impressive and a bit scary with their black talons sticking eight inches out of a plastic bag. But what I did not expect when I signed up to test cooking a few chickens was how differently I’d feel about the birds because of this simple change in butchering style.


My emotional connection to sitting down for a meal is very strong, but I’ve never experienced that type of connection with a piece of raw meat before now. Sure I’ve appreciated a steak for it’s perfect marble, but holding that chicken’s head in my hand, examining it’s long, lean legs, I felt an entirely new appreciation for the creature and for the effort that went into raising it. Because it was undeniable that the bird I was planning to cook was a very real animal, cooking it was even more meaningful. I could begin to grasp the sacredness this exchange. That awareness is something that we don’t often experience with city living, and I’m grateful for it. Being more thoughtful and emotionally engaged is always a good thing, especially regarding something we do every single day—eat.

Now, what you really want to know—how did that handsome bird taste? The skin was phenomenal. Thicker and fattier than a typical store-bought chicken, which meant it crisped up into perfect chicken cracklins! I could have eaten the whole birds worth on my own. The meat was far more complex than a conventional bird, even the breasts had a ton of flavor. The thighs and legs were not as tender, but I liked that, evidence that the bird used it’s muscles like it was meant to. Our friend Josh thought the chicken tasted wild, and meant that in the most complimentary way possible. Thanks to these chickens, we had two very special meals, and I’d jump at the chance to cook more of these wonderful birds.


Roast Chicken with Butter, Piment d’Ville and Lemon
1 whole chicken
kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Piment d’Ville (or other mildly spicy and flavorful pepper, piment d’espelette, paprika, ancho chili)
1 lemon

A note on my butchering before we begin, I roasted these birds the same way on two separate occasions. One I brought over to our friends place, and not knowing the size of their oven, I cut off part of the legs and butterflied the chicken. These were tall chickens! The other I roasted at home and left completely intact, using tinfoil to keep the bird upright. I must say quite enjoyed the presentation!

One day before you plan to cook your chicken, sprinkle it liberally with salt. I like to use about 1 teaspoon per pound, as the wonderful Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café recommends (and if anyone knows a roast chicken, it’s Zuni). Salting early allows the salt to really permeate the meat and keeps it very moist after cooking.

Preheat your oven to 400° F. Place your chicken in the center of a large roasting pan. After about 25 minutes, baste your bird with the fat that has rendered out. Tilt the pan, and just spoon the fat over the whole chicken. After about 35 minutes, check the it and baste it again, this time with a little melted butter. My bird was done after about 40 minutes, but be sure to check yours for doneness. The internal temperature should be 160° F.


Remove the chicken from the oven, and sprinkle it with the Piment d’Ville, or whatever pepper is your favorite. Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. Carve the chicken, taking care to put a piece of crispy skin with each piece of meat. Pour the remaining melted butter over the carved chicken pieces and sprinkle with lemon juice.


Ps. Coming up next with our final chicken—coq au vin!