Nom Nom Paleo

How Green Was My Chicken

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Scratching your head about what to make for St. Patrick’s Day? Try my sister’s phenomenal Green Chicken. It’s not exactly a traditional Irish dish, but it’s butt-kickingly delicious. 

Plus, it’s green! (Hence the name.)

This stuff’s even greener than the Chicago River right now!

If you don’t have chicken at the ready, you can use the emerald-green marinade as a sauce — just drizzle it in soups or on grilled meats for an instant boost of flavor (and color).

One more reason this recipe’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day: my sister’s (married) name is Fiona Kennedy, which is just about as Irish as a Chinese-American gal can get.

Convinced? Then go get the recipe here!

(Want more Paleo-friendly St. Paddy’s Day recipes? Check out these recommendations from the Philadelphia Inquirer, A Girl Worth Saving, and Against All Grain!)

Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my New York Times bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).

Cracklin’ Chicken

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Cracklin' Chicken by Michelle Tam

The past couple of months have been absolutely bananas. Between working my zombie drug dealer shifts at the hospital, zipping through Asia, throwing a book release party, and pin-balling my way around Southern California, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest to meet readers on my book tour, I haven’t spent much time at home with my family, let alone cook for them. So you can imagine my delight when Henry and the Os finally joined me in Portland and Seattle for the last few days of my book tour—and I was even happier to return home on Monday.

After dragging our luggage into our entryway, I headed straight for my kitchen. I was dead tired, but it had been a while since I whipped up a home-cooked meal. I was itching to fire up the stove, despite having next-to-nothing in the fridge. So what’s a lazy (but hungry) mommy to do? Why, fry up a batch of Cracklin’ Chicken (a.k.a. Lil-O’s favorite crispy chicken thighs), of course!

Cracklin' Chicken by Michelle Tam

Longtime readers of this blog (and owners of my new cookbook!) know that my younger son is a picky and headstrong little guy who wasn’t exactly keen on this whole Paleo thing. At the age of three, he almost ran away from home when the whole-grain mac & cheese disappeared from our cupboard.

The transition wasn’t smooth, but with persistence and patience, we got our whole family eating the same dishes at mealtimes. Obviously, compromise is a necessity, and I do my best to make dishes we all can agree on. When I ask the kids for suggestions, Lil-O always asks for Cracklin’ Chicken. (That is, when he’s not throwing out made-up names for imaginary dishes like “Big Buddy with a Ham Chuddy” or “Chewy Butt Stew.”)

Cracklin' Chicken by Michelle Tam

Cracklin’ Chicken’s one of my favorite dishes, too. These crispy-on-the-outside, tender-and-juicy-on-the-inside boneless chicken thighs are quick and easy to prepare, and taste fantastic with whatever seasoning I have on hand—even if it’s just salt and pepper. And for those of you who care, this recipe’s Whole30- and 21DSD-friendly to boot!

Cracklin' Chicken by Michelle Tam

Some key tips for this recipe:

  • Buy bone-in, skin-on thighs—they’re inexpensive. Plus, the bones are easy to remove, and the crispy skin is what makes this dish. I vastly prefer thighs over breasts for this recipe—to me, breasts tend to dry out and end up more bland.
  • Use a pair of sharp kitchen shears to remove the bones. (Reserve the bones in the freezer for your next batch of bone broth!)
  • Dry the chicken thighs well, and season both sides of the thigh with salt, but ONLY the meat side gets additional seasoning and/or pepper. If you put other seasonings on the skin, it’ll run the risk of burning. Then, everyone will be sad. Tears are not tasty.

Ready for my fool-proof method for a crowd-pleasing, kid-approved chicken dinner?

Cracklin' Chicken by Michelle Tam

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Doro Wat (Spicy Ethiopian Chicken Stew)

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Doro Wat (Spicy Ethiopian Chicken Stew) by Michelle Tam

Half a lifetime ago, I moved to Berkeley to attend college at the University of California—the birthplace of the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. I missed the action by a generation, but even as a wide-eyed freshman in the early nineties, I saw that the hippie flag still flew proudly. Aging Deadheads, Telegraph Avenue panhandlers, and hackey-sacking students alike reveled in the free-wheeling, anything-goes spirit of the community. For many of us who were living on our own for the first time, the intoxicating scent of freedom was in the air. (The air smelled like other things, too. We’re talking about Berkeley, after all.)

And why not? College is the time for experimentation. Some of my peers dabbled in mind-altering substances. Others explored alternative cultures, music, religions, sexual identities, and politics. Some took off all their clothes and strolled around campus naked.

Me? I was just there for the food.

Doro Wat (Spicy Ethiopian Chicken Stew) by Michelle Tam

I’d never tried African cuisine before college. But not long after my newly-laminated student ID was in my wallet, one of my friends—an oh-so-worldly sophomore—invited me to dinner at The Blue Nile, a now defunct Berkeley institution (right next to People’s Park!) that served up rich, spicy Ethiopian stews and a sweet honey wine called tej.

There, in the restaurant’s dark and cozy dining room, I was introduced to a multitude of fragrant, assertively spiced dishes, from yebeg alicha (a hearty lamb stew) to siga tibs (beef sautéed with onions and tongue-tingling spices). These long-simmered stews came served atop a thin layer of soft injera bread. My friend showed me how to tear off bite-size pieces of the spongy, sour bread and use them to scoop the stews into my mouth. Everything was lip-smackingly delicious. I was hooked on Ethiopian food.

After that, I made a point of seeking out Ethiopian and Eritrean joints. Wherever I happened to be—from Berkeley to Harlem, San Francisco to Boston—I’d make sure I wound up seated before a wicker mesob, hungrily tearing into a platter of slow-cooked meats, vegetables, and lentils.

Doro Wat (Spicy Ethiopian Chicken Stew) by Michelle Tam

Henry never really understood my all-consuming obsession with this cuisine. The glacially slow service at my favorite Ethiopian restaurants in San Francisco always drove my impatient husband nuts. Still, when prodded, even he would admit that the dishes are worth the long wait.

We both especially love doro wat—a slow-simmered spicy stew with fork-tender pieces of fall-off-the-bone chicken meat. Sadly, most Ethiopian restaurants only serve one or two chicken drumsticks with each order.

That’s one reason I decided to create my own Paleo-friendly doro wat recipe: I wanted to load up this fiery stew with as much chicken-y goodness as possible.

Doro Wat (Spicy Ethiopian Chicken Stew) by Michelle Tam

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Thai Curry Chicken

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Thai Curry Chicken by Michelle Tam

I’ve got a recipe that’s quicker, healthier, and tastier than ordering takeout from your neighborhood Thai joint.  Just grab some chicken (or whatever quick-cooking protein on hand) add some frozen and leftover vegetables, and stir in some curry paste and coconut milk. After a few minutes on the stove, you’ll have a fragrant, flavorful curry. Instead of tipping the delivery guy, you can give yourself a pat on the back instead.

My PSA of the day: Make sure your pantry is stocked with a few Thai curry pastes. My favorite brands are Aroy-D and Mae Ploy and I like yellow, red, and green. You can buy these pastes at most Asian markets, but choose the ones that only contain herbs and spices. Read your labels, folks.

Thai Curry Chicken by Michelle Tam

Ingredients (Serves 4 people):

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or fat of choice
  • 1 small onion, chopped medium
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai curry paste (whichever color you prefer)
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 10 ounces frozen vegetables
  • 2 cups leftover roasted kabocha squash
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice (optional)
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

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Asian Chicken Thighs

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No, I’m not calling this dish “Asian Chicken Thighs” solely because I’m of Chinese ancestry. (Though come to think of it, I call dibs on putting the prefix “Asian” on every one of my recipes. They sound more exotic that way, don’t you think?) 
Rather, this simple weeknight chicken dinner hits all the notes that you’ve come to expect from Asian comfort food. It’s savory, sweet, tangy, and packed with umami. And did I also mention that the marinade can be ready in just minutes?
Here’s what to gather to feed 4-6 people:
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 slices of fresh ginger, each approximately the size of a quarter
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons macadamia nut oil or fat of choice
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon Red Boat fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or if you’re on the Whole30 or avoiding honey, use ½ small apple, peeled, cored, and diced)
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 pounds chicken thighs
Here’s how to make the chicken:
Dump everything except for the chicken into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Then, bake the bird parts for 40 minutes at 400°F. The end!
What?!? You want to see step-by-step pictures? Man, you guys sure are demanding. But if you insist…

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Easiest Roast Chicken Ever

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…especially if you live near a Trader Joe’s

TJ’s has been in California for almost half a century, but in recent decades, stores have been sprouting up all over the U.S. Each store opening has been met with rabid excitement, and it’s not hard to see why. As Fortune Magazine once put it, ”Trader Joe’s is no ordinary grocery chain. It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience.”

The success of the chain is due in large part to its offerings: A tightly-curated selection of budget-friendly upscale goods, gourmet staples, and time-savers like pre-washed bagged kale, trimmed leeks, hardboiled eggs, you name it.

Of course, like just about every other big grocery chain, there’s plenty of super-processed Frankenfoods in the shopping aisles, too. Not everything that TJ’s carries is awesome (or awesome for you), but after two decades of shopping at Trader Joe’s, I still supplement my farmer’s market and CSA hauls with a weekly visit to the friendly workers at TJ’s. After all, there’s always something new to discover.

In fact, just last week, my super chef sister alerted me to one of TJ’s newest items: Organic brined whole chickens!

With this bird, it takes just ten minutes of hands-on prep time to make a complete supper that’s satisfying and flavorful. (A caveat: the chicken ain’t Whole30-approved ‘cause the brine contains some sugar.) While you’re waiting for the chicken to cook in the oven, you’ll have time to cuddle on the couch with your kids — or spend quality time surfing the interwebs. No judgment, I promise.

Here’s what to gather to feed 4-6 people:

  • 1 whole organic brined chicken (5 pounds)
  • 4 trimmed leeks, sliced
  • 4 organic carrots, cut medium
  • 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of softened butter or ghee, divided
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
Here’s how to get dinner on the table in an hour:
You can get all your ingredients at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s. If you don’t live in one of the 35 states where TJ’s operates, I’m sorry. Your dinner won’t be as quick and easy as this one, but you can always plan ahead by brining your own chicken and still follow along with the rest of this recipe.

The brined chickens at Trader Joe’s are about 5 pounds each, and will easily feed 4 to 6 people. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Although the instructions on the packaging tell you to rinse the bird, just blot it dry with a paper towel. (It won’t end up too salty, I promise.)

With a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut out the back bone…

…and trim away excess fat and skin. (Don’t forget to save the carcass and back bone for bone broth.)

Then, spatchcock the bird: Flip the chicken over and open it up like a book. Using a kitchen knife, cut a ½-inch through the cartilage on the breast bone and firmly press down with your hands to flatten it.

Next, prepare the veggies that will line the roasting pan.

Even though the trimmed leeks from TJ’s look clean, there’s still lots of dirt hidden in the folds. Keeping the root end intact, cut the rest of the leek in half lengthwise.

Give the leek a quarter-turn, and then slice it lengthwise again (at a right angle from the initial cut). Keep the root end intact!

Fan the leaves under running water to release the sand and mud.

Once the leeks are cleaned, flick off the excess water and slice ‘em crosswise.

Chop the carrots in uniform medium chunks…

…and toss them on a tray with the leeks.

Add the quartered mushrooms and toss on some salt and pepper. 

Dot the vegetables with half of the softened butter or ghee (2 tablespoons).

Lay the chicken on top of the seasoned vegetables, breast-side up.

Smush on the remaining two tablespoons of butter or ghee.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes or until the breast registers 150° F on a meat thermometer and the thigh meat hits 170° F.

(As you can see, I cooked my chicken in my amazing toaster oven. Yes, my regular oven remains broken. Boo!)

Brined chicken skin doesn’t get as toasty and crispy as a dry-rubbed chicken — but I’ll trade perfectly bronzed skin for juicy meat any day. 

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving it. In the meantime, toss the vegetables in the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

While you’re waiting to cut the chicken, sauté some greens to go with your chicken and roasted veggies.


Julia Child’s Classic Roast Chicken

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When Julia Child recommends a fool-proof way to roast a chicken, I sit up, shut up, and listen. 

In celebration of Julia Child’s incredible culinary legacy, this week’s JC100 recipe is the classic roast chicken from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom. Her techniques and tips for roasting a bird are simple and straightforward, and produce a bird with crispy skin and juicy, succulent meat. Even if — like me — you’re too lazy to baste as often as she recommends, the chicken will taste wonderful. Just make sure to follow this guide for cooking time: 45 minutes + 7 minutes per pound [e.g. 4-pound chicken = 45 + 7(4) = 73 minutes]. Also: Use LOTS of butter.

What I love best about this recipe is that you can double it and roast two chickens at the same time. That way, you’ll have plenty of leftovers and two carcasses with which to make bone broth. Winner, winner….oh, you know the rest.

Here’s what to gather to roast two chickens (serves 6-8 people):

  • 2 whole chickens, 4 pounds each
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 small onions, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons of softened butter
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped yams
  • 1/2 cup of chopped onions

Here’s how to roast the pair o’ birds:

Round up two roast chickens and pat them dry.

Liberally season the birds inside and out with salt and pepper. 

I like to salt my meat for at least a few hours and up to a day before I roast it to maximize  the flavor-boosting potential.

An hour before you’re ready to cook the chickens, take them out of the fridge to come to room temperature. At the same time, put your butter on the counter to soften, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Once the chickens are no longer chilly, dry them off with a paper towel and stuff the cavities with lemon slices, onion, and thyme.

With a piece of string, tie the drumsticks together…

…and tuck the wingtips back behind the chicken.

Use your fingers to massage the softened butter all over the skin, and lay the chickens breast-side up on the V-rack in a large roasting pan.

Place the roasting pan in the oven for 15 minutes to brown the skin. 

Next, decrease the oven temperature to 350°F and baste every 8 to 10 minutes if you’re so inclined. (Me? I didn’t baste AT ALL. I told you: I’m lazy.)

In a bowl, toss the carrots, yams, and chopped onions…

…with the remaining butter and salt and pepper. 

A half hour after the chicken first went in the oven, add the root vegetables to the pan and toss in the accumulated juices.

Check the chicken for doneness about five minutes before the recommended weight-based cooking time (see formula above) is up. (I checked my pair of 4-pound chickens at the 70 minute mark.) Use an instant read thermometer to make sure the thighs reach 165-170° F.

Remove the rack from the roasting pan and let the chicken rest for 20 minutes prior to carving.

Spoon on the root vegetables, carve up the birds, and dig in.

Asian Almond Chicken Salad

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I’ve been hankering for an Asian chicken salad with a nutty dressing for a while – especially since I got my hands on some Red Boat fish sauce.

When I held the Red Boat fish sauce Twitter and Facebook giveaway a few weeks ago, George Z. posted a recipe for a Thai “peanut” sauce that he originally found on the wonderful Primal food blog, This Primal Life. I modified it a little bit by adding a touch of applesauce for sweetness and subbing out rice wine vinegar with coconut vinegar. All in all, it’s a tasty dressing that you can use as a dipping sauce or drizzle on your favorite meats and veggies.

Check out the recipe after the jump!

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Damn Fine Chicken

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Did that title catch your attention? Good.

This recipe was inspired by David Lebovitz — whom I’ve already written about crushing on. I love his easy and delicious recipe for roast chicken with caramelized shallots, and this is my take on it. It’s super simple and scrumptious — MAKE IT ALREADY!

I’ve prepared this dish a number of different ways (subbing in different alliums, vinegars, and fats) depending on what I have available in my pantry, and it always comes out wonderfully. 

Here’s how I made enough chicken to feed 6:

  • 10 drumsticks
  • 2 large shallots, minced**
  • 3 Calçot onions or scallions, thinly sliced**
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil, virgin red palm oil, coconut oil, etc.
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon Red Boat fish sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fines herbes (optional)

(*in place of the alliums, you can sub in 3 tablespoons of Penzeys Spices’ Sunny Paris seasoning)

Here’s how to make it:

Mix together the shallots, onions, vinegar, oil, coconut aminos, salt (2 large pinches), fish sauce, and pepper in a large bowl.


Then, plop the drumsticks on top, and…


…use your hands to make sure the chicken is well-covered in marinade.



Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Personally, if I know I’m going to be short on time (which is almost always), I marinate this dish in the morning — that way, the drumsticks’ll be ready for me by the late afternoon, when I start preparing dinner.


When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375 F on convection bake (or 400 F non-convection). Arrange the chicken in an oven-safe baking dish, sprinkle on some Fines Herbes seasoning (if you want), and pop it in the oven.


Bake the chicken for 40-45 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through the cooking time.


Arrange the drumsticks on a platter, and…


Pour the cooking liquid over the chicken.


Simple and ridiculously good!

Super Easy Tandoori Chicken

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Man, oh man, this chicken dish is easy and delicious! Provided you have some Penzeys Tandoori seasoning on hand…

You do need to plan ahead a little bit because the chicken has to marinate for at least 4 hours, but the actual hands-on time is pretty minimal. In fact, this dish can be thrown together in about 10 minutes before you head off to work and it will be ready to bake when you get home. (Or, if you’re a night shift worker like me, you can throw it together in the morning before going to bed and it will be ready to go when you wake up.) I followed the tandoori chicken recipe on Penzeys Spices website with a few modifications and my results were quite remarkable.

Here’s what to assemble:

  • 4 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt (or substitute full fat coconut milk)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Penzeys tandoori seasoning
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or fat of choice

Here’s what to do:

Grab your thighs and trim off any excess blobs of fat. Season the chicken parts evenly with kosher salt and stick ‘em in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and the tandoori seasoning.


Pour in the lemon juice and mix well to combine.


Sometimes little hands are better at this step.


Once the marinade is ready…


…spoon it over the salted chicken…


…and work it into the poultry with your hands. 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours to marinate.


When you’re ready to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 375°F on convection roast setting (or 400°F in a non-convection oven).

Place a wire rack on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Grease the rack with a paper towel dipped in melted coconut oil.

Arrange the chicken on the rack skin-side down…


….and pop the tray in the oven for about 40 minutes…


…flipping the pieces skin-side up at the halfway mark.

The chicken’s done when there’s yummy charred bits all over and the juices run clear when stabbed with a skewer.


This dish was super-duper easy, moist, and delicious to boot. Get your keisters to a Penzeys ASAP!