Primal Cooking Class: Quick and Easy Coq au Vin

A traditional French dish of chicken braised in wine, made quick and easy for the primal home cook.


Prep Time: 30 minutes               Cook Time: 60-75 minutes             Servings: 2-4

A classic French dish, coq au vin (literally chicken stewed in wine) is one of those meals that looks and tastes like you spent hours cooking. And you did … if you followed one of the old-fashioned recipes that calls for marinating the chicken for days and then braising it for hours in the oven.

I don’t have patience for that, particularly when the weather outside is finally getting warm and I want to get out for a nice hike or run along the river-side bike path. I also don’t have the desire to butcher a whole roasting chicken, and I find that the pearl onions commonly used in traditional preparations of the dish. Instead, I use boneless chicken thighs and finely chopped and sautéed red onion instead.

That said, I do tend to adhere to some of the more time-honored techniques, such as a slow-braise in a Dutch oven (during which time I can get some yard work done or hit the gym). I also stick with using a red Burgundy wine for the braising liquid, although you can use other varietals like a California Pinot Noir or a Riesling from the Alsace.



  • 2 lb. boneless chicken thighs (about 6-8). You can either go with skin on or skin off, but if the former be sure to sear them skin side down until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp. Bone-in thighs are fine too.
  • ¾ cup of dried wild mushrooms (I used dried Shiitake mushrooms but a nice mix is always good)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil, ghee, or avocado oil (a good quality olive oil is fine too, but try to avoid it when cooking because of the lower smoke point)
  • ¼ lbs. bacon or pancetta, cut into ½-inch cubes (I used Applewood-smoked bacon that I get fresh from Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse, about 45 minutes north of me in Warrensburg, NY)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 medium or a handful of baby carrots)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups of a dry, fruity red wine like Burgundy (when cooking with wine, always use wine you would drink not some cheap swill)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (I use homemade but any good quality broth will do)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme)
  • 3 tablespoon finely chopped parsley for garnish


Preheat oven to 250º F (125º C).

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and pour enough boiling water over to cover, then set aside.

Heat your fat over medium in a large Dutch oven with a lid (I like to use a heavy cast iron one, but any oven-safe pot with a lid will do). Add the bacon or pancetta and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-covered plate with a slotted spoon and let drain.

Add the onions to the Dutch oven and cook another minute or two, until onions begin to soften. While the onions are cooking, pat the chicken thighs dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. (Note: Always practice good sanitation. In the images above and below, I flipped the cutting board between dicing the bacon, chopping the onion, and seasoning the chicken so as not to cross-contaminate anything. Alternatively, you can use a cutting board with inserts for different foods like meat, poultry and vegetables; I have one of those as well, purchased on Amazon).

Push the onions to the side of the Dutch oven and add the chicken. If using skin-on chicken, place it skin side until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp and golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. If using skinless thighs, you just want to get a nice sear on the top, about 4-5 minutes.

Flip the chicken right side up then add in the reserved bacon, carrots, garlic, tomato wine, chicken broth, bay leaves, and thyme. Lower the heat and bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and place in the preheated oven.

Braise in the oven for 45-60 minutes.

Return Dutch oven to the stove top. If there is still a lot of liquid (I rarely find that this is the case), transfer the chicken pieces to a serving platter and bring the remaining mixture to a boil. Reduce the sauce by a third or a half, depending on the amount of liquid present. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs (if used).

Drain the rehydrated mushrooms and add them to the pot, along with some of the mushroom liquid. Return (ifnecessary) the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 5 or so minutes until the mushrooms and chicken are heated through.

Serve immediately, sprinkling with freshly chopped parsley as a garnish. This goes well over mashed sweet potatoes, gluten-free noodles, or just on its own with something to sop up the braising liquid (like the gluten-free Brazilian pão de quiejo in the photo below).

Primal Cooking Class: Mexican Braised Beef

A simple recipe that gives a cheap cut of beef amazingly complex layers of flavor.


Prep Time: 30 minutes               Cook Time: 180-240 minutes             Servings: 2-4

This weekend was a little crazy for me.

Not only was I trying to catch up on an overdue consulting project, my husband was out of town for work. He was traveling by coach bus halfway across the country, taking a dozen or more school-age teenagers (and a half-dozen parent chaperones to boot) to an athletic competition in Dayton, Ohio.

At the same time, my sister traveled completely across the country by plane, popping in for a brief but welcome 36-hour visit between business meetings in Boston.

Finally, as befits April in the Northeast, the weather here in Upstate New York went from sunny and warm to cold and rainy seemingly overnight. I woke up this morning to a combination of hail and freezing rain, and spent a good 15 minutes scraping a half-inch of ice off my car windshield.

So when my husband told me this afternoon he would likely get home around 9PM on Sunday night, and that he would dearly love to sit down to a real, home-cooked meal rather than wash down yet more beef jerky with protein shakes scrounged at a highway rest stop, this particular dish of Mexican Braised Beef immediately came to mind.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one of my favorite sites – Nom Nom Paleo – adding my own personal touch, including caramelizing the onions properly and braising the beef very slowly in a cast-iron Dutch oven. If you don’t have the four or more hours that this dish takes to braise in a low-temperature oven, you can do it in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. You can also let it the beef go all day in a slow cooker (about 8-10 hours on low heat). Either way, it will still taste great but it won’t have the same richness and depth of flavors that you get using the method described below.

This dish also keeps really well, with the flavors of the braised beef developing even more fully when chilled in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to make some extra to take to work the next day, although you may need to fend off your ravenous office mates with a spork once they see the leftovers that you brought for lunch.


  • 2 – 2½ pounds beef stew meat cut into 1- to 1½-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican chili powder
  • 1½ teaspoons Himalayan salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee (I use the latter, usually homemade)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 – 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup roasted tomato salsa
  • ½ cup homemade chicken stock
  • ½ teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce
  • ½ cup minced cilantro
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced (I used radishes that I’d pickled, just like in Portlandia)
  • ½ avocado, sliced (optional)


Preheat oven to 300º F (150º C).

Combine the stew beef, chili powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside (FYI: Check out my brand-new, hand-forged and gorgeous Damascus steel knives!).

Melt the coconut oil or ghee over low to medium heat in heavy Dutch oven (I prefer a well-seasoned cast-iron Dutch oven, like this one from Lodge). If you don’t have a Dutch oven, anoven-safe pot will work but you’ll want to check it more frequently during the oven braising step as pots don’t seal the moisture in as well.

While the oil or ghee heats, prepare the onion, garlic and other ingredients (i.e. get all of your mise en place done).

Add the onions to the Dutch and gently sauté until caramelized. This gives the beef an incredible richness of flavor. Despite what many cookbooks will tell you, caramelizing onions properly is a long slow process that takes about 20 minutes. Doing it faster over and higher heat doesn’t caramelize so much as toast or burn the onions. If you have the time, do it right. If you are in a rush, you can just sauté the onions until they are translucent. The dish will still taste great but without the same complex layers of flavor that the caramelized onions bring.

Once the onions are caramelized (or at least translucent), stir in the tomato paste and garlic. Cook while stirring constantly until slightly fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. You want to cook the added tomato paste and garlic long enough to roast it slightly but not burn it. Burnt garlic, in particular, can bring an unpleasant bitterness to this and other dishes. If you smell the garlic strongly, get it off the heat immediately before it burns (this is also a good tip when pan roasting nuts … if you can smell them they are done to well done to burnt).

Add the seasoned beef, salsa, chicken stock, and fish sauce to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer.

Place the lid on the Dutch oven (or oven-safe pot) and place in the pre-heated oven for 3 hours or so until the beef is fork tender. The longer and slower you cook it, the more tender that the beef will become. You can, for example, cook it for 3½ to 4 hours at a lower temperature (i.e. 250 to 275º F or 120 to 135º C). Just make sure to check it once and a while to make sure it doesn’t dry out, adding more chicken stock as necessary. You’ll also want to do this if you use a pot rather than a heavy Dutch oven.

Serve the beef by itself or over riced vegetables, sprinkling it with cilantro and adding sliced radishes and avocado to taste. A dab of sour cream, crème fraiche, or non-fat Greek yogurt is also a nice accompaniment.

The Challenge of Eating Out

How to eat out without busting out the ‘fat jeans.’


Even for those of us who have a pretty good grasp on our diet – eschewing most grains, keeping our carbohydrates below 100 grams a day, and even staying in ketosis for weeks at a time – eating out with friends, family, and colleagues is always difficult. It is easy to watch what we eat when we cook at home, but even the most introverted person has to dine out now and then, be it for a special occasion, vacation or a business trip, or when forget your carefully prepared lunch on the kitchen counter in a rush to get out the door in the morning.

More and more restaurants have menu options that are gluten-free, primal-friendly, or keto-compliant, but they may nevertheless be loaded with calories, carbohydrates, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs or industrial oils, which have high levels of oxidants). In fact, one study published in Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (JAAND) found that over 90 percent of meals served at both large chain and local restaurants have more calories than would be recommended for an average meal for a standard eater.

Moreover, even when the restaurant menu provides calorie counts and lists other nutritional information, those numbers may be widely off. The values posted are calculated in a carefully controlled laboratory setting rather than “on the line’ when a busy chef might be trying to juggle a dozen or more complex orders and cannot take the time to carefully weigh or measure ingredients.

Despite these challenges, there are a number of ways of eating out now and then while still maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle:

1. Choose the restaurant carefully.

Making healthy choices starts with where you go to eating. As it turns out, three of the most popular cuisines in the US — American, Italian, Chinese — tend to have the least healthy options. Opt instead to go to restaurants that specialize in cuisines that are more traditionally centered around veggies, healthy fats, and lean protein. Examples are Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Greek, and Indian. Additional good choices are 2restaurants that specialize in using local ingredients and have menus that change seasonally (thankfully common where I live in the Hudson Valley region, the home of the farm-to-table movement) The focus on fresh, local produce not only results in a menu that is more vegetable-heavy, but also tends to use organic pasture-raised meats and wild-caught fish. These meals are not only healthier but taste better too.

2. Think leftovers.

Even when you can’t avoid going to the traditional Italian-American steakhouse (or, shudder, Olive Garden), you can still make smart choices in both what and how you order. You can opt for leaner cuts of meat, for example, and avoid pasta. It is also important in those situations to think about portion sizes. Many restaurants, particularly family-style restaurants, emphasize quantity over quality. The sizes of portions served in American restaurants, research has found, have more than doubled in the past twenty years. Consider this carefully when you order and when you start eating. You might order your meal from the appetizer section. Alternatively, if there is a particular dish you are craving (no matter how decadent) go ahead and order it but ask that half be put aside in a take-home container. That way you won’t overeat, and you’ll have another delicious meal to look forward to tomorrow.

3. Avoid “saving up” for dinner. 

Even if you are going out to your favorite restaurant to celebrate a special occasion, don’t skimp on breakfast or lunch. Don’t deprive yourself throughout the day, otherwise it will make it that much harder not to eat an entire bowl of pasta, partake of the bread basket, or resist the more decadent entrees or desserts on the menu.

4. Dine out with a small group of friends and enjoy the conversation. 

When we dine out alone or only with our partner, our attention can often 2wander and the conversation can drag. As a result, we engage in mindless eating to fill that void, consuming far more food than we intended. Instead, if you are eating out, go with a small group of friends and keep the lively conversation going throughout the meal. This helps to slow the eating process and allows our bodies’ satiety signals (which take about 20 minutes to develop) to register before we eat too much. Another trick to slow our eating is to put the utensils down between each bite, only picking them up again after we’ve finished chewing each bit. By savoring our food in this way, we not only enjoy the food more, but we also end up eating less.

5. Go light on the booze.

It’s almost expected that we have a cocktail or a glass of wine when dining out. Nowadays, a table’s drink order is the first thing that the waiter takes. Although most bar selections are nothing but empty calories and carbohydrates – little more than sugar and alcohol – there are some ways to partake in an adult beverage without overdoing it. We can start by choosing our drink wisely, opting for drier wines (particularly reds) or distilled spirits with low to no calorie mixers (like a single-malt scotch on the rocks or a gin and tonic). We can also moderate our drinking of alcohol, opting for one glass of wine with dinner and then switching to club soda, or sticking with ice tea throughout the meal but ending dinner with a nice aperitif. This not only makes sense from a caloric perspective, but also is good for the wallet since most alcoholic drinks are marked up 400% to 1000% at most restaurants.

Eating well and staying fit doesn’t mean that we can’t go to a restaurant or cafe and have fun. It just requires that we make smarter choices when we do decide to eat out.

Primal Cooking Class: Thai Coconut Chicken Curry

Fall-off-the-bone pork spare ribs made in a pinch.


Prep Time: 5 minutes               Cook Time: 20 minutes             Servings: 2-4

Living in the Northeast has a lot of advantages, particularly for those that enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, kayaking and hiking, but the winters can be long. The ice and snow can linger well into spring, and it is not unheard of for us to get a snowstorm well into April.

It came as no surprise this Monday when, that despite temperatures that got into the low 50’s Fahrenheit over the weekend, I woke up to find a half-an-inch of snow on the ground. Unexpected (and somewhat unpleasant) atmospheric changes like that make me long for summer weather. Since that is still several weeks off, however, the next best thing is the fragrant and warming spices of a hot-climate cuisine like Thai. I’ve been lucky enough to both work and live in Thailand off and on over the past decade, and believe that Thai food is some of the best in the world. Surprisingly, despite the complex play of flavors in the finished dish, cooking Thai is actually quite simple

This recipe for coconut chicken curry is one of my favorites, with a delicious blend of creamy coconut, spicy ginger, and the heat of Thai red curry paste. That the entire dish comes together in just 20 minutes is an added bonus. It’s the perfect meal for an unexpectedly snowy and exhausting day at work when all you want to do is curl up on the couch in front of the fire.



  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2, although the organic butcher I get my meat from also has them thin sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper
  • 5-6 white or brown mushrooms
  • 3 – 4 green onions
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (about 1” ginger root)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons red Thai curry paste (the more you add, the hotter it will be)
  • 1 16 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Freshly chopped cilantro and roasted cashews, for garnish


Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a large pot, heavy skillet or wok over medium high heat.

While the oil heats, chop the chicken into 1” pieces and seasoned liberally with salt and pepper (although I personally season the meat first, then chop, but that is a personal quick).

Sauté the chicken until golden brown and cooked thru, about 8 minutes, then transfer to a clean plate.

Melt the other tablespoon of coconut oil large pot, heavy skillet or wok.

While the oil heats, chop the vegetables coarsely (e.g. cut the zucchini into ½” by 1” spears, de-seed and slice the bell pepper, peel and slice the onion, quarter the mushrooms, and chop the green onions into ½” pieces). You really can’t chop the vegetables wrong. You can also mix it up, using this as an opportunity to clean out your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.

Add in all the vegetables to the hot oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables start to brown slightly on the edges but are still crisp tender, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic and ginger to the vegetables and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Then add in the Thai curry paste and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and chicken, and then stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or until heated thru.

Serve the coconut chicken curry over cauliflower rice or rice noodles, then garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and cashews.

Primal Cooking Class: Asian-Style Pressure-Cooker Short Ribs

Fall-off-the-bone pork spare ribs made in a pinch.


Prep Time: 30 minutes               Cook Time: 60 minutes             Servings: 2-4

Unless you live off the grid you’ve probably heard of the Instant Pot, the programmable electric pressure cooker that everyone’s mother, sister, or hairdresser’s third cousin once removed is raving about.

Unlike your grandmother’s old-fashioned pressure cooker – an aluminum or steel monstrosity that hissed like a irate cobra and threatened to explode if you so much as looked at it cross-eyed – the Instant Pot is safe, convenient, and a handsome-enough countertop appliance that you won’t try to hide it when guests come over. It is also very versatile, since it can be used not only as a pressure cooker but also as a sauté pot, slower cooker, canning pot, and rice steamer.

I am a bit of a kitchen gadget geek, with the under-the-counter appliance graveyard to prove it. I will say, however, that the Instant Pot is indeed worthy of most of the hype. I use mine daily, making everything from perfect peel hard-boiled eggs to delicious spare ribs like the ones described below here. You won’t be able to go from frozen chicken to a Michelin-starred four-course meal for twelve despite what various Instant Pot-dedicated cookbooks and websites claim (those recipes always fail to include the heating and venting time, which can add an additional 10-20 minutes to any recipe), but it does make it much easier to make fall-off-the-bone ribs and other slow-braised meats in about one-third of the time. It even makes a good cheesecake, but that is for another blog post.

The recipe below is adapted from one for beef ribs that first appeared on Mark’s Daily Apple. I’ve altered the recipe to work St. Louis-style pork spare ribs, which I prefer and which seemed more appropriate for an Easter holiday weekend given the tradition of eating ham. I’ve also added a couple extra steps to enhance the flavors, including a quick broil right at the end to give the ribs a nicely caramelized and crispy texture.

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t worry. You can still make these ribs using a sauté pan and an oven-safe pot or Dutch oven. Instructions to do that are also provided at the end of the recipe below, but plan for the ribs to require about 2 hours longer to cook.



  • 2 – 3 lbs. St. Louis-style pork short ribs (none were available in the Greenmarket this week, but thankfully some were in the latest shipment from Butcherbox).
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I used Hawaiian pink salt, but Himalayan or kosher salt works just as well)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly peeled and grated ginger (about 1″)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (homemade if you’ve got it)
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos (or gluten-free tamari if you tolerate soy)
  • 2 teaspoons Red Boat fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds


Pat the ribs dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. I usually do this while the rack of ribs is still intact, massaging the seasoning in and then letting them sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before I cut the ribs into individual portions.

Use a sharp knife or kitchen meat shears to cut the rack of ribs into individual portions. I prefer to use the former, standing the ribs on end and slicing downwards in order to ensure an even distribution of meat on each isolated rib. This also prevents you from nicking your knife on the bone or accidentally lopping off a finger.

Set your Instant Pot to sauté (medium setting) and add the coconut oil. When the oil is sizzling hot, add the ribs and sear until nicely browned on all sides. Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot. This will ensure an even browning on all pieces. You might find that the ribs stick when you first but them in, but they will come loose after about a minute or two. If they leave behind some nice caramel brown bits attached to the bottom of the pan, so much the better. Those little meaty morsels will come loose when you add the onions a little later and they will impart a wonderful richness to the eventual sauce.

Once each batch of ribs is browned, transfer them to a clean plate and start searing the next batch.

Once all the ribs are browned, set them aside and add the diced onion to the Instant Pot. Cook the onion until it is soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll find that the liquid released by the onions will cause the brown bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pot to come free. That is a deliciously good thing.

Add the garlic and ginger to the Instant Pot and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, until the aromas of the garlic and ginger fill the kitchen.

Stir in the broth, coconut aminos (or tamari), fish sauce and balsamic vinegar, then layer in the ribs. Pack them in as best you can but don’t worry if not all of the ribs are immersed in the liquid. Don’t forget to also pour back in all the meat juices that accumulated on the plate.

Seal the Instant Pot and cook the ribs for 35 minutes on high pressure. Once the cooking time is up, either manually release the pressure (the faster to get to the meaty nom noms imprisoned inside) or let the pressure come down naturally (about 10 minutes or so). I prefer to do the latter as it gives the ribs even more time to become fall-off-the-bone tender without overcooking or drying out.

Take out ribs and place on a foil-covered sheet pan. Cover with another piece of foil and let rest while you finish off the sauce.

Turn the Instant Pot back to sauté and simmer the sauce until nicely reduced and thickened, about 5 minutes or so. While this happens, turn on the oven broiler and place a rack about 2-3 inches below the flame (if a gas oven) or heating elements (if electric).

Spoon most of the reduced sauce on top of the ribs, reserving about 1/4 of a cup for serving. Place the ribs under the broiler and toast until nicely browned and crisp, per individual taste. This only takes about 2 – 3 minutes, so keep a close eye on it lest the ribs start to burn.

Sprinkle ribs with freshly chopped cilantro and sesame seeds then serve 2-3 ribs per person with the reserved sauce on the side. This goes well with a fresh side salad with bright vinaigrette or a more hearty side like roasted beets with feta (or both, as in the picture below).

Note: This recipe can also be made on the stovetop. Brown the ribs and sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in a cast iron or non-stick pan. Add the liquid to the pan to briefly deglaze and then transfer all the ingredients to an oven-safe pot or Dutch oven. Cook covered at 300° F (150° C) until ribs are fork tender, then reduce the sauce and broil the ribs as described above.

Primal Cooking Class: Korean Beef Bulgogi

A hearty Korean staple that is incredibly easy to make.


Prep Time: 120+ minutes               Cook Time: 5 minutes             Servings: 2-4

After a long day in the office and a hard workout at the gym (such as yesterday’s heavy lifting session focused on shoulders and biceps), it’s nice to have something hearty and comforting for dinner. Korean beef bulgogi is one of my favorite dishes for that.

The Korean word ‘bulgogi’ (불고기) literally translates to “fire meat.” It is used to described any dish made using thin, marinated slices of beef or pork that are grilled on a barbecue or a stove-top griddle. The dish is ubiquitous in South Korea, served from the Seoul’s top restaurants to the street-side market stalls in Pusan.

The recipe for the marinade varies from region to region on the Korean peninsula, but usually consists of a mixture of salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and pear juice. To make this dish primally-aligned and Whole30-compliant, however I have omitted the sugar and swapped out the soy sauce for gluten- and soy-free coconut aminos.

One key to making a really good beef bulgogi is to use a tender cut of good quality meat like sirloin or ribeye, although flank steak will work just fine if you marinate it long enough. I always use grass-fed pasture-raised beef when I make bulgogi, either sourced from my local farmer’s market or through some other reputable source (to understand why, see my blog post on sustainably-raised beef). The other key is to make sure you cut the meat against the grain as thinly as humanly possible.



For the marinade:

  • 1 – 1.5 lbs. hanger, flat iron, or ribeye steak (in the pictures below I used a ribeye from Butcherbox)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos (or gluten-free tamari if you tolerate soy)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 Asian pear, grated (you can also substitute another type of firm-fleshed pear or apple; enzymes in the pear or apple help tenderize the meat as it marinates)
  • 1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce (optional, but kicks up the umami to give the resulting dish that special savory taste)
  • 1.5 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly peeled and grated ginger (about 1″)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional; add more if you like heat, less if you don’t)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For serving (per taste):

  • Lettuce leaves or gluten-free soft taco shells
  • Kimchi (I make my own using a recipe like this one)
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Radish, sliced
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Gochujang (a sweet and spicy fermented red chili paste that is a common Korean condiment, usually available in Asian markets or the Asian food aisle of larger grocery chains)


Trim off excess fat then slice the beef into long, thin strips (approximately 1/4″ wide). Be sure to slice against the grain as this makes for a more tender bite of meat. In addition to using a sharp knife, another trick to get nice thin strips is to place the beef in the freezer for 15 minutes before you cut it. This makes the meat a little firmer and easier to slice.

Mix all of the remaining marinade ingredients and add to the beef. I tend to use a single-serve blender in order to get a good emulsion. I also vacuum seal the meat and marinade mixture together in order to speed up the tenderization process and impart deeper flavor into the meat.

Marinate the beef in the refrigerator for a few hours. If you use a vacuum sealer like I do, you really only need to marinate it for an hour or two. If you marinate the meat in a ziploc bag or bowl, you should let it go at least four hours. The longer the better, up to about 12 hours. After that point, however, the acid and enzymes in the marinade will break down the protein fibers in the beef a little too much, resulting in a more ‘mushy’ bite of meat.

You can either cook the bulgogi on an outdoor grill or on the stove using a cast iron or non-stick pan. Since it was only about 29 °F (-2 °C) when I made this, I opted to cook indoors using a non-stick stovetop grill pan. Either way, use high heat or high flame to make sure that your grill or pan is nice and hot .

Shake off the excess marinade and cook the beef in batches, about 2 minutes (or less) each side. The thinner the slices of meat, the less time it will take to cook. You want it to get a nice brown sear but still be medium to medium rare (i.e. still have a little pink or red color in the interior).

Let grilled meat rest for a couple of minutes, then serve taco-style in lettuce cups or gluten-free soft taco shells with the Korean-style toppings and condiments of your choosing. I used homemade purple kimchi, pickled radishes, and gochujang, but the sky’s the limit. Plate with your favorite side, like the low-carb twice-baked cauliflower casserole you see in the picture above.

Primal Cooking Class: Chicken Picatta

A perfect taste of spring in under 20 minutes.


Prep Time: 5 minutes               Cook Time: 10 minutes             Servings: 4

Chicken picatta is one of my regular go-to dishes, particularly in late March or early April when those of us who live in the Northeastern US are finally beginning to thaw out. As the brutal cold of winter gives way to the gentle warmth of spring, this easy yet elegant dish is a perfect harbinger of the more pleasant days to come.

Consisting of a delicate escalope (a thin slice of meat) of chicken in a bright lemony sauce, chicken picatta is the perfect dinner for those still slightly chilly and sometimes rainy days when you want to bring a ray of sunlight into your kitchen. It’s an added bonus that this dish takes twenty minutes or less to prepare (particularly if you start by getting your mise-en-place done [i.e. having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, grated, mixed, etc. before you start cooking]).

Traditionally, chicken piccata is dredged in seasoned flour prior to being browned in butter. This primal-inspired version uses almond flour instead of wheat. It also substitutes chicken stock for white wine when making the sauce. Personally, I like to add a little freshly grated Parmesan to the almond flour for dredging. This gives the crispy coat on the chicken a nice, savory tang. Those looking to avoid dairy (or looking for a Whole30-compliant recipe), however, can eliminate the Parmesan and still have a wonderfully delicious plate.



  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2, although the organic butcher I get my meat from also has them thin sliced)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup finely-ground and blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (omit if eliminating dairy or to make Whole 30 compliant)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
  • 1¼ cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (freshly squeeze, about 1 large lemon)
  • ¼ cup brined capers, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoon finely chopped parsley


Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Depending on the thickness of your chicken, you might want to cut the breasts in half length wise. Place each piece of chicken between two sheets of plastic food wrap and pound with a meat hammer until approximately ¼“ thick.

On a large plate or bowl (I find shallow food storage containers like the leftover plastic trays used for Chinese takeout perfect), combine the almond flour, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

In a second plate or bowl, whisk together the eggs and water (I add a little more pepper, but that it not necessary).

Blot the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel, then dredge first in the egg mixture and then in the almond flour mixture. Make sure both sides of the chicken is evenly coated.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and 1 teaspoon butter (this combination gives a nice buttery flavor and also raises the smoke point of the oil). Set the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter aside for finishing the lemon-caper sauce.

Sear the chicken breasts in the hot skillet until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. You are not looking to cook the chicken completely through at this point, only to get a nice crust on the meat. Depending on the size of your flattened chicken breasts and the size of your pan, you might need to sear the chicken in two batches.

Transfer the browned chicken breasts to a foil-lined baking sheet and place in the pre-heated oven for another 5-6 minutes.

While the chicken finishes coking in the oven, add the stock, lemon juice and capers to the pan.

Turn up the heat on the pan to high, using a whisk to scrape up any of the tasty brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the sauce is reduced to about ½ cup in volume, about 5 minutes. Take the pain off the heat and whisk in the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter.

Return the cooked chicken breasts to the pan, spooning the sauce over them. Serve immediately, sprinkling with freshly chopped parsley as a garnish. Plate with your favorite vegetable on the side, like lightly sautéed asparagus.


Perfect Primal Side: Bacon Wrapped Brussel Sprouts

A paleo- or primal-aligned side dish for even the pickiest SAD eaters.


Thanksgiving at my in-laws can be challenging. Tradition is everything, and there is a lot of carbohydrate-heavy entrees, sides, and desserts. Mess with the expected menu and you are likely to incur the wrath of the mother-in-law, one of the brother-in-laws, or any of the many nephews and nieces.

After six years of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays, however, I’ve been able to slowly sneak some paleo- or primal-aligned sides into the traditional repast. As my mother-in-law has gotten older (and as my culinary skills, professional or otherwise, have become more accepted) I’ve been given more and more responsibility and leeway with preparing many of the dishes that fill our holiday table.

By carefully choosing the paleo- and primal-compliant dishes, as well as tucking into the a heaping pile of the traditional turkey or ham, it is possible enjoy the celebration without suffering from the otherwise-inevitable carbohydrate hangover.

This year, and to great acclaim even from the eight-year-old who considers green jelly beans to be “a vegetable”, I introduced a new recipe: bacon-wrapped Brussel sprouts with a lemon aioli dipping sauce.


  • IMG_4532 copy18 medium Brussels sprouts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • Himalayan salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • One package nitrate and sugar center-cut bacon (about 18 strips; I get mine as part of a monthly shipment from Butcherbox)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (Primal Kitchen is my go to for this, when I don’t have the time to make my own)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Optional: 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

Trim the stem ends from the Brussels sprouts and halve lengthwise.

Toss cut sprouts with 1 teaspoon salt.

Lay the bacon strips next to each other, brush with 1/2 the maple syrup, and then halve crosswise.

Wrap each Brussels sprout half with 1 strip of bacon so the seam is on the flat side.

Place the sprouts seam-side down on a rack on a rimmed baking sheet, leaving a half-an-inch or so between them. If you don’t have a rack, lay them on non-stick aluminum foil; they soak up a little more oil but will still be good.

Brush the wrapped sprouts with the remaining syrup and grind a little black pepper on top.

Roast for about 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. They are done with the bacon is crisp and the sprouts are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

While the sprouts are roasting, prepare the aioli. Mash garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt in small bowl until a paste forms. Add the mayonnaise, avocado oil, and lemon juice, and whisk until smooth.

Transfer the sprouts to a platter (sprinkle with a little Parmesan if desired) and serve with the aioli for dipping.