8 Reasons Why ‘The Portlandia Cookbook’ Is No Joke

Sure, the recipes are hilarious—but you’ll want to come back to them again and again.

(Photo: Evan Sung)

Oct 24, 2014· 3 MIN READ
Sarah McColl has written for Yahoo Food, Bon Appétit, and other publications. She's based in Brooklyn, New York.

Any foodie worth her hand-harvested sea salt has recognized herself as the butt of the jokes on Portlandia. On the show, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein poke fun at everything we care about—where the chicken on the menu came from, how the ice in that Dark ’n’ Stormy was made, why the line at this brunch joint is so long—and skewer it like a small-batch artisanal corn dog. Now we have The Portlandia Cookbook, with all those punch lines aimed squarely at precious food-minded peeps in one place—with recipes!

Here’s the thing: The book is pretty delightful. With so much to be taken seriously in the food world—GMOs, food sovereignty, equal access to affordable, healthy food everywhere for everyone—it feels good to drop the issues and just laugh over a burn-your-face-off margarita, especially when the joke’s at your expense. No one can keep us from drinking small-batch bourbon out of mason jars and inquiring after the provenance of the radishes in the market basket salad, but we can laugh at ourselves while we do it. Here’s why.

Vegetarians, Rejoice!
There are lots of great, simple vegetarian recipes in this book that are perfect for dinner on a harried weeknight (hello, kale and quinoa bowl) but with enough special touches (wild mushrooms, fresh ginger) that they might just make your Tuesday night. Throughout the book, dishes like this get the “Lay an Egg on It!” suggestion for a little extra protein—an egg from a happy pasture-raised chicken, no doubt.

You’ll Feel Them Laughing With You—and Maybe a Little at You
The Portlandia Cookbook knows exactly what your dream food world looks like, all coddled chickens and brunchy dishes made with their coddled eggs; boozy, nap-inducing bloody Marys; and superstrong (single-origin, free-trade, locally roasted) coffee.

Guides That Start as Jokes Are Actually Helpful
How many times have you left a tapas meal after noshing one stuffed date and a couple blistered shishito peppers, felt hunger pangs, and still wondered how you were $40 poorer? The Portlandia Cookbook’s got suggestions on how to deal that are simple but sound: “Eat a small meal ahead of time. Bring cash. And not just twenties—bring small bills.” Then there’s the communal table dining how-to. While kids probably won’t be banned IRL, the other advice rings pretty true: There is an invisible wall between you and your dining table companions. Observe it.

Ideas for How to Eat for One Dollar
Because starving artists don’t just live in the Pacific Northwest. (Only one of the suggestions involves going to your mom’s.)

You’ll Have a New One-Pan Dinner Party Dish
Japanese eggplant, Sicilian olives, hot harissa, and torn crusty bread form the bed for a golden-skinned butterflied chicken. Really bold flavors, really low labor. Then there’s an animal dossier on Colin, the poultry centerpiece, who grew up just outside Portland, spent much of his time “sitting in the pine tree by the barn,” and is “allergic to avocado.”

Frequent Stylistic Nods to the Dream of the 1890s—or Brooklyn, Circa 2014
Butchers in sleeve garters! Popcorn served in newsprint cones! Handlebar mustaches! Calico dresses! Old-timey fonts!

You’ll Wait in Line for Brunch Again
Rich with ricotta, kissed with cornmeal, and bright with a bit of lemon zest, the marionberry pancakes are no joke. Keep your jammies on and eat them at home. (Hell, eat them in bed. While bingeing on Battlestar Galactica. You know how it is.)

Yes, You Can Pickle That
Six different ways, in fact.

Butterflied Chicken Roasted Over Bread

Adapted from The Portlandia Cookbook

Serves 4 to 6


1 pound small Italian or Japanese eggplants, cut into 1½-inch chunks
1 one-pound loaf of Italian bread, cut into 1½-inch chunks
½ cup pitted Sicilian green olives
1 tablespoon harissa or sambal
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3½- to 4-pound chicken
½ cup crumbled feta


Preheat the oven to 425° F.

In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, bread, olives, harissa, garlic, rosemary, oregano, and olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a roasting pan or a large, rimmed baking sheet in an even layer.

On a cutting board, using kitchen shears, cut on either side of the chicken’s backbone and remove it. Set the chicken breast side up and press to lightly crack the breastbone and flatten the breast. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper and set it on the bread mixture.

Roast the chicken in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until the skin is crispy and golden, an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165° F, the eggplant is tender, and the bread is lightly toasted in spots. Lift the bird and stir the mixture occasionally for even browning.

Turn on the broiler. Move the chicken to one side and stir the feta into the bread and eggplant. Set the chicken on top of the mixture, skin side down, and broil until everything is crispy and lightly browned, being careful not to burn the bread. Flip the chicken to skin side up, spreading the bread and eggplant mixture all around, and broil for 1 to 2 minutes to re-crisp the skin. Cut into pieces and serve.