Okay, so I’m realizing that the title of this post makes it seem like Top Chef contestant Tre Wilcox rubbed spices on his thighs. He didn’t. We’re talking about chicken thighs. And for a very important reason: The beauty of Whole Foods and whole spices.

I was in Whole Foods in Rockville, MD and stumbled upon a bulk spices section in the middle of the store. I was so excited that I had to call Christina in California. The only thing is that it was 7:30AM her time. (Damn Bi-costal relationship…) You know that Usher song, about finding love in a club of all places? Okay, so maybe he’s not talking about “love”, but I am. Anyways, because this Whole Foods is newly opened, they were able to incorporate some newer things that places like the Union Square location (Christina and I’s hangout spot when we lived together…) doesn’t have.

Hate on these pictures if you must, but you try trying to look normal while taking pictures with your cell phone and hoarding the Star Anise jar.

What I love is that instead of having to buy a ton of different jars of spices, you can get just a pinch. Literally there were scoops set out so that you can get 1/4 cup of pine nuts, or one cinnamon stick, or a scoop of sesame seeds. I was making Top Chef Contestant Tre’s Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs (recipe below), featured in Food and Wine this month and was able to buy whole coriander and star anise to use. It was awesome. Remember, with spices, to get the most out of them, buy them whole, toast them slightly on the stove top, and then transfer them to a spice mill to grind. They taste a million times better, I promise! The recipe was amazing, and super spicy. My husband, who never gives me compliments on my cooking, even said they were good. So there.


Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs by Tre Wilcox

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/4 star anise pod
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 meaty chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 oregano sprigs
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Chopped parsley and chives, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small skillet, toast the coriander, star anise, cracked peppercorns and crushed red pepper over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool; pulse until coarsely ground. Add the salt. Rub the spices all over the chicken.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until deep golden, 10 minutes. Arrange the chicken in a roasting pan, skin side up. Pour off most of the oil from the skillet and add the onion and leek. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme and oregano and cook until the tomatoes just begin to break down, 3 minutes. Add the red wine and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan, 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of water and pour the mixture into the roasting pan.
  3. Cover the pan with foil and braise the chicken in the oven for about 1 hour, until cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Strain the sauce into a saucepan. Boil until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup, 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and honey; keep warm.
  4. Preheat the broiler. Return the chicken to the roasting pan, skin side up, and broil 8 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Sprinkle with the parsley and chives. Serve the chicken with the sauce.