I have recently returned to Los Angeles after spending almost two weeks in the green mountain state. And like any vacation I take, I tend to dwell on the food. I don’t want to waste a single meal eating anything that’s less than delicious, sit at any table that is less than atmospheric or eat a cheese that wasn’t produced from a local cow or goat. Okay, I know that last part sounds like a lot to ask, but by Vermont standards, it’s really just reasonable. Achieving culinary perfection three times a day while traveling, is of course, easier said than done. But it’s always good to aim high. And seeing as this recent trip was for the purpose of our wedding and gathering all of our favorite people in the world to one magnificently green (and unfortunately chilly) place, the pressure was particularly high to provide the tastiest of grub.
No matter how much good food I eat on a trip, I find that there’s always one thing that sticks out in my mind above the rest. For example, the berliners from Grüner in Portland, Oregon circa March, 2011. I ate a lot of remarkably delicious food on that very rainy two-day trip. But those warm marionberry jam-filled sugared donuts were pretty much all I thought about for a month. This time, I can’t stop thinking about the skillet chicken with heirloom tomatoes, foraged mushrooms, arugula and hazelnuts from Michael’s on the Hill in Waterbury, Vermont. The night before our wedding, we brought our bridesmaids and groomsmen to dinner at the converted farmhouse on the hill. I have no idea how chef Michael Kloeti made this chicken. All I know it that everyone in the wedding was talking to me about it for days. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it for two weeks. So now, back home in Los Angeles, with a pile of brand new pots and pans, I thought what better way to break these bad boys in than to try and recreate the tastiest of Vermont chicken. Although I encourage you to truly forage delicious wild mushrooms, I foraged mine from Trader Joe’s. Needless to say, the results were blog-worthy.
Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula and Hazelnuts.
by Heather Platt (inspired by Michael’s on the Hill, Waterbury, VT)
- 2 lbs skinless and boneless chicken thighs
- 1 pint assorted mini heirloom tomatoes
- 3/4 cup hazelnuts
- 2 large shallots
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sherry
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon truffle oil
- 2 cups foraged mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 4 cups organic baby arugula
- 3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 pound asiago cheese
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a medium sauce pan filled with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a bowl of ice water for blanching the hazelnuts. With a slotted spoon, place the hazelnuts in the boiling water for 1 minute. Using the same spoon remove from the boiling water and place in the ice water to stop the cooking. Remove from the water and place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast the hazelnuts for 8 minutes until they smell nutty. Let them cool and chop them coarsely.
Dice one of the shallots and place it in a small bowl with the red wine vinegar, sherry and a pinch of salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.
Tear the mushrooms into 1-inch pieces. If the mushrooms are small, you may leave them whole.
Heat a large, non-stick sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the truffle oil and heat for one more minute. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl it around until it foams. Add the mushrooms to the pan and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté the mushrooms about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are cooked and browned.
Meanwhile, place the chicken thighs between two pieces of clear plastic wrap and pound (I use a cast iron skillet) to a 1-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the cast iron skillet. When the pan is very hot, add the chicken and cook on each side until golden brown.
Place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Slice the second shallot and add it to the pan with cooked mushrooms. Spoon the hot mushrooms over the arugula. Return the pan to the stove and add half of the vinaigrette. Swirl the pan to heat it. When the dressing is warm pour half of it over the salad. Cut the heirloom tomatoes into quarters and toss with arugula and mushrooms. Using your hands scoop the salad on to the center of four plates. Place the cooked chicken on top of each salad. Using a vegetable peeler, shave asiago cheese on to the chicken and salad. Spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the chicken and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.