If you like delicious food, stunning images of France, and a beautiful love story, then you are going to love The Hundred-Foot Journey. The film, which is based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, stars Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon. I recently sat down with these beautiful people to talk about their favorite food memories. I can’t wait to make Helen’s mother’s piroshki, Manish’s rice and dal and Charlotte’s steak tartare for Three More Big Bites!
Easy Egg-in-a-Hole Croque Madame. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
A few years ago, I had the privilege of contributing to my friend Rebecca Coleman’s extremely popular mom blog, Cooking with My Kid. I had been Rebecca’s nanny for a stint and when I moved on to work in the restaurant business, she asked me to come back and help her come up with babysitter-friendly recipes. She named me The Savory Sitter, officially. Because, she reasoned, “NO ONE likes an unsavory sitter.” I agreed and we had a lot of fun making homemade pop tarts, ravioli lasagna and pirate ships made of melon and banana. Okay, that last one was her idea, but she gave me credit for it.
The best kind of eggs: farm fresh. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
My favorite of the Savory Sitter recipes, though, was the Kid Friendly Egg-in-a-Hole Croque Madame. I am a huge lover of the classic, French Croque Madame. But when it came time to make it for Three More Big Bites, I just couldn’t stop thinking about that adorable kid version I’d made for Rebecca. This version is even easier. I forgot putting the ham in the middle and just placed the best kind of bacon, applewood smoked of course, on top of it. I made it with my favorite bread on earth: the cinnamon raisin loaf from Green Rabbit Naturally Leavened Bread in Waitsfield, Vermont and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Jasper Hill Cellars in Greensboro, VT. That being said, any delicious bread and good quality cheddar of your choice will do.
Easy Bacon Cheddar Egg-in-Hole Croque Madame. Pottery by Barbara Platt’s Pottery. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Bacon Cheddar Egg-in-a-Hole Croque Madame
One of my all-time favorite summer activities is berry picking. And my favorite of berries are blueberries. In August in Vermont, they are plumb and sweet. They are also the most fun to pick because they fall off of the shrubs into your hands in large clusters. My cousins and I, with the help of several enthusiastic teenagers, managed to pick eight pints of blueberries at Knoll Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont in thirty minutes. Which probably means we picked sixteen if you count the ones we popped in our mouths while picking. They are just so irresistible.
By the time we put the giant box of berries in the car, we realized that we had picked more than we would ever be able to eat. We spent the entire car ride home rattling off appetizing blueberry-centric recipe ideas. Blueberry cheesecake, blue berry jam, blueberry buckle, blueberry cobbler were all in the running to be made that night. But at the end of the day, the classic, simple blueberry muffin won the contest. Sometimes it’s the easiest, simplest of foods that just sound the best. I baked two dozen muffins in the late afternoon and to my delight, half of them had already disappeared before dinner was ready. “Heather! These muffins taste like fortune cookies and they’re delicious!” My fifteen-year-old cousin Will yelled from the kitchen. I smiled, entirely self-satisfied as I watched the sunset over the green mountains. I love cooking for teenagers.
Even teenagers like to go blueberry picking!
Blueberries. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Steamed Lobster. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Despite growing up in a land-locked state, I have had the great fortune of having extended family who dwell along the seacoast in southern Maine. Every childhood visit there involved a trip to the lobster pound to buy a dozen of the live little crustaceans followed by a casual family feast of the delicious delicacies. We sat around a table, excited with white plastic bibs tied around our necks and claw-crackers in hand. The Vermonters at the table would always ask the Mainers to show them how to efficiently extract the meat from the tail, claws, legs and torso. My cousin Ty would explain that her Aunt Wendy always ate the “green stuff” and as kids we would squeal with disgust and fascination. Now, like the legendary Aunt Wendy, I too eat the “green stuff.” This internal part of the lobster, called Tomalley, is actually the liver and pancreas of the animal. So that explains why I find it so flavorful, which it is, FYI. Aunt Wendy is a smart woman. A big bucket in the center of the table served as a sort of basket ball hoop for shells to be tossed after the precious meat had been consumed.
These lobster dinners, which were served with a 1/4 cup of drawn butter for dipping, toasted English muffins, corn on the cob and a fresh garden salad were all I ever knew of eating lobster. For many years I rolled my eyes at over-priced lobster on restaurant menus. In truth because I just couldn’t bear to eat it outside of this nostalgic familial context. And thanks to a recent tutorial from one of my favorite Mainers, I finally learned how to make it.
Live Lobsters. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Classic Steamed Maine Lobster Dinner
Cooking is easy. I believe that anyone can make a delicious meal. Like anything in life, it’s a matter of desire. Clearly, I have no problem committing an entire day to ingredient sourcing, chopping, mincing, searing and slicing. It’s fun for me. I understand that it’s not for everyone. And even I have days when I really wish that a home cooked meal would magically appear on my plate. But even though we all differ in our cooking desires and abilities, one common thread remains; we all need to eat. And as far as I know, we would all prefer what we eat to be delicious.
But why does cooking have to be so polarizing? It seems that people are defined as those who cook and those who don’t. There must be some happy medium, some comfortable place halfway in between slaving over David Chang’s braised pork butt and simply running to the neighborhood ramen restaurant for takeout. My column Perfect Pantry was created to tackle this problem. How to cook when you don’t feel like going to the store. But along with ingredients, we need recipes.
The most challenging of these I-don’t-feel-like-cooking times are the nights alone. We’ve all been there. You are in your kitchen, hungry glancing back and forth from your phone to your fridge. The only thing in your freezer is gin. Because if you’re like me, you’re not a frozen-dinner kind-of-person. Is it worth making a mess if it’s just for me? Is there anything here to make? A steamed pork bun just sounds so good right now…Okay, maybe that’s just me. But recently I was in this position. My husband, a musician, has been on tour for most of the summer. So when my favorite person to cook for is away, I can’t help but feel uninspired.
But then I got to thinking about how this whole cooking obsession began in the first place. And I see a single twenty-something girl in her East Village apartment, blasting Belle and Sebastian songs on her stereo and cracking open a bottle of Pinot Noir while she comes up with a purpose for the treasures she rounded up at the Union Square Farmer’s market that day. A girl who cured her own loneliness by regularly throwing herself a one-woman dinner party and in the process, learned how to cook. So eight years later, I decided to channel that inner single girl. And on a hot summer night in Los Angeles, made myself a Bee’s Knees cocktail with the aforementioned gin and started cooking.
Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce
Filed under Dinner, Fall, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Poultry, Spring, Summer, Winter
I love cocktails. I covet them. And despite my obsession with attempting to master the art of cooking everything, for many years I simply couldn’t figure out how to make a drinkable one. I knew from watching the talented bartenders at my place of work, that they involved alcohol, juice and something sweet. But every time I tried to squeeze limes, boil sugar and water into a syrup and mix it all together with whatever poison was in my freezer, it always came out terribly tart, sickly sweet, or disturbingly boozy.
“Cocktails are the next frontier for me.” I announced to my boss Matt one day in the office. “I’m going to learn how to make delicious cocktails.” It was kind of an embarrassing thing to announce. After all, I had been watching our famous bar chef Christiaan Rollich create masterpieces for years. I knew what was in them and I knew how they tasted.
“It’s very simple.” He explained. “You should think of a cocktail as four parts.” A person with normal patience probably would have just ignored my stupidity and continued with their work. But Matt turned to me at his desk and explained in great detail the science of making a cocktail. “Take the classic gin and tonic, for example. It’s two parts gin and two parts tonic.” I hung on his every word. “A gimlet is two parts gin, one part lime juice and one part simple syrup. However, you have to be aware of the concentration of your simple syrup.” As he spoke I imagined myself in a mid-century modern living room, mingling with friends, laughing while sipping perfect gimlets out of vintage coupe glasses. It had finally clicked. Thanks to the most patient and knowledgeable restaurant general manager on the planet, I would finally be able to put the lovely silver bar set I had received as a wedding gift to good use.
So when my dear friend Elena came over for a Himalayan salt block pork chop dinner last week, I couldn’t wait to offer her a classic gimlet upon arrival. We sipped them as I cooked Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad. But when we sat down to eat I noticed green bits floating in her drink.
“Did you add jalapeño and cilantro to your gimlet?” I asked, confused. “It’s not guacamole.” I reminded her.
“Yeah.” She said. “It’s so good.”
I had finally mastered the classic beverage and Elena added a hint of her heritage, making it even better.
Elena’s Spicy Gin Gimlet Continue reading
Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
A few years ago, on Christmas morning, my sister handed me a rather heavy gift. Inside was a beautiful pink slab of what looked like marble. This is embarrassing, but I had no idea what it was. “It’s a Himalayan salt block!” Naturally. My sister announced, proud of her creative yet relevant gift idea. And as much as I loved the look and idea of this gorgeous pink block, I’m ashamed to say, it has been sitting in my pantry the ever since. Every so often she would ask, “Have you used that salt block we gave you?” Wide eyed and so excited to hear how it had worked out. I would shamefully promise, “Not yet. But I will!”
The truth is that I have been intimidated. I consider myself well-versed on the subject of kitchen equipment. I thought from my experience in restaurants that I knew all there is to know about what an ambitious home cook should have or covet for their own kitchen. But sure enough, my over-achieving, brilliant, multitasking, genius-of-a-sister had to find the one cooking tool I’d never heard of. The other problem was that, at the time, there wasn’t much information on salt blocks out there. I couldn’t even find a recipe on the internet. More recently, they seem to be growing in popularity and cookbooks are being published on how to use the stunning pink blocks. Not to mention that, a few weeks ago, my sister sent me an email with dozens of links to salt block recipes. God she’s good. I no longer had an excuse. It was time to break in this beauty. I should have done it sooner because the results have been marvelous.
I started out with shrimp, which was incredible! And then moved on to the beloved pork chop. The block gave the chops a beautiful dark crust and a moist, perfectly tender middle. If you don’t have a salt block, don’t worry, you can still make the below pork recipe using a grill or cast-iron skillet. I recommend serving it with a simple summer corn salad and gin gimlets to drink!
Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
My beautiful friend Elena capturing the moment. Photo Credit: Heather Platt
Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad