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Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas from ‘Heather Cooks!’

Let’s face it, there’s nothing more romantic than a home cooked meal and nothing more unromantic than eating over-priced pre-fixe menus in crowded restaurants. Here are some of my favorite things to make for my sweetie on Valentine’s Day (or any day.)

Creamy Spaghetti Carbonara:

Seared Scallops with Sage Brown Butter:

Butternut Squash Risotto:

Roasted Chicken with Herbs:

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Filed under Dinner, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Pasta, Uncategorized, Winter

Heather Cooks! Seared Steak with Shallot Pan Sauce

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Introducing: Heather Cooks!



 

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Easy Weeknight Dinners: Chicken and Bacon Fried Rice

Chicken and Bacon Fried Rice. Heather Platt

Chicken and Bacon Fried Rice. Heather Platt

The first time I ate homemade fried rice I was in awe. A college friend whipped it up in her tiny kitchen for a group of hungry youths and I was mesmerized not just because I thought it was difficult to make, but because it tasted so much better than any fried rice I’d encountered in my two decades of life. Granted, I grew up in Vermont; a place probably not best known for its fried rice. But in any case, this college dorm version was far more delicious than the super greasy, overly salty, soy-saucy “Eggroll House” kind.

That particular friend had grown up making fried rice with her mom the way I grew up making buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup with mine. It was in her wheelhouse and it was not in mine. For this reason, I’d never attempted it until now. While recently dog-sitting for a friend, I noticed she had left me a note about some “old rice” she’d left in the fridge specifically for me to make fried rice. I had no choice. It was time to face my fears.

It turns out, we should always face our fears. At least when it comes to cooking. Because this turned out so scrumptious that I regretted waiting so long to make it and decided to blog about it so as not to forget the recipe. I contemplated if it would be okay to make fried rice for dinner two, three, four maybe even five nights in a row as it was all I wanted to think about eating forevermore.

The best part about this recipe: it’s a throw together whatever’s in the fridge, super cheap weeknight meal. Which, in my opinion are always the best kind. Just don’t wait another decade to make it.

Enjoy!

Heather

fried rice prep 2

Chicken and Bacon Fried Rice 

Serves 2

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 5 cloves garlic, (2 minced, 3 crushed)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 8 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup plus 1tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 thick-cut slices applewood smoked bacon, thinly sliced
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Place the chicken thighs in a sealable plastic bag. Using a meat-mallet, pound to 1/2 thickness. Place the crushed garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, a small handful of sliced scallions and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the bag. Seal the bag and give it a shake to coat all of the chicken. Set aside to marinate. Before cooking remove two of the thighs from the bag and cut into 1-inch cubes.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoon oil over hight heat. Season the whole chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Using tongs, place them in the hot skillet and cook until dark brown on each side and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

In large cast-iron skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and then add them to the skillet. Using a rubber spatula move the eggs around so they become lightly scrambled. When the eggs are cooked but still a little runny, remove them from the skillet and set aside.

Turn the heat up to high and add the bacon to the pan. When the fat begins to render, add the cubed chicken. onion and carrot. Cook, stirring often for about 4-5 minutes. When the onion begins to soften and become translucent and the chicken is cooked through, turn the heat down to medium and add the minced garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly before adding the cooked rice and remaining sliced scallions. Stir the rice to heat it and coat it with all of the flavors in the pan. Add the egg and stir to incorporate it into the fried rice.

Serve the fried rice alongside the whole chicken thighs.

Enjoy!

Heather

Chicken and Bacon Fried Rice. Heather Platt

Chicken and Bacon Fried Rice. Heather Platt

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Backyard Bounty: Avocado-Cilantro Dressing

Avocado Cilantro Dressing. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Avocado Cilantro Dressing. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

When you live in Los Angeles, you end up talking about living in Los Angeles a lot. I have begun many sentences with “Only in LA…” when discussing the traffic, the weather, the drought, the pending doom of an earthquake and the expensive real estate. It’s all very exciting, as if we are on some special island separated from the rest of the world where our daily lives are so interesting and unique that we discuss the ins and outs of freeway routes, celebrity sightings, water conservation techniques and preferred farmers markets on a regular basis.

One of my all-time favorite “Only in LA” moments occurred recently while enjoying a backyard barbecue at some friends’ east side home. I looked up to see the most resplendent avocado tree towering over us and hundreds of avocados dangling about. Our friends explained that they had been house hunting for months, but when they beheld the magnificent tree they knew it was the right home. The tree was so splendid that the wizened tree doctor they hired after moving in graciously thanked them, “Thank you for letting me touch your tree, I would be happy to come back and touch your tree any time.”

I could not think of a better reason to buy a house.  Needless to say, I left that barbecue with a canvas bag so full of avocados I could hardly lift it. For a week or two the hard green fruits sat in a bowl on my kitchen counter. Though unready to eat, I felt comfort knowing they were there. This bounty ensured survival should that earthquake hit.

Eventually they ripened and I discovered that avocados are impossible to tire of. They’re good on everything: piled on toast and eggs for breakfast, slathered on sandwiches, salads or chicken. But out of fear of not making my way through all of them before passing their prime, I whipped up this easy and delicious avocado dressing to be tossed with greens, vegetables and more avocados, obviously.

Enjoy!

Heather

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More Cheese Please: Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup

Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup. Photo: Heather Platt

Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup. Photo: Heather Platt

“Isn’t it funny how we all remember Vermont?” Said Nana into the land line phone in her nursing home apartment.

I’d called  her to tell her that her famous Limpa Bread recipe and the guidance she’d given me over the phone the day before had lead to the most perfect batch yet. So perfect that two entire loaves of the crusty, soft, brown goodness seemed to have already disappeared from our countertop. Mysterious, I know.

Nana was pleased. “Mmmm.” She said, imagining she could taste it too. “It’s the best warm, with butter…” she specified trailing off in thought into the fantasy of Limpa deliciousness.  And then it occurred to me. That’s where this came from. This utter obsession with achieving maximum deliciousness, the utmost joy from watching someone happily devour the food you made. I got that from Nana.

“Oh no, I never bothered with any recipes at the restrunt.” She answered after I inquired about the menu items at her and my late-grandfather’s Vermont eatery.

“How did you make everything?” I was blown away. The woman owned, managed and cooked, from scratch with apparently no guidance, everything on the menu at “Bischoff’s Restaurant.” In the 1940s and 50s, hungry skiers  and locals alike piled into cozy wooden benches to enjoy her cooking.

“I just made it and tasted as I went along.” She said matter-of-factly. “Have you ever made my split pea soup? I wrote it down for you somewhere.” I will get that recipe as soon as possible. But until then, this Vermont Cheddar soup will have to do. And it does.

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Filed under Appetizer, Dinner, Fall, Heather Platt, Lunch, Soup/Stew, Uncategorized, Winter

Remembering Michael’s on the Hill: Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula and Hazelnuts

 Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula & Hazelnuts. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula & Hazelnuts. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

 

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.

Enjoy!

Heather

Nice mountain views make happy Vermont chickens. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Nice mountain views make happy Vermont chickens. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula and Hazelnuts.

by Heather Platt (inspired by Michael’s on the Hill, Waterbury, VT)

Serves 4

  • 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.

 

michaels chicken 5

Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula & Hazelnuts. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

michael's chicken 7

Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula & Hazelnuts. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Vermont spring chickens. Photo credit: Heather Platt

Vermont spring chickens. Photo credit: Heather Platt

Michaels on the hill chicken 2

Skillet Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Foraged Mushrooms, Arugula & Hazelnuts. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

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