Friday, April 30, 2010

Wine-Braised Chicken with Shallots and Panchetta

Now we're both sick, but the Wine-Braised Chicken is not! With Eric on the mend while Charisse is just getting started, this cold is interfering with our ability to get posts out in time. Somethings going around the Bay Area, even Patrick Marleau seems to be out with this bug (Sharks still won game 1). Next week should be better though. Don't worry, Blogger has an extensive antivirus system, so you can't catch this from the pictures or the recipe. We served this with mashed potatoes and carrots as Patrick and Monica Farnsworth's anniversary gift dinner, and what a great meal it makes. Actually, a well cooked meal, some wine and martinis and a great night with family always makes the best gift one can give. That and diamonds.

The actual dish is really a very basic, easy to make, one pan meal. We haven't talked about this much, but when your doing multiple courses, part of the planing involves making sure you have enough pans to cover all the courses. For example, if we wanted to do an upside down cake and say a skillet roasted chicken, you'd run into trouble, as both dishes need the same pan. So any time you can do a course in a single pan, it helps free up your other pans for other dishes or courses. When your as crazy as we are and have around 6 different frying pans its usually not an issue, but for most people there's usually only one or two of the same pans in the house, so planing out your courses and doing as much with each pan becomes really important, and a key factor in planing out your meal.

Speaking of cast iron skillets Charisse's birthday was yesterday, and Eric got her a new cast iron skillet from and this one is 15 inches. That is HUGE. its seriously the biggest pan we own. Can't wait to fill it with BACON!

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grilled Leeks With Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Charisse writing here today, Eric's been lying sick on the couch since Sunday. He's such a whiner when he's sick, but I forgive him, but that leaves me to write the post myself. I know I have mentioned before about my new found love of leeks!  But truly, they are the greatest! Like a giant scallion, leeks are the perfect pair of any potato, egg or hearty soup dish.  I ran across this grilled leek recipe in Fine Cooking and thought it might be an interesting twist for a warm salad type dish.  I really like the flavor combo of the oniony leek, roasted pepper, goat cheese and basil, although I feel like it might have been too much leek texture.  Next time I think this dish would translate good as a kabob, adding some other veggies like mushrooms and squash.  The roasted red pepper vinaigrette was amazing and I ate  the leftovers the next day with a slice of french bread, I most certainly would make that again over a salad or simply as a dipping sauce for raw veggies and bread. 

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Friday, April 23, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

Last weekend we had our good friends Cherelyn and Dave and their two kids Jake and Joey over for dinner. We had a great time as always, but got stuck on what to do for dessert. Grownup desserts that are amazing and can rock your world sometimes fall flat when put in-front of pair of pre-teen boys. Tres-Leches cake is amazing, but very different and different does not always pair well with kids. Especially when you try and explain that soaking their cake in milk for an hour makes it taste good. We talked about what to serve and tried to think of all the desserts we liked as kids. Charisse was a weird kid and liked all that fancy grown up food, but Eric was more of the Ice Cream, Cookies and Birthday Cake kind of kid. We had some ice cream in the freezer but that would be a terrible blog post:

Ice Cream: Open container. Scoop into bowl. Get brain freeze. Repeat. 

Just not going to work. Cookies we could do, but we wanted to get creative and were kind of pushing the limits of what a typical kid might like in a cookie (and thats tough to do). We thought about peanut butter cookies, which is kinda fancy (Okay, its more fancy then Toll House Chocolate Chip) but still not dramatic enough for us. Then Charisse found some sprinkles in the back of the cabinet, and asked if the kids would want Ice Cream Sandwiches. Eric's exact quote was something like "The kids? Heck, I want an ice cream sandwich!" Thus, Peanut Butter Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches. With Sprinkles. Trust us when we say its all about the sprinkles, they make the difference between a thrown together dessert, and a gourmet well planned out conclusion to a high class meal. There really is no better combination than peanut butter and chocolate, especially frozen. The whole meal, everyone kept glancing at the freezer, waiting for a chance to dig in and let the brain freeze work its magic. And it did. As soon as the sandwiches hit the plate, the kitchen (we didn't wait to sit back down) was filled with "Mmmm"s and "Oooh"s and "Augh Brain Freeze"s. And later when the kids pulled themselves away from their video games, they liked them too. 

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ricotta Gnocchi Spinach Bake

This dish was made just for Charisse, an Italian dish baked with cream, cheese, and fresh herbs and vegetables.  But this recipe has a twist, ricotta gnocchi! Now Charisse and I are both fans of the famous potato gnocchi, but neither of us have ever done a ricotta gnocchi before. Charisse pulled this recipe from one of Rachael Ray's holiday magazines, and has been holding onto it for about 2 years now. Last week we were having some friends over and finally decided to try it out. Now keep in mind that ricotta gnocchi aren't as cute and compact as potato gnocchi but they are definitely easier to make. While potato gnocchi tend to come out as neat and tidy little football shaped foods, the ricotta is more free form and unique. We found that broiling them in the oven with the sauce improved the texture making the tops of the gnocchi brown and crispy while still creamy on the inside. Initially this dish was hard to photograph as the gnocchi and sauce were both white with only specs of green spinach. When the sauce comes out of the oven, its got a really nice browning on top, giving the dish a good contrast instead of being just a sea of white, which makes it not only easier to photograph, but it just looks tastier.  Not to mention that the sauce itself was tasty, rich, creamy and full of flavor. 

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Monday, April 19, 2010

Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce

Charisse has always loved artichokes, a favorite food since she was a kid. They really are a great little kid food, you get to pull them apart leaf by leaf, scraping the meat off with your teeth, what fun! So to celebrate that artichokes are quickly coming into season and our local market had the most gigantic and beautiful artichokes available this weekend and we couldn't pass up the chance to do an artichoke dish. Now we usually chow down on artichokes with just a bit of salt and pepper, but we decided to try a classic by dipping our leaves into a buttery hollandaise sauce. This was the first time we've done a hollandaise sauce and it was a challenge! Halfway through Charisse said her arm felt as though it would fall right off after all the constant whisking but it was obviously well worth it! Its clear now why the French always eat their artichokes this way, although how they stay so skinny is a mystery because this sauce was insanely rich with a half stick of butter and egg yolks that are whipped into a wonderously frenzied submission. Please be patient when whipping this sauce up because it will turn out fabulous and build you great arms at the same time! Or if you have a youngster in the house that need to build some character, this is a perfect task. It was a little worrisome at about the halfway point, when something is supposed to thicken, it usually does so gradually. This one took a while, lots time and whisking, but all of a sudden it started to thicken. Smooth buttery custard like hollandaise came magically into being, ready to stick to the good meaty part of an artichoke leaf and bless your mouth with wonder.

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Friday, April 16, 2010

Filets with Vanilla Bourbon Sauce and Garlic Red Potatoes

Some days you just want a big juicy steak. And potatoes. And bourbon. All at the same time. Clearly, this was a meal that Eric designed. We've been hanging onto a vanilla bourbon sauce for a few months now, and the potatoes have been a fancy staple for a few years. Putting them together with a pan-seared filet mignon was one of the best tasting decisions we've made all year. The sauce is seriously good enough to eat all by itself, but it definitely tastes better with steak. The potatoes are based on a technique we saw on the Food Network one day (yeah, we sit around watching the food network, when Eric doesn't have a Sharks game on). Now a more elaborate method for these potatoes would be to alternate garlic with small pats of butter and mix in any other spices or accents you want, but we generally like just the garlic.We were planing on serving this between Wednesday's Brushetta and Monday's Tart, but as you can see from the pictures here, too much food for two people, so print out the recipes for this whole week and invite some friends over! 

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Garlic Shrimp Bruschetta

Last Saturday was Charisse's day to cook us a date night dinner. In our plan, we had all afternoon to chop, mince, slice and create a romantic three course meal for two.Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well. Our good friend had a baby shower that morning and after all the fun and games Charisse didn't get home until 6:30pm and was completely exhausted and coming off a sugar high from all the cake and baby shaped jello (yes, a baby shaped jello was a bit scary!). So instead of mincing, chopping, and slicing, Charisse ended up horizontal on the couch debating whether or not to order a pizza for dinner. Unfortunately we can't  blog about Pizza Guys (our favorite pizza place in San Jose, and no, its not a paid link!) so she gathered all her strength and dragged herself to the kitchen. We diced and sliced going with a lovely Garlic Shrimp Bruschetta as the first course, saving room for two perfect filets that had been bought that day. By the end of the first course we ate so much bruschetta we were faced with a choice, go for the main course or go for dessert. Since we were so full and there was no room left for steak, we went for the dessert. Charisse was surprised when she asked her meat loving husband if he wanted more shrimp on toast or a nice juicy filet, and he asked for the shrimp! That's when you know a dish must be good.  This bruschetta isn't your typical recipe. With the addition of shrimp, white wine and cream, it is much hardier and filling than a normal first course, but you can use a smaller baguette as a base and still serve it as a first course. We will definitely make this recipe again. 

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chess Tart

Charisse's mom brought over the Easter edition of Martha Stewart Magazine conspicuously on the same day Charisse told her all about this new kitchen toy she'd bought, a tart pan. Low and behold, right in the middle of the magazine was a great recipie for a tart. Coincidince? We think not. Now for anyone who doesn't have one, and wouldn't know where to find one or what it looks like even if they did find it (ahem, Eric) a tart pan is basically a short sided pie tin with an edge that falls away from the base. You can see the tart on its base with the edge taken off to the right. A tart is something thats actually fairly easy to make, especially compared to a pie or cake, so having a tart pan around is probably a great idea. They are inexpensive and come non-stick so they are easy to care for. Yet another dessert that is super easy to throw together and most people who cook on a semi regular basis probably have everything just sitting around already. .

This tart is a take on a classic southern dessert called chess pie, which is made with sugar, eggs, butter, and sugar. The thing that makes this tart special is the cornmeal you add to the filling, which creates an almost firm, gooey custard (yes oxymoron, but still true) and the result is absolutely amazing. It is super sweet and tastes almost like homemade vanilla caramel. This dessert is a great ending to any meal and even die hard chocolate lovers will ask for seconds. 

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Friday, April 9, 2010

Skillet Roasted Chicken

There is something about a whole chicken roasting in the oven that just makes you feel like your home. It is the quintessential supper, a dish that grandma used to make on a chilly winter evening, maybe while talking about life in the "old country", whatever country that may be. It's a comfort food that will never go out of style no matter what age you are or where your from. Nearly every culture has some form of small roasted fowl, and every one we've tried reminds us of home. We love roasting a whole chicken, even though we don't do it as often as we'd like since it takes quite awhile.

The aroma of a roasting bird makes the entire house smell amazing and the sizzle coming from the oven makes you drool with anticipation! There are many ways to roast your chicken, pan roast with or without a roasting rack, stuffed, cooked on a bed of root vegetables and a variety of herbs and spices and rubs, in a slow cooker or dutch oven or any dozens of other ways. We are somewhat purist when it comes to roasting chickens. A little butter, rosemary, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Then a little more butter. Then its fire and forget, just drop it in the preheated oven and carve it up when its done. That's it folks! Simple and perfect every time. As for cooking technique, we like like it nestled on a bed of potatoes and onions in a big cast iron skillet. This is actually a great excuse to buy one (or in our case, a bigger one!). Since Charisse is not a huge gravy fan this suits us just right. All the fantastic juices are soaked up by the veggies and potatoes and re-soaked up by the chicken so its juicy and tender. If you are a gravy lover than we suggest that you roast your bird in a roasting pan so you can cook up your sauce post cooking.  This is an amazingly easy meal that is always sure to impress! And in answer to our dear friend, yes the whole chicken comes pre-assembled!

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad was the most simple yet one of the most delicious salads we've served to date. Charisse and Eric are both big fans of a basic mixed green salad, maybe just a few red onions, or some grape tomatoes and a tasty balsamic dressing, and they are super easy to dress up.The thing that make this salad special are the warm, baked medallions of goat cheese that lay on the top just waiting to be sliced into. We are addicted to goat cheese especially Eric. Seriously Charisse has to ration it out otherwise the appetizer would become the main course! Goat cheese has a very distinct taste and texture so it might be something you have to get used to. Goat cheese texture is both crumbly like feta cheese and soft when compressed. The taste is very similar to feta, but smoother so if you like cheeses such as feta you will love goat cheese. It is much more mild of a cheese and very soft which makes it perfect to spread on a cracker or slice of french bread. For this recipe, we shaped it into silver dollar sized medallions and drizzled them in olive oil.
Next dredge the medallions through a mixture of breadcrumbs and herbs and bake the suckers until golden brown on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. Now what could be easier? Even all you people out there that say "I can't cook" can do this one healthy simple yet fancy salad! 

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Monday, April 5, 2010

Red Spud Salad

Yesterday was Easter, and to our family that means what every holiday means... big meals, family, food, friends, and eating. Yes theres a repeating theme there and now you can see where we get it from! There was lots of food, stuffed lamb, raviolis, salad, fresh bread and Charisse's dad's special request: a delicious Red Spud Salad, our contribution to the meal. A potato salad at Easter time was a staple in the Farnsworth household for years and was also a contribution to the dinner table from Grandma Martha.  Since she passed away about 3 years ago the potato salad has been lacking and nobody every really thought much about it. A couple days ago we were talking about what we could bring to Easter Sunday Brunch and were thinking about the Tres-Leches cake or how about a cheesy zucchini casserole? At Patrick Farnsworth's request we settled potato salad as good as my Grandma's. Now we are not mayonnaise people by any means, in fact Charisse has only been able to tolerate it in the last few years, so any sort of "salad" with a mayo base is not her thing. But her father requested it, so we just had to make one. Mouths watered, bacon glistened and a new tradition was born. While the base salad is fairly traditional in many ways Charisse did put a bit of her own twist in it. We used red spuds instead of the yukon potatoes, mostly for texture color. We deleted celery out of the dish, nobody here really likes the stuff. Lastly by topping the salad off with crispy chopped bacon, we made sure that everyone would love it, because hey, everything tastes better with bacon. Charisse thought not only would it add some great color and texture, but who doesn't love bacon?! Maybe Vegans, but if you are a Vegan you probably already figured out this isn't the site for you, sorry. Overall this was a complete success, the fresh dill and parsley and all the great crunchiness of the veggies went perfectly together and was very refreshing. You could certainly experiment with this recipe, water chestnuts would be wonderful thrown into the mix...or maybe some cucumbers!  Either way, you will definitely need to loosen your belt after this one!

Pictures and Recipe after the break

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tres-Leches Cake

So we had this cake almost a week ago, and we still pop open the fridge from time to time looking to see if there is just one more slice. Of course there isn't, we ate the whole cake in 2 days.But we're still dreaming about this cake. In Charisse's dream She's floating on a slice of it drifting thorough the milky way and it's wonderful. In Eric's dream, he's just eating it. This cake is another recipe that we certainly wont have tried if Charisse didn't wander into that Food Savers and come out with an array of random products. Since she did come out with some evaporated milk and some condensed milk for no apparent reason the only thing she could find to make was this moist cake. Lets be honest, how many recipes are there that involve sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk? Not that many. Tres-Leches translates into three milks but if we are going to get technical its actually four milks, milk, heavy cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk are combined to produce a little and moist cake soaked in sweet and sticky combination of cow based products even a vegan would love. At first we were skeptical, wondering if it would turn out sloppy, watery and just a huge mess, but surprisingly the cake soaked up most of the liquid it was pretty firm. This was the last course we served for Jesse and Nicole over at Chubb Photos, and what a fun night that was too. We can't wait to have them over again and see what adventure we can cook up!

Pictures and Recipe after the break