Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

While Charisse was in Arkansas we both ended up having soup on the same night. We all saw how Eric's turned out while Charisse on the other hand was eating out at a Mennonite restaurant in Gentry and enjoying a baked potato soup. We were talking later that night over Skype and Eric learned two things: Mennonites are people and therefore not edible and baked potato soup is the best thing since the baked potato. Actually, he learned 3 things that night, the third being that canned low sodium soup tastes terrible. Especially if its past its expiration date by a year and a half. So when Charisse came back this was near the top of the southern-cooking-to-die-for-and-may-actually-kill-you-too list and was promptly cooked up for lunch on the first really cold October day. It was actually a great Sunday afternoon food, it really fit our day. We've been having some really unseasonably warm weather this October with temperatures in the 90's for a while so to have this sudden cold snap really kicked up our holiday season anticipation as it finally feels like Fall is here and Winter is coming. We built our first fire of the season and lounged around all day watching movies and eating hearty southern food. since then we've decided that more exercise is needed and will probably be making more... healthy food but that wasn't on our minds at the time. What was on our minds was this soup. It really is like a liquid baked potato. Or more like a twice baked potato in liquid form. We topped it with chopped green onions cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon, but any baked potato toppings would work. So with winter well on its way you should take a day off to hunker down with this soup and just be full.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Southern Spiced Fried Chicken

So Charisse came back from Arkansas last week and saved us all from Eric's Kraft Mac and Cheese from a box recipe (we should all praise the food gods for that). In fact, foodies@home almost came to an end when she walked in the door and announced "I am so full, I am never ever ever eating anything ever again". Thankfully that was a short lived sentiment and it was right back to business this weekend. One slight change in her was a strong desire to show off her newfound southern roots. Those roots are newfound because she is a 3rd or 4th generation Californian. Go figure. We talked a little bit about what southern inspired dishes we should try first and decided on (cue the banjos) Fried Chicken. According to Charisse the Arkansas family all agreed that cooking doesn't get any more Arkansas than sticking some battered chicken in a deep fryer, and we were happy to try our hand at it! 
We fried up some good old fashioned chicken breasts that we happened to have in the freezer, the boneless and skinless kind but this definitely could have been done with a dark cut, or a bone in skin on breast. We also did a single pass through on the egg wash and dredge, but a second time through would have added a lot of crunchiness to each bite. Even without the second pass the chicken was perfectly tender and very flavorful. One of the big benefits to deep frying is how moist the chicken comes out, as the hot oil basically cauterizes the outside and traps all the moisture in the meat. Its a dish that makes even your most well behaved friends go "MMmmmmmom nom nom nom. Is there more?!" Not that we have any well behaved friends mind you, so we really wouldn't know what those say. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

Welcome to the second of three posts dealing with Charisse's family vacation in Arkansas, leaving Eric to fend for himself. So far, he's still alive and so are the animals. Trust me, that's a good sign. This time of year in California the weather has started to turn colder which is always exciting because that means the Holidays are just around the corner. It also means its time for hot foods to make a comeback and what better than some chicken noodle soup to kick off the winter cooking season? It turns out that chicken noodle is also the perfect choice when it is the only canned soup in the house. It is also the same can I bought for Charisse the last time she wasn't feeling well. Guys, even if she doesn't use it, still a good call to bring one home. Now heres the really important part, when cooking canned soup, take the wrapper off first or it might catch on fire!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Frozen Pizza

This week's posts are dedicated to the married American Male when left alone for a period of time. Charisse has gone to Arkansas to visit family, and left me, Eric all alone for a week. I've decided to document what happens when even the most devoted foodie is left alone to fend for himself. The results? 

Not good. 

So this was a vacation that was on the books for over a year and was supposed to include the both of us but I couldn't make due to my new job. No vacation time is tough. Thankfully I got a lot of invites from our friends, so most of the time I wasn't at work, I was enjoying the cooking prowess of our friends and family but that left a few nights where I had to fend for myself, so I've decided to share that with you. 
The first night after Charisse left, my good friend Greg came over and we had a small feast, frozen pizza and beer. The rubbery crust and super hot cheese that leaves the roof of your mouth burned is a true throwback to the college days. I knew this would be a tough week for cooking when Greg tossed a handful of chips on the pizza before it went into the oven. I pulled out some of my old tricks from college, so if any guys out there are ever left to fend for yourselves, take heed. Firstly, check the bottom of the pizza before you pull it out, sometimes the the cheese browns before the crust is done. If the this happens regularly, you've got the heat up too high. Also, to save on dishes, most frozen pizzas come with a cardboard box and cardboard base. This makes a perfect, free disposable plate. So far, surviving. Coming up... I tackle soup out of the can. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chicken with Herbed Dumplings

Well, we didn't make it past the Fancy Dinner party in the Foodbuzz competition so we took a little break (nothing like take out Chinese Food to soothe the soul of defeat). THANK YOU all so much for your support though this contest and hopefully you'll all keep reading! 
Now that we're ready to get back on track, Charisse has taken off on a family vacation to Arkansas (pronounced Ark-en-saw - apparently it is offensive to call it Ark-Kansas or Ark an sauce =P) leaving Eric home alone for a week, so the next few posts will be me going solo. Since cooking for one is never fun, I've pulled out the old college cook book and will be showing everyone how the typical American Male survives when left alone for an extended period of time. You've been warned. 

Charisse's imminent departure meant we worked hard to spend as much time together and prepared a very home style dinner to celebrate our return to non-contest normalcy. It doesn't get much more home style than chicken and dumplings, especially when a cold snap rolls in. Warm gooey dumplings and chicken were a great use of our newest cast iron pan, and the iron adds just that little extra to everything we cook in it. We actually heard a report that eating food cooked in cast iron is really good for women, because it adds iron to the food. Yet another reason we love our iron. The soup coming out of this is really thick and flavorful, so be prepared to have some bread on the table and a lack of judging when someone gets caught licking the bowl.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Salmon Hash with Poached Eggs

Mmmm Breakfast. What an overlooked, but truly outstanding meal. They say Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Were not sure who "they" are but they do tend to be right. Theres something about having a big filling breakfast thats like filling the gas tank before a big road trip. Cruising past pit stops and snack bars knowing you don't need to stop... okay that analogy is just not working, but you get the point. Weekday breakfast is all too often sadly uneventful. Theres no such thing as happy breakfast hour or breakfast meetings. Nobody does a power breakfast. In today's world breakfast seems to either get woofed down on the drive into work or skipped entirely which is a real shame because some of the worlds best food is for breakfast. When we lived in San Francisco, the big thing to do was Sunday breakfast. We're talking everyone in town went out for breakfast on Sundays. You could tell the best spots by how long the lines were, and when you got through the line (even if was almost lunchtime) you knew you had some great food to look forward to. The other weekend we wanted to try our hands at Sunday Breakfast, and with lots of leftover fish, we invited some people over and whipped up a Salmon hash. Charisse even tried her hand at poached eggs, which taste great, but are super easy to screw up. Theres just something about watching an egg basically dissolve in water that makes you go "eeeewwwww". The eww generally produces laughs from everyone else, so its fun to do at parties! This one is super easy to do (except for the eggs which are optional anyways) and its really filling. It is just the sort of thing that helps take the edge off after a long night out and is a great way to start off your Sunday (Eric says you can't watch football on an empty stomach!).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vote for us on Foodbuzz!

Voting is open now through Thursday! Help us get through to the next round!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bacon on the Menu (Eric's 28th Birthday Dinner Party)

 It was a week ago and we were planing out what we would cook for round 3 of the Project Food Blog contest and Charisse had just asked what Eric's favorite ingredient was. This was followed by an impassioned argument that pepperoni pizza was not an ingredient but a meal into it's own and not suitable for a "luxury"dinner party. We were trying to set a menu for the evening (part of the challenge) and wanted all the courses to be tied together somehow. Usually when we go out to eat there's no cohesion in the menu, no flow between courses, its just 3 or 4 different dishes that we happen to like. Its a meal simply because all the plates happen to land on our table. When Foodbuzz announced this challenge we knew we wanted all of our courses tied together somehow and the idea of a common ingredient felt like a good creative way to do that. With pizza off the table we were still bouncing ideas around when Eric, staying true to form suggested bacon. It was all "haha, very funny" at first, but the idea really stuck. It was Eric's birthday after all, so after some serious head scratching we decided that  bacon could and should adventure  outside of the breakfast griddle. By Wednesday we had a menu of 3 courses, a dessert and a signature drink, all involving bacon in some way.
On Thursday after work we got in the little Nissan Versa and headed to Costco, always a dangerous thing. Way too much money and a very full little car later we were in the kitchen preparing for the next day. One thing we've learned over the years is Eric has no time management skills. Actually Eric knew this already but Charisse had to figure this out over many instances of: "You said this would take 20 minutes and its been 5 hours!". Needless to say with multiple courses like this, Charisse claims the kitchen as her own. A key thing for us when we produce something like this menu is the preplanning. Charisse will figure out how long each course will take to cook and time out when she needs to have them done by. We also will pre-cook as much as possible the night before. Anything that can be made ahead of time and reheated or just thrown in the oven to start cooking must get done the day before. We spent about 4 hours Thursday night pre-cooking and prepping (chopping, slicing etc) everything so on Friday there was very little work to be done. That meant that we all socialized more and felt like we were part of the party, not part of the hired help.
Since it was Eric's birthday, we figured it was only fitting to have both of our parents over for a birthday dinner party. When everyone arrived Eric started pouring our signature Candied Bacon Martinis, a drink for any guest with a sweet tooth.  A signature cocktail is a great way to start the evening and set the mood and theme for any party, plus it's a great way to save a little dough on liquor. Knowing exactly what you need, instead of guessing what your guests will be asking for. With Amaretto, maple syrup and Applejack brandy this drink is like liquid candy for grownups and Charisse's Dad loved it. When Pat was done licking the bottom of his glass, we pulled out the first course which featured one of the best things we've ever tasted: Bourbon Bacon Marmalade. Although it took 2 pounds of bacon and over three hours to make, it was totally worth the work. We served it on a sweet potato cake topped with grilled prawns, and it a dream come true. Seriously, we could have ended the dinner with this course and our guests wouldn't have know the difference. But we had to resist seconds and move on to the next course of the evening our Leek Shooters with Bacon Essence. They were creamy and tasted almost like we'd smoked the leeks, a trick we use in the kitchen often. It is amazing what a little rendered bacon fat can do for an ordinary dish.  Our main course was an individual serving of Cornish Game Hen with Apple Bacon Stuffing for each guest. Again our secret ingredient (bacon fat) made its appearance as a smokey back flavor that turned the skins of the hen into a crispy golden brown delight. And of course we couldn't have a birthday celebration with out a fantastic dessert fit for birthday boy! All of his favorite things were incorporated into the hit of the evening. A molten chocolate stout cake topped with a Bacon Creme Anglaise and Pig Candy.
After the guests had eaten and Eric opened his gifts we all decided it was time to loosen our belts by a few notches and Charisse admitted that she was a bit worried about how the meal was going to turn out, but was pleasantly surprised with the results. Everyone agreed that when they read the menu, Bacon Martinis? Bacon Creme Anglaise? They were a little concerned themselves, but wanted to be adventurous and try new things and boy were they satisfied. Now if only we had a secret on how to get the kitchen clean after a dinner party!