December 21, 2011

Boise's Best Breakfast: The Egg Factory (Review)

Before I begin to discuss the food served at The Egg Factory (6882 W State St Boise, ID 83714 (208) 853-2037, with two other locations in the Treasure Valley) let me take a minute to address hyperbole.  I'm not a fan.  Perhaps it's because I have young kids at home, but I don't really care for it when people casually say that things are "the best," "the greatest," and the like.  I don't get a sense for how good something is if you run around like Gordon Ramsey, saying that everything that passes your lips that you don't actively hate is "the most amazing" whatever-it-is.  I just want this to be clear when I pronounce The Egg Factory Boise's best breakfast.  To be fair, I haven't eaten at every single restaurant in Boise, but I have eaten at perennial "Best of Boise" winner Goldy's, hangover staples like Merritt's and The Capri, chic coffeehouse/eateries and truck stops.  The Egg Factory tops them all.

December 7, 2011

Fowler's Pie (Recipe)

I know we're well into December now (a by-product of time spent Christmas shopping and preparing for class in the Spring), but today's recipe involves Thanksgiving leftovers-kind of.  For the first time ever, I made stock with the turkey carcass.  It was a relatively simple process.  I placed the entire carcass in a large pot along with some chopped carrot and onion, a whole head of garlic that I peeled and crushed, a tablespoon or so of sage, half that amount of black pepper, and a carton of vegetable broth.  I added enough water to make sure the liquid covered the bird, brought the whole thing to a simmer, and covered.  I let the stuff cook for about five hours, then took it off of the stove and strained it.  The liquid had changed from murky and brown-the color of vegetable broth-to a bright straw yellow, and it definitely still smelled like Thanksgiving.  I disposed of the solids and put the fruit of my labors into the fridge to chill.

November 30, 2011

Easy Corn Chowder; or "How to Eat Canned Potatoes and Like It."

Someday, I will be a successful food blogger.  Between the combination of ad revenue, promotions at my so called "real" job, and writing articles for print I will buy myself Kitchenaid stand mixers with dough hooks and paddles.  I will have a walk-in pantry with multiple types of flour, present recipes for dry-aged beef with truffles, and write reviews of restaurants that actually require reservations and shirts that don't profess allegiance to sports teams or alcoholism.

But right now, "Catfish's Dishes" is exactly what it claims to be in the tag line: something between Iron Chef and a package of ramen.  Today we'll be leaning a bit closer to the latter than the former.  See, in the non-idealized world where I am a custodian and not a culinary expert, sometimes money simply runs out.  Boy breaks his glasses playing soccer, or Girl leaves her coat at school.  Wife misses a day at work.  Thanksgiving dinner gets out of hand in regards to largess.  Any number of things could happen to break the budget.  While I can respect the growing sentiment that Occupy should realize how much better they have it than people in third world countries, Wife and I and pretty much everyone I know ARE the 99%.  We have school debt and a non-existent savings account and live paycheck to paycheck.  That hasn't stopped me from trying to follow my passion, but it does mean that I can't always talk about the roast I made.  In fact, as we juggled Wife's shortened hours (from the holiday) and increased visitation from Girl (likewise,) I found myself in a position I used to be in frequently, and hope to avoid whenever possible.

November 29, 2011

Welcome Neighbor!

This post, or at least its title, has been sitting in my "draft" section for a few days now.  I was busy trying to find pictures from an earlier era, or get out a new post of my own so it didn't seem like I was just padding content.  To hell with it.  I have a shout out to make, and it isn't going to wait for the perfect framing device. 

November 21, 2011

Of Food Gone By

A few of you readers, the ones who have been here since the beginning (well, the second "beginning," I suppose) I know in real life.  We've worked together, gone to school together, hung out at parties or talked on Facebook.  Maybe we're even related.  Some of you (more and more, thank goodness) don't know me at all, except as the person who typed what you are reading.  The feature that counts page views tells me that you are there, although for the most part you are just lurking--I don't have that kind of following yet, that people feel obligated to comment on my every post. But like any good Thanksgiving festivity, today's post is about sharing.  Getting to know one another.

I don't have a recipe today. I haven't been to any restaurants, good or bad. I don't even have a grain of culinary wisdom to share. On this, the week of Thanksgiving, I just want to talk to you about something near and dear to all of us: food memories.

November 17, 2011

Gyro Shack (Review)

Wife was having a bad day week, and to be perfectly honest, so was I.  Boy has reached the age where he believes it possible to talk his way out of homework, and despite being a nine year old with a high school reading level, he ended up with a "D" in reading due to lazy and incomplete work.  The "stern parent talk" that happened at the end of the semester seemed to do the trick for a week or two, but he was right back at it, hiding away bits of his worm journal so he could claim to be done with his assignments and play the Wii.  Sunday started with the revelation that he had several weeks of work due on Monday, and each successive day revealed more hidden homework.  Only time will tell if the punishments leveled-from a missed meeting of the chess club to the first spanking handed out in over a year--will make an impact on him, but it was clearly weighing on us. 

It was with this crushing wall of negativity as a backdrop that I decided to relinquish my pocket money and take Wife out to eat.  I'd won a whopping ten dollars on a bet, and while I had intended to save it to feed my obsession, I felt I had to do something to perk Wife (and myself) up. 

November 10, 2011

Other People's Recipes: New Mexico Chocolate Cookie Crinkles

One of the nicest things about the fall and winter months is all the attention paid to tradition; while my family has rituals for the Fourth of July and the whole month of August is pretty much a party (with both mine and Wife's birthdays bracketing our anniversary over a three week period,) none of these things really stands up to the feelings generated between Halloween and the first week of the new year. Some of these traditions, like the yearly Zombie Walk I posted a picture of on Halloween, involve an activity, but whether it is roasting pumpkin seeds as a family or the deliciously unhealthy "sausage biscuits" Wife makes every Christmas morning, many of them revolve around the kitchen. 

That's why when my friend Mouse talked about the cookies her mom used to make for her, I knew I should try and make them myself.  I had been looking for something tasty to make for a friend who was in town, but even when that didn't pan out it I decided I would like to try and replicate the cookies Mouse had grown up on for her sake.  I had already tried to replicate her nostalgia once, on her birthday, with mixed results.  The candied apples I made in lieu of a cake looked beautiful, tasted wonderful, and played hell on your teeth.  My inexperience with candy thermometers made what could have been a perfect treat more reminiscent of the glass Christmas ornaments my punk friends used to eat to freak people out.  I wasn't going to let one mistake in the kitchen discourage me, however, so I set out to find a recipe.

November 9, 2011

Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder with Rosemary Potatoes and Butternut Squash

Fall.  It is perhaps my favorite season.  The Boise State Broncos are dominating opponents on the blue turf, the unrelenting heat of summer fades, and the calendar is filled with family celebrations.  While it is still over half a month until Thanksgiving, the chill in the air was making me pine for the type of food that takes all day to cook, whose aromas fill the house and makes stomachs growl; the type of food that makes dinner an event.  I had to ignore that desire the week of Halloween.  Our house was filled with guests, and we turned to quick fixes so that we could actually spend time with our company.  Pizzas, burritos, and pasta dishes all helped keep us out of the kitchen while satisfying the various dietary restrictions of our temporarily extended household.  The food tasted fine, and I had a great time with my friends, but as the last of them left for Oregon on the second I started planning how I was going to cure my craving.

October 31, 2011

Bad Boy Burgers (Review)

When I first got the idea to combine my love of food and my love of writing into this blog, one of the most appealing aspects was the fact that I could finally review restaurants.  I've always been slightly jealous of food critics (and critics in general, really.)  Getting paid to go out to eat?  Sounds too good to be true.  Of course, at this point it is too good to be true, because apart from the few cents provided whenever anyone is kind enough to click on the advertisements clogging up the corners of this page I don't make anything; if I made enough money at my real world job to do itemized deductions on my taxes I could probably start claiming going out to eat as a business expense, but at this point restaurant dining is just a loss. 
Which isn't to say that it doesn't have its advantages, the biggest being that it helps me in the great going out to eat debate.  It's hard to argue with Wife the merits of new and unpredictable versus familiar and safe when money is tight, but if it's for "work," well, we can't just go to Los Betos all the time.  Then again, if our experience at Bad Boy Burgers (7000 Fairview Avenue, Boise ID 208-373-0020) is any indication, maybe we should. 

Happy Halloween!

October 27, 2011

Quick and Easy Chicken Wraps

It was just last week that I was telling you how much of a struggle it was to get Wife to go to Asian restaurants with me, but it wasn't always that way.  When we were still just boyfriend and girlfriend, we had many more opportunities to actually go out to eat.  She had a better paying job than she does now; our kids didn't need separate bedrooms, and as such we paid less in rent.  When going to a restaurant wasn't a rare treat ethnic cuisine still wasn't at the top of her list, but it wasn't out of the question. 

October 25, 2011

A Taste for.....Blood?

Catfish's Dishes is a food blog, as food is the only thing in my life that I have a desire to write about on a continuous basis, but it's far from my only interest.  I like craft beer (still technically fair game for food writing, I guess,) nerdy stuff like Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, comic books, camping, live music and horror films. 

It is, of course, the latter that I wish to address today.  An unhealthy love of top ten lists, combined with my disgust at our local school district's choice to not allow children to come to school in costume has inspired me to take a break from writing about food and instead offer my top ten horror films as an appetizer for your Halloween celebrations.  If buckets of gore aren't your thing, or you're simply a stickler for actually finding a recipe when you open up a food blog, head on over to Macheesmo; it's the best food blog online.  But if you like a good scare or want to debate my picks in the comments below, please continue reading.

October 18, 2011

Stir Fry with Peanut Tofu

There aren't many aspects of my marriage I have an issue with.  I think it's a testament to exactly how good I have it that, when thinking of areas of contention, something this trivial comes to mind.  We don't have big blow out fights, don't run around on each other or even (six years in) spend much time apart.  But whenever Wife and I go out to eat, there is an elephant in the vehicle. 

She doesn't like Asian food. 

She doesn't like Chinese.  She doesn't care for Thai.  She's not terribly fond of Vietnamese. 

It's not that she hates these foods.  On occasion she'll be in the mood for "the broccoli beef from that one place," and she is satisfied after eating a bowl of pho.  If she were to have a say in this blog, if we were to put the food debate on trial, I'm sure Wife would say that it isn't that she doesn't like these foods, it's that I like them entirely too much.  Both of us would look at a typical conversation on the trip to the drive-through to state our case. 

Wife:  Wanna go out to eat?
Me:  (Looks at dirty dishes.)  Sure, why not. 
Wife:  What should we get?
Me:  In the mood for Chinese?
Wife: Not at all.
Me:  Whatever you want, I guess.

October 13, 2011

On being a lazy parent:

We've all been there.  It's time to feed the children, but there are a thousand other things you would like to be doing than cooking.  Maybe the game is about to start, maybe it was a long day at work and you just want to sit down; it could be practically anything.  The point is that pretty much anyone-even those of us who enjoy cooking so much they feel like writing about it-don't always want to get stuck in the kitchen. 

Take this morning.  Boy and I had just returned from dropping off Wife at work.  He wanted to hop onto Netflix and finish watching "Garfield's Pet Force."  I wanted to do some prep work for the stir fry I was going to make for dinner.  Spending half an hour to make something fancy was out of the question.  Still, I didn't want to resort to cereal, cold or hot.  Our eggs were already claimed for other things.  It was a similar situation to the one that caused me to make the breakfast ramen I wrote about earlier.  This time, however, I didn't come up with any new ideas.  I turned to a cheat.

October 7, 2011

Quick and Easy Faux Asian Breakfast Ramen

Wife and I have very different strengths in the kitchen.  I got my culinary training, such as it was, from Job Corps.  Wife learned to cook from me.  This leads many people to think that, should they need advice in the kitchen, I am the one to call.  I am not. 

Perhaps it's a poor idea, when trying to establish a cooking blog, to talk about one's inadequacies in the kitchen.  However, it's the truth; I am very bad at the technical aspects of cooking.  I double check "The Joy of Cooking" to get the proper cooking time for baked potatoes.  I prefer it when Wife makes the rice.  Her skills lie in, well, skill.  When she found a roasted chicken recipe she liked she memorized it, and apart from minute changes in seasoning, she makes the same bird each time.  Mashed potatoes, gravy, and a small rotating selection of veg follow as if created on an assembly line.  This analogy may make the food sound uninteresting, but it's not.  Everything is tender, flavorful, and perfect.

October 3, 2011

Fish on Fire

I love cooking shows.  I love the brainy ones that actually teach the in's and out's of cooking like Good Eats, America's Test Kitchen, and Barbecue University.  I like contests of skill, like Top Chef, Iron Chef, and Chopped.  I even like sensationalized "reality" cooking like Hell's Kitchen.  But there is one show I just can't get into.

Man Vs. Food.

September 16, 2011

Quick and Easy Banana Ginger Oatmeal

Last weekend, I made Ginger Spice Brownies.  Even though I started from an old Nestle' recipe, I spent a lot of time fine tuning and worrying about the flavors I was creating.  I was going out of my way to try and make something that could be appreciated, both by anyone who was reading this blog, and by Mouse, who had asked me to combine brownies and ginger in the first place. 

This is not that blog.  While I'm sure I will approach the next thing I bring you with the same level of detail as I paid my brownies, this is a story of throwing things together, and being pleasantly surprised with the results. 

September 12, 2011

Ginger Spice Brownies

Lately, my mind has been on health. Diabetes has affected both mine and my wife's families, and as we put our twenties behind us, it's clear that we aren't in the best of shape either. In addition, while looking at innovative kid's food on Macheesmo, I followed a link in the comments to another blog about the deplorable conditions of school lunches; more links followed, and soon I was watching the entire first season of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" on Youtube. I'd missed the show when it came out initially, because it was advertised as a companion to the cloying, in-your-face inspiration porn that is "Extreme Make-Over: Home Additon." While sometimes I find that "Food Revolution" does get a bit heavy handed with the importance of what they are doing, Jamie Oliver has a message I can get behind. It also helps that he's not this guy: