Monday, February 27, 2012

greenhorn gourmande is on a budget- episode 2

This post is part of my week long series on how I manage to feed myself and my boyfriend for about $60 a week in New York city.  See the first post <<here>>.

In my last post I emphasised the importance of planning out what you are going to buy.  Pick your meals and stick to what's on your list.  I briefly mentioned that it's important to be wise about what you pick.

Now anyone with a soupçon of common sense could tell you that you are not going to be munching on organic grass fed porterhouse.  However it is a little bit harder than that (but not much).  When I look at recipes (which I'm pretty much constantly doing) I immediately look at the ingredients list and ask myself "does this list have things I know I can't afford?"  i.e. fancy cheese, expensive cuts of meat, or a super special ingredient.  When I see these little red flags I then ask myself can I make a substitution and still maintain the integrity of the dish.  For example, bacon instead of pancetta, or swiss/ cheddar instead of gruyere/comté.  If the answer is yes, then it is one I can put on my list.

Another way I help keep my budget under control is by eating mostly "vegetarian" meals.  Now I say "vegetarian" in quotes because many of my meals will not feature a main protein, but will have maybe a little bacon or chicken stock in them.  The point for me is to not maintain a completely vegetarian diet, but to reduce my meat consumption.  This is good for a multitude of reasons:  meat is generally very pricey, it is not very environmentally sustainable, and most of what I can afford is of inferior quality (read: factory farmed and loaded with antibiotics).

I now currently make meat (poultry, beef, pork, or seafood) about one to two times a week.  In the beginning reducing the amount of meat in my diet was strange, but now I find that I really don't have the desire to eat meat very often.

Of course to compensate for the lack of animal protein I make a lot of protein rich "vegetarian" meals.  In the past six months I've exposed myself to a veritable cornucopia of legumes, pulses, and grains.  I've found that lentils, beans, and quinoa can be equally satisfying to meat and incredibly delicious.  (Visit my recipe page to see a few of my favorites.)

Anyway, I'm beginning to feel like a bit of a self-righteous prig so to make it up to you, feast your eyes on this:

Roasted Chicken.  Perfection in a pan.

Last night I made a roast chicken with roasted cauliflower puree:

Both were absolutely delicious and made for a perfect Sunday supper that promised an abundance of leftovers in the way of shredded chicken and homemade stock.  I will do my best to price out these recipes, although it should be mentioned that my chicken had been in my freezer since last week (along with a few other random ingredients), and thus did not contribute to this week's grocery bill.

Perfect Roast Chicken adapted from Ina Garten

1 4lb whole chicken- $6.00  (They had chickens on sale at WF last week so I bought two to freeze.)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced- $0.40
2 medium carrots, chopped- $0.20
1/2 lemon, quartered-$0.40
few sprigs of thyme- $0.10
2 tbsp butter-$0.20
2 cloves garlic, sliced-$0.10 (I used the tops of the garlic I roasted)
Kosher salt and black pepper-$0.10
Total: $7.65


1.  Preheat the oven to 425F.  In a small sauce pan melt the butter and add the garlic.  Set aside.
2.  Arrange the vegetables in a small roasting pan, or other oven save dish that will snugly hold the chicken.  Rinse the chicken with water inside and out, and pat try.  Salt and pepper the cavity of the bird and stuff with the lemon and thyme.
3.  Brush the entire outside of the bird with the melted garlic butter and stuff the garlic into the cavity of the bird.  Toss the remaining butter with the vegetables, salt and pepper, and then give them a toss to coat evenly.  
4.  Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in the oven on the middle rack and let cook for 1 hour.  When time is up remove the bird and make a small incision between the drumstick and the body of the bird.  If the juices run clear then your chicken is fully cooked.    Let rest ten minutes before carving.

This hands down was the moistest chicken I've ever eaten, and you better believe that skin is every bit as crispy as it looks.  It paired beautifully with both the roasted vegetables (that had been basted in the chicken juice!) and the cauliflower puree.

Roasted Cauliflower Puree

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets- $2.49
2 cloves of garlic, peeled- $0.10
1 tbsp olive oil-$0.10
Kosher salt and Pepper-$0.10
1 tbsp sour cream- $0.10
1/4 cup half and half- $0.20
Total: $3.09

1.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Using a large piece of aluminum foil create a packet to contain the cauliflower.  In the packet toss the cauliflower with the oil, salt, and pepper.  Tightly crimp the packet closed and bake for 45 minutes.
2.  Allow the cauliflower to cool slightly, then place it in a blender with all of it's juices, the sour cream, and half and half.  Blend until velvety smooth and then salt and pepper to taste.

I'd seen a lot of mashed cauliflower around the ol' inter-webs, and I had to give it a try.  Overall the flavor was intense and supremely delicious.  The sweet nuttiness of roasted cauliflower really comes through in this dish.  That being said, Mr. greenhorn and I were not super thrilled by the texture.  It came out incredibly smooth- a little too smooth for our tastes.  If you like velvety mashed potatoes then this will definitely be your thing, but  if you're like us and prefer a mash with a bit more body, I would suggest only blending half of the mix and then mashing the rest in by hand. 

All in all this was a great meal that we'll feast off for the rest of this week.  Tune in tomorrow for a super easy chicken stock recipe, a delicious Roasted Garlic and Leek Soup, and to hear more about my money manageing skillz.

1 comment:

  1. Great looking chicken! I hope I can get mine as crispy next time I make one.


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