Monday, November 23, 2009

Carmelized Pot Roast w/ Gorgonzola Cauliflower

It’s not every day I discover a better way to cook meat, but that’s exactly what happened this weekend. I set out to make a slow-cooker pot roast. In the past, the meat ended up swimming in its juices, so I propped it up on top of potatoes. In this manner, the potatoes cooked long before the meat was fork-tender, so I drained the juices for gravy, removed the vegetables, and placed the meat in the dry crock and set the temp to high. Hours later, an amazing thing happened. As the fat and connective tissue cooked away, the beef was now slow-frying in its own fat. The entire outside of the roast browned like Carnitas, yet as I broke apart the roast with two forks, the meat was hardly dry at all. Once I tossed the chunks of meat in the gravy, I had a perfect freezer entrée.

Served here with a baked cauliflower casserole consisting of a steamed and mashed cauliflower mashed with 1 cup of béchamel w/ 1/4 lbs gorgonzola and baked at 450 until browned. Yum.

Frugal Factor: 2 lbs. bottom round roast, $4, cauliflower, $2, potatoes, $1, mushrooms $2, milk and butter, $1. $10 for 5 portions is $2/portion.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken Marsala w/ Escarole and Potatoes

Chicken Marsala may be a staple of catering hall buffets, but it’s one of my favorites. Marsala is a sweet fortified wine with a long shelf life, so I always have it in the pantry. On the side, I chopped and sautéed one head of escarole in garlic with a dash of chicken stock.I also nuked a couple russet potatoes, removed the skin, chopped into chuncks and sauteed in olive oil and herbs. Easy.


  • 8 Chicken Thighs, skinned, de-boned and pounded flatFlour seasoned with salt, pepper and dried herbs – Wondra works best.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 8 oz chopped mushrooms1 finely diced onion

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 1 cup marsala wine

  • 1-2 cups chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  1. Dredge the chicken in the flour.

  2. Pour olive oil in 12” skillet and add whole garlic cloves and chicken, then turn on medium heat (trust me)

  3. Brown chicken on both sides and set aside.

  4. Stir about two tablespoons of the dredging flour into the olive oil to create a loose paste (roux).

  5. Add mushrooms and onion and stir until cooked through.

  6. Add marsala and scrape and fond off pan.

  7. Crush up those garlic cloves.

  8. Add chicken and enough stock to half cover the other ingredients.

  9. Continue cooking until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, adding more stock or flour to get the desired gravy consistency.

  10. After turning off heat, stir in a few tablespoons of butter to enrich the sauce.

Frugal Factor: 2lbs chicken at $1.89/lbs, $3.78. Mushrooms, $2, onion, garlic, wine, stock, oil, butter: $1.50 (est.). I made four servings, so that’s $1.82/serving not counting the sides, which would probably add $0.75/serving, for a total of $2.47/serving.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Balsamic Chicken with Eggplant and Roasted Vegetables over Polenta

As the local growing season ends, I’m back to getting my veggies at the supermarket. One way to make supermarket produce shine is roasting, which concentrates the flavors and brings out the sweetness. This recipe also uses canned roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes and capers – essential pantry items for the winter. This recipe has a few make-ahead steps, but is well worth the effort. The chicken is optional, but as always, dark meat is best if you plan to freeze and reheat.


  • 1 large eggplant

  • 1 red onion

  • 6 portabella mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup sliced sundried tomatoes, soaked in hot water until soft and drained

  • 2 cans roasted red peppers

  • 1 bulb garlic (preferably North American)

  • 1 lbs chicken thighs, sliced

  • 2 tbsp capers

  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

  • 1 tbsp. dried Italian herb mixture (fresh works too, but it’s winter)

  • Parmesan cheese – to taste

  • 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette (see below)

  • 1 6x9 dish of polenta (see below)

  1. Marinate chicken strips in half the balsamic vinaigrette for one hour or overnight.

  2. Peel eggplant and slice into quarters and the slice into ½ inch pieces.

  3. Lightly salt eggplant and layer on paper towels for 1 hour or overnight (rinse and pat dry

  4. Slice onion in half and then into slices

  5. Rinse the mushrooms and cut out the black gills and discard.

  6. Slice the mushrooms into bite sized pieces. If stems were included, chop off the duty end and discard, and slice the stem into thin pieces.

  7. Toss each vegetable separately in some olive oil, herbs and pepper flakes and put on roasting pans (keep veggies separate in case their cooking times are different.
    Place veggies, as well as whole bulb of garlic, in a 450 degree oven until browned but not burned. 20-30 minutes on average.

  8. Open cans of peppers. Drain the first can and and slice into bite sized pieces, set aside. Run the other can, liquid and all, in a blender until smooth.

  9. Pat dry the marinated chicken and sauté under high heat.

  10. Add all the veggies

  11. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves into mixture.

  12. Add a dash of the vinaigrette, the pureed peppers, and the capers

  13. Serve over warmed polenta squares with grated cheese. Fresh parsley might be nice too.

For the balsamic vinaigrette: 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 2/3 cup olive oil, 1 tsp prepared mustard, 2 tbsp lemon juice, salt and Tabasco to taste. Put it all in a blender and blend until opaque and emulsified..

For the polenta: Bring two cups water/stock to a boil, lower heat to simmer, whisk in 1 c cup cornmeal and stir slowly for 30 minutes, until mixture pulls away from pan (add water if it gets too thick to stir). Pour into greased casserole, cool, and cut into squares.

Frugal Factor: This makes six servings. $2 for the eggplant, $4 for the mushroom, $1 for the onion, $4 for the chicken, $1 for everything else. That’s $2/serving. A little high – darn those mushrooms.