A good night with a bad white

chicken-cacciatore-twoEating and drinking on a budget is rewarding but risky. You’re bound to make a few bad choices in your search for the best deal. This is never more clear than when buying wine. There are some great budget picks out there, but sometimes you get that $7 bottle that just tastes like…well, a $7 bottle, or worse.

For me last night, it was a Nostalgia Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Rather than choke it down, I flipped through the myriad recipes that would allow me to make the best of my poor decision. I came across an old favorite: Marcella Hazan’s Chicken Fricassee, Cacciatora Style. As luck would have it, the front page of my circular blared “59 cent chicken leg quarters.” With an investment of about $4, my ghastly wine became a delicious dinner for five.

Marcella’s recipe is after the break, and is best served atop a pile of polenta (cornmeal + water = the poor man’s dream starch). (more…)

Pancakes for dinner?

farinata_01After reading about the great deals on chickpea flour at Sahadi’s, Pennywatcher Jamie recommended I try a recipe with the same flour, but from the other side of the Mediterranean: Farinata Genovese.

A farinata’s like a giant Italian pancake, cooked in a cast-iron skillet. It uses remarkably few ingredients: just chickpea flour, water, olive oil, onion, and rosemary, but cooks up to a delicious consistency: crispy on the outside with a creamy interior.

The short ingredient list means it’s both simple to cook and cheap. The whole thing, which serves four as a meal or many more as an appetizer, costs less than a dollar to make and requires just a few easy steps. Find Jamie‘s favorite recipe, from Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World, after the break.

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The Circular Jerk: An omelet by another name

img_0649This week’s batch of circulars provided scant options for cheap meat. It hurts, but I’m getting used to the fact that eating cheap means fewer meat-based meals. So I delved deeper into the circular and came across a 3 pound bag of yellow onions for $1.99.

Onions alone can’t make a meal, but mixed with a perennially cheap and delicious protein—eggs at $2.39 a dozen, they make a delicious frittata. A frittata is like an omelet, but it sounds much sexier. And the filling is cooked into the egg rather than folded in the middle. The only other ingredients I needed were salt, pepper, butter, and parmesan cheese—a 5 oz. block was on sale for $2.99 (To save money, buy cheese in blocks. Do you really need to pay extra for someone else to grate it for you?).

img_0654I got my recipe from a 27-year-old copy of Marcella Hazan’s classic Essentials of Italian Cooking (you can buy a new copy here). Since I only used a fraction of my onions, eggs and parmesan, the total cost of the frittata was about $3.50. It serves 4, so my cost per person was 88 cents. Not bad for a delicious dinner.

Marcella’s timeless, quick and easy recipe is after the break:
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