When dependent on recipes, there is a proclivity to make extravagant purchases at the grocery store in the effort to ensure that we have all ingredients on hand for a particular dish. If you're trying to stay on-budget, then cooking directly from recipes is a recipe for going off budget!
That said, I did mention in a prior post that when I write up my grocery list for the week, I sometimes peruse my favorite recipe books for ideas on what to cook. But I tend to modify recipes to suit my budget.
For instance, Beef Bourguignon is a classic French beef dish (featured in the movie "Julie and Julia"). It calls for lots of ingredients including:
- a pound of good quality beef
- top-quality bacon
- a red wine, like Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
- Cognac (though it's not listed in the link above)
- mushrooms, onions, garlic, carrots, thyme, and tomato paste.
With that in mind, the ingredient list might look like this:
- cubed stewing beef
- leftover red wine -- I'll use that rather than dashing out and buying a bottle
- I'll probably leave out the Cognac because it's not something I have on hand
- Bacon-- I might use turkey or I've also taken to using prosciutto chunks that Whole Foods sells in small containers for $3-$4. It's delicious in soups, casseroles and for jazzing up bean and lentil dishes and for sauteing with veggies.
- Mushrooms, onions, garlic and carrots are veggies I often include in my weekly grocery list so I'll probably have those on hand. If I don't, I'll leave them out and maybe just add extra onion, and fresh tomatoes or good quality spaghetti sauce if I don't have tomato paste in the cupboard.
- Brown the beef cubes in a hot, deep-sided skillet lined with a little oil. Remove browned beef to a plate. (Classic recipes call for tossing the beef cubes in flour before sauteing, but I tend to bypass that step for the sake of time and convenience.)
- Turn hot plate to med, add bacon or prosciutto chunks and saute gently, allowing the fat from the pork to release.
- Add chopped garlic and your choice of veggies. Saute gently in fat.
- Add browned beef, stir, and now add red wine or red wine mixed with stock or water.
- If you have some tomato paste on hand, add a blob of that or a slurp of some good quality bottled, plain-tomato spaghetti sauce.
- If you have bay leafs pop in a couple or some dried or fresh thyme or a mix of both.
- Allow the contents of the skillet to simmer before putting the lid on and placing it in a 350-degree oven for about 2 or so hours or until the beef is tender. Check periodically to make sure there is still liquid in the skillet, if not, add more stock, wine or even water.
- If you prefer that that your mushrooms and onion not turn to mush in the cooking process, saute them in some additional bacon or even a bit of butter, and add them just before serving. And if you do have cognac in the cupboard, once you've sauteed the mushies, slurp a bit into the pan, allowing the alcohol to evaporate, and then pour contents of pan into the skillet with the cooked beef.