Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bennies of Cooking with Friends

One of the most economical ways to prepare meals is to cook with friends.

You share your resources, both food and cooking talent, and if you're single, you also have the benefit of scintillating dinner-time conversation with another.

I tested my theory this week and I was most happy with the result: dollars were saved, chat was had, and the dinners were delish.

The easiest and most economical meal was such because we made use of Whole Foods incredibly convenient, and free, marinating service.

Chicken thighs were on sale for .99 cents a pound and my friend requested that the 4 thighs she purchased be marinated.

The meat-counter associate listed several marinade options and my friend chose Teriyaki.

Once home, I offered my cooking talent to the meal, and this is what I came up with:

Basmati Rice with Chicken & Shallots
1) Pour one cup basmati rice into 2 cups of water. Boil, then reduce heat and simmer rice on low for about 3o -4o mins.
2) Place marinated chicken thighs into a skillet or pot, adding a little water or stock. Turn hot plate to med. Once liquid is gently bubbling turn heat down and cook thighs for about 30 mins.
3) At the 30-min mark, add a cup of frozen corn kernels to the rice. (Fresh corn is on sale everywhere at the moment, a very good reason to use fresh over frozen kernels. For this dish, simply remove kernels from the corn cob with a knife and add to rice.) Corn will steam cook on top of rice.

To Serve: Into a bowl place a big spoon of cooked rice, top with a chicken thigh, spooning juice from pot over chicken and rice, scatter sliced shallots over the top.

We two ate the four thighs and one cup of cooked rice between us and we figured the meal probably cost in the vicinity of $2 per person. In contrast, the shopping together, cooking and chat were priceless.

For our second shared meal, I contributed a half pack of ground buffalo that I'd bought on sale at WFs, and my last rasher of turkey bacon, plus garlic and an onion. My friend had some cheese and a pack of 365-brand penne pasta.

Spaghetti Bolognese
1) Dice half a large brown onion and chop one clove of garlic. Saute in olive oil until onion is transparent.
2) Add a sliced rasher or two of turkey or pork bacon.
3) Toss in ground beef, breaking it up while stirring with a wooden spoon.
4) Pour in a tin of 365-brand tomato sauce, stirring it into meat and onions.
5) Gently simmer on low for about 30 mins.
6) At the last minute, season to taste, and add a little Balsamic vinegar, it brings out the flavor of the meat sauce, as does a pinch of sugar. I like to pour in a little olive oil right at the end too, to enrich the sauce.
7) Boil a pot of water; add penne pasta and a glug of olive oil; cook till al dente or until pasta is soft, but still slightly chewy in the middle.
8) Drain pasta in a colander, running it under hot water tap, drain again, then pour pasta back into cooking pot and put pot back onto a high-temp hot plate--this will cause any remaining liquid to quickly evaporate. Remove pot from hot plate and pour a liberal amount of olive oil over penne.

To serve: Cover a plate with a single layer of penne and top with ample bolognese sauce, drizzle with your choice of grated cheese.

We had a simple side salad of lettuce and cucumber topped with a slurp of bottled Cesar dressing with this meal. The estimated cost of the meal per person: about $3.

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