Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bousgie meets Cheap Wine

I spent my weekend daydreaming over my latest acquisition to my expanding collection of food p0rn: "The Wine Lover Cooks Italian: Pairing Great Recipes with the Perfect Glass of Wine," picked up for $6 at Borders the other day in the post-holiday bargain bin.

How ironic that this book would be in the bargain bin.

The author, the kind of guy that you suspect is unaware of the presence of anything other than $50 bottles of wine, is the kind of author who throws around words like "prosciutto," "roast duck," and "fontina cheese" like they were basic supermarket staples. Even his "cheap wines" go for a minimum of $15/bottle at the liquor store down the street.

The recipes are worthy of weekends and romantic dinners. If they filmed the making of these scrumptious plates, it would be downright lewd. In the attempt to educate myself in the ways of prosciutto-wrapped chicken, spinach-stuffed peppers, and a butternut squash risotto, all paired with a $5 Italian sauvignon blanc (the Wine Lover doesn't have to know), I made dinner on Saturday night.

How much did all of this cost? Considering I went to the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Co-op and Whole Foods for organic ingredients, I still made out OK.

For what I used to make one meal:
Wine - $4 (used part of $5 bottle for cooking, drank part of the rest, and had some leftover for the next day)
Eberly Chicken Breasts - $6 (in a pack for $13, but I didn't use more than half)
1/2 Butternut Squash - $1.75 (1 whole was 3.47)
2 Red peppers - $5
Shallots: $1
Parsley: comes in a bunch for $2, but I barely used any: $.25
Spinach: $2
Lemon: $.75
Garlic: $.50
1/2 pack of prosciutto:$3.25 (pack cost $7.50)
arborio rice: $1 (purchased in bulk by the pound, which is half the cost of buying in the box)
rosemary sprig: about $1 (they come in a pack for 2.69 but I only used 1 sprig)
pecorino romano cheese: about $1.50 (in a block for under $6, but I used less than half)

Other ingredients I had on hand already:
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth Packets from trader joe's

So, for the meal with wine, it came out to about $14/person (not including the cost of kitchen essentials, and not considering the out-of-pocket cost of what the larger items that I didn't use all of). I guess I could round up to about $15-$16/person if you factor in the staple ingredients.

That's definitely better than a night out at a restaurant, which could easily add another $5-10 on per person. I had enough leftover for stuffed pepper and risotto for another day, so that saved me money from not having to buy lunch on Monday.

I'm sure if I wanted to do this again, I could probably save some money and use non-organic squash and shallots, dried rosemary and parsley, bacon instead of prosciutto, and parmesan instead of pecorino. I wouldn't recommend using conventional, non-organic peppers, spinach, or lemon (with zest) for this recipe since you eat the skin of those items in this meal. I'm also not sure how bacon would work out with wrapping the meat, but it's worth a try. The pecorino cheese had a special flavor for sure, that some might not want to miss out on, but for a budget, grated parmesan (NOT that Kraft powdered mess) might suffice. Chicken thighs would also be much cheaper than chicken breast and were actually what the recipe called for, but I unfortunately only had the breasts thawed in time.

The separate parts of this meal would also be a great complement to a less expensive dish. The chicken with prosciutto could be with steamed rice or mashed potatoes and a salad, or the butternut squash risotto would be great with a oven-baked, seasoned piece of meat.

I like to call it Bousgie Bethesda meets Savvy Silver Spring :)

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