Editor's note: Isn't it nice to pay with a ten, but still get change? In her new series "Eat for Eight Bucks," our Michele Humes will help you fix up a tasty spread for two, but still get two bucks back (at least). Take it away, Michele! --Erin
I quit a job in PR to go to culinary school. And I've been living out the financial consequences of pursuing what I love ever since.
In the year since graduating, I've developed a way of cooking for me and my boyfriend that's honest, nourishing, even sophisticated--but always with one eye on the piggy bank. This is the spirit of Eat for Eight Bucks.
Today's Special: Paprika-braised chicken
This is a stripped-down take on that venerable Spanish dish, the cocido. Who has the time (or the cauldron) to boil nine different meats and a bushel of chickpeas? In my version, thighs and drumsticks are braised in a salt pork and paprika broth that's swirling with spinach and redolent of Spain. I haven't forgotten about the chickpeas--they're served on the side, in a creamy puree topped with crispy shallots.
All this, for $7.58.
The Shopping List
Note: Items bought in large quantities, like salt pork, have been pro-rated for cost. Ingredients a cook can reasonably be expected to have on hand are considered "Pantry Items" and are not factored into recipe cost.
4 chicken pieces (1 lb) - $2.27
2 oz of a 12-oz package of salt pork - $0.45 (total cost of item - $2.66)
1 14.5-oz can chicken stock - $1.39
1 15.5-oz can chickpeas - $0.99
1 each onion, carrot and shallot - $0.89
1 package frozen chopped spinach - $1.59
Vegetable oil; extra virgin olive oil; salt and pepper; cornstarch; flour; paprika, preferably smoked; ground cumin
Lately, I'm loving Hormel Salt Pork, the unsung hero of cured meats. In its unglamorous way, it does the same job as pancetta--and it does it at one-third the price. Dice it up and render its fat; you'll barely see it in the finished dish, but you'll taste its savory influence in every bite.
Dark meat is your friend. America's insatiable appetite for breast (that's chicken breast, folks) has driven the price of white meat through the roof. Luckily, budget-friendly dark meat tastes better in braises anyway. Just be sure to give the skin a thorough, golden sear, and the meat will surprise you with its succulence.
- 4 skin-on chicken pieces (thighs and/or drumsticks)
- Seasoned flour for dredging
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 oz salt pork, rind removed and finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 14.5-oz can chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked
- 5 oz (1/2 block) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 2 tablespoons corn starch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the crispy shallots
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
- For the puree
- 1 15.5-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pat chicken dry and dredge in seasoned flour, dusting off excess. Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat, until hot but not smoking. Place chicken pieces skin-side down in hot oil and sear 6-8 minutes, transferring to a plate once skin is golden brown.
Discard left-over oil and reduce heat to low. In the same saucepan, cook salt pork until crispy, about 4 minutes. Add carrots and onions, stirring to coat in rendered pork fat, and cook until onion is translucent.
Add chicken broth and paprika and deglaze pan by boiling and scraping up any brown bits, 1 minute. Return chicken to pan, skin-side up, along with any juices that have accumulated on plate. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Add chopped spinach and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Pour in cornstarch-water mixture, stirring to distribute, and cook until sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Season to taste.
Chickpea Puree with Crispy Shallots
Make the crispy shallots: Place the shallots in a small saucepan and cover with vegetable oil. On low heat, bring oil to a simmer. Maintain a low, steady heat until shallots are golden brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain.
Make the puree: Place the chickpeas, water, olive oil and ground cumin in a food processor or blender. Blend until texture is creamy and uniform, adding more water if necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time. Transfer to a saucepan over a low flame and heat through. Season to taste.
Serve puree sprinkled with crispy shallots. If desired, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.