Gourmet Meals For Less
Does the task of creating a dinner party for 10 people for less than $100 sound like mission Impossible? On the contrary, it's not only doable, but it's fairly simple. All you need to consider are a few basic principles for maximizing your food budget.
Tips for planning menus
Pork Medallions Milanese
If you were to buy enough pork tenderloin to grill or broil for a group of 10, you'd use nearly all of your budget on the meat alone. Instead, buy a couple of large tenderloins and cut them crosswise into slices about 1/2-inch thick. Use a meat mallet to pound each slice until it is a uniform ¼ inch throughout. Coat with flour, then dip into beaten egg, then dredge in bread crumbs. Pan-fry in olive oil until just done, about 2 minutes per side. Let rest on paper towels on a rack in a warm (170 F) oven until all the pork is cooked. Pass lemon wedges with the pork slices.
Cooked this way, pork tenderloin is as tender and flavorful as veal -- but a lot less expensive.
Pasta is inexpensive and makes an elegant appearance in this special baked dish. Pair a white sauce with small shrimp and canned crabmeat and layer it between sheets of lasagna, alternating with a blend of ricotta and cream cheese and sprinkling with shredded mozzarella.
Saute two 16-ounce bags of frozen cut-leaf spinach in a bit of olive oil along with a couple of minced garlic cloves until tender. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar, if desired.
Instead of buying stew meat, which is more costly because it is already processed, buy a piece of chuck beef and cut it into 1-inch cubes yourself. This way, you'll also have more control over how much you trim away.
The most expensive element of this dish is the beef; the second is the wine that goes into the stew. Ask the proprietor at your favorite wine shop to recommend a nice dry red wine that is full flavored and suitable for cooking. Tell him what you are preparing, and emphasize that you are cooking on a budget.
Slow and steady wins the race with this dish. Even a tough cut of meat will melt like butter in your mouth after a few hours of gentle, slow cooking in this stew.