Updated: Nov 9
Budget-friendly doesn’t have to mean deprivation or low quality.
Many of the dishes we associate with fancy restaurant meals started out as a way to use less desirable cuts of meat. Especially anything calling for long braising.
Coq au vin, beef bourguignon, osso buco – all of these take a long time to cook, but turn inexpensive cuts into something delectable.
Recipes from different parts of the global kitchen can also help you maximize your creativity with cheap cuts of meat.
That less-than-a-dollar-a-pound pork shoulder can be barbecued (in the oven if necessary) and turned into filling for Chinese-style Bao buns. Grab skirt steak when it is on sale to make fajitas.
Chicken thighs are actually more flavorful than the white meat (and oh, so much cheaper), and can be featured as Filipino-inspired chicken adobo.
One of the reasons I love cooking shows like Chopped is because the chefs are thrown curve balls and challenged to work with whatever happens to be on hand – even if it doesn’t seem to go together. Watching a few episodes of that can help you re-interpret food in new ways.
For instance, say the grocery store has wheat hot dog buns on sale dirt cheap, but you hate hot dogs? Put the buns in a food processor, add some herbs and you have seasoned breadcrumbs to use on top of a gratin. You can even dry the extras out in a low-temp oven to save for later.
If you are going to make a dish with unfamiliar spices, you can visit the bulk sections at stores like Central Market or Whole Foods and buy just the amount of the spice you need (at least you could pre-COVID – right now it would probably be best to call ahead to the individual store.)
Filipino-Style Chicken Adobo
Bone-in chicken thighs will have more flavor that boneless ones, but you can certainly use boneless, skinless ones if that’s what’s on sale. Or get a whole chicken and cut it into eight pieces. If you have extra time, you can marinate the chicken ahead of time in the cooking liquid. Just remember not to discard the liquid! There’s something about the vinegar-soy combination that tenderizes the chicken as it cooks. To balance the nutrition, I like to serve this chicken and rice dish with a salad or vegetable side dish.
Ingredients: 1 c. soy sauce 2/3 c. distilled white vinegar 1 tsp. brown sugar 8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 1 tbsp. ground ginger 2 bay leaves 2 tsp. black peppercorns 2 lb. bone-in chicken thighs Cooked white rice, for serving
Put the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and peppercorns into a stovetop-safe Dutch oven or large pot. Place the chicken thighs into the liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, lid the pot and simmer the chicken for 25 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid has reduced to half. Remove chicken to a serving plate. Strain the remaining liquid. Serve the chicken over the rice, drizzled with a little of the sauce.
Let us know if you try Amber's recipe! Meanwhile, learn more about the recipe author, Amber Royer, in her interview with us here.