Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Value Added - Au Gratin Potatoes with Sauteed Onion

The Chef has often taken home boxed meals and frozen pizza only to be disappointed. Most prepared meals seem to be missing something. The Chef's new series "Value Added," addresses this problem by simply adding one or two extra 99 cent ingredients to wack a dull dish out of the ballpark.

Transform a boringly bland cheese pizza with a topping of marinated artichoke hearts, or jazz up a box of dehydrated Au Gratin Potatoes with fresh sauteed sweet onion. How about a British twist on the French classic Cassoulet - pork and beans with 99 cent sausage, otherwise known as Beenie Weenies! Even the dorm room staple, dried ramen noodles, can be amped up with fresh spinach leaves, a sliced boiled egg and 99 cent canned sliced shitake mushrooms.

Get ready as the Chef pitches you his 99 cent boxed "Scalloped Potatoes with Sauteed Onion" Value Added recipe. By sliding in caramelized sweet onion, turn this strike-out of a dehydrated dish into a home run! -- OK, maybe a bunt.


1 whole onion (yellow or white) sliced
1 tablespoon oil
1 box Au Gratin Potatoes or Scalloped Potatoes (about 5 ounces)


Saute onions in tablespoon of oil until tender and caramelized to a light brown, about 10 minutes. Prepare Au Gratin Potatoes per box directions and mix in sauteed onions -- the Chef prefers following the "oven" cooking directions to get a nice brown topping to the dish.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mom's 99 Cent Jambalaya - Video Recipe

To add tomato or not to add tomato, that is the question when making this classic Louisiana dish, Jambalaya.

This Chef attended high school in the "Jambalaya Capitol of the World" -- Gonzales, Louisiana; so I have an answer - no tomato!

However, if you order it from the Gumbo Pot at the Farmers Market here in Los Angeles, you will find it loaded with tomato and quite soupy, big city New Orleans style (a recipe that Mr."Throwdown" Bobby Flay lost with) -- the exact opposite from what I had in my small-town high school cafeteria. Don't get me wrong, I like the Gumbo Pot's Jambalaya and they make a tasty Oyster Po'Boy sandwich, but I prefer Jambalaya dry, sans tomato.

Each spring I would attend the annual Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales, where large cast iron pots would line the main street with locals competing for the Best Jambalaya Recipe. When Cajuns have a street party, food is the central attraction.

Jambalaya is a minimalist creation of rice and any meat. The trick, to quote my Mom: "is in the browning of the meat."

What this does is give "dirty rice" its brown color, and extra caramelized meat flavor.

The Chef cruelly forced his Mom to use 99c only Store sausage instead of a Cajun specialty, Andouille sausage.

The other ingredients went over well with her: chicken from my local Latin market, Superior Grocers, and meaty pork shoulder ribs from the chain grocery store, Albertson's, (little to no bone in these ribs!)

And finally, rice, onion, and Cajun seasonings come cheaply from my local 99c only Store.

So get to cooking my Mom's Jambalaya. I make this recipe more than any other, and once you make it, you will bookmark the recipe it to your "favorites" list too.

Mom's Jambalaya -VIDEO
       Play it here. The video runs 5 minutes, 45 seconds.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1 pound each of Pork, Chicken, and Sausage (or any combination).
  • 1 Onion - chopped.
  • Garlic - 2 tablespoons chopped.
  • 2 cups Rice.
  • 5 cups Water.
  • 1 teaspoon of Cajun Seasoning. Cajun Seasonings has salt.
  • Black Pepper to taste (and add Salt if you do not have Cajun Seasoning).
  • 2 teaspoons Oil - 1 for browning meat, and 1 for sauteing veggies.
Slice pork and chicken. Okay to leave chicken in whole pieces. You can break it down later.

Saute chicken and pork in a large cast iron pot (any pot really - should hold 8 cups of water) until very brown for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add sausage toward the end because it browns quickly (take out pork and chicken if too crowded). 

Add chopped onion, cajun seasonings, and black pepper, and saute until tender about 5 more minutes. 

And add water cover and cook meat at a low boil for about 30 minutes. Stir to dissolve and mix the charred bits on the bottom of the pot, this is what makes the rice "dirty".

Cover the pot and cook all meat at a low boil for about 45 minutes (mainly, to tenderize pork chunks.)

After chicken and pork boil for 30 minutes, that's when I remove larger pieces of meat break it down and take any off the bone. (In the video Mom simmers meat for an hour, but I find half an hour is enough to tenderize meat). 

Return any of the cooked meat to water and add rice. Stir and cook for 20 more minutes (according to rice package cooking directions).

Afterward, mix meat and rice, cover again, turn off the heat, and let stand for 15 minutes more while you have a glass of wine and set the table.

Jambalaya freezes and reheats with a microwave perfectly. It's a dish that tastes better the next day.

I love you Mom!

99 Thanks to Amy for her camerawork.

To view or embed the Chef's video from YouTube click here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Appetite for Appetizers - Roasted Asparagus & Genoa Salami

The 99c only Stores produce section keeps expanding to include such delicacies as asparagus. The Chef got this 2 pound bunch for 99 cents. Take that congomerate grocery chains!

Roasted asparagus retains the crunch that steamed asparagus lacks and wrapping it in paper thin sliced Genoa Salami makes a great party appetizer.

I picked up small 4.5 ounch packs of Genoa Salami for 99 cents -- although salami from your favorite deli averages out the same pricewise.


1 bunch (about 2 pounds) of asparagus
2 packages of thin sliced Genoa or Hard Salami (or your favorite deli salami - about 8 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Cut or snap off tough ends of asparagus (about 2 inches) and discard. Arrange asparagus on roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil then salt and pepper to taste. Roast asparagus in preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (depending how thick asparagus stalks are.) Remove from oven and wrap each spear with a slice of Genoa Salami after asparagus has cooled for a couple of minutes.
Coming next, a new video. The Chef is pleased as pecan pie to welcome his Mom into the kitchen to prepare "Mom's 99 Cent Jambalaya." Be sure to bring along your appetite.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Film Noir & The 99 Cent Ribeye

The 99 Cent Chef has a dark, hungry heart - he likes his steak medium rare, Scotch on the rocks and a dame who powders her nose from the inside.

This is especially true during the annual run of Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode's 10th-anniversary "Return To Noir City;" a film festival featuring 1950's shadowy tough guys and femme fatales on the make, screening at the Hollywood EgyptianTheater -- click here for info.

This final week's run is a doozy with "Tomorrow is Another Day;" a fugitives-on-the-run love story on Thursday and a double bill starring Edward G. Robinson on Friday.

Last Friday night was especially memorable with host Eddie Muller's Q & A of silver screen noir leading lady Colleen Gray, as Quentin Tarantino, fourth row front and center, made his way through a tub of popcorn big enough to hold a bowling ball while crime scribe James "Demon Dog" Ellroy trawled for his next ex-wife in the theatre lobby.

Here is a fun slideshow of the latest Noir Festival I attended.

Allow the Back Alley and Bottom Feeding Chef to treat you to dinner and a movie. Let's start with an old school recipe for Ribeye Steak in a Red Wine Reduction with Sauteed Mushrooms.

Afterward, refill your shot glass and enjoy this classic Noir film clip from "Double Indemnity," directed by Billy Wilder of James M. Cain's firecracker classic hardboiled novel. (Just scroll to the end of blog post to view.)

  • 99 cent beef ribeye steak
  • 4 sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup 99 cent red wine
  • 2 slices of butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
*99 cent airline bottle of Scotch in a tumbler of ice, for the chef.

Directions for red Wine Sauce with Mushrooms
Sautee mushrooms in a tablespoon of olive oil about 5 minutes until soft.

Deglaze pan by adding red wine to mushrooms; then butter slices to thicken sauce; set aside at low heat.

Ribeye Preparation
Grill seasoned paper thin 99 cent ribeye steak (so thin it could shave off a 5 0'clock shadow) in a hot skillet with a tablespoon of oil for no more than 2 - 3 minutes. I just brown one side then flip steak for another 30 seconds.

Serve ribeye with mushroom wine sauce and a stiff drink of Scotch on the rocks, then make a beeline to "Noir City" at the Hollywood Egyptian Theater.

Look for the dark-hearted, Fedora-wearing Chef at "Noir City" and I'll tip my hat and toast you with a black leather encased hip flask of Scotch. Enjoy the movie clip.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Armenian Salad

The Chef picked up Feta Cheese at this 99c only Store the other day. As with most low/reduced fat cheese, some flavor is sacrificed and the cheese is a little dry;
but it's fine on a cracker or sprinkled on an Armenian salad.

Since moving out of Hollywood/Los Feliz, the Chef has noticed a dearth of Armenian mom and pop markets here in Baldwin Hills; I miss them. Most of all I liked their deli case selection of cured meats, briney olives and 3 kinds of Feta cheese -- including Helena Feta. An Armenian salad includes many Armenian market staples: Kalamata olives, bell peppers, lemons, Feta cheese and cucumbers.

The Chef has not seen Kalamata Olives in the 99c only Stores so sundried tomatoes in oil make a decent substitute; however if you have an Armenian market nearby, by all means pick up 99 cents worth of Kalamata olives (about a dozen
) and a 99 cent hunk of Helena feta for a real Armenian salad. By the way, another Armenian market Chef's favorite: a deli plate appetizer -- just get a selection of deli meats, olives and cheese for an evening snack.
All ingredients from the 99c only Store.


1/2 heart of romaine lettuce
1/4 cup or so of crumbled Feta
2 tablespoons of slivered sun-dried tomatoes
1 /2 tomato sliced
1/4 bell pepper sliced (any color)
1/4 cucumber sliced or diced
oil & lemon dressing: whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil and juice of one lemon

Heat sun-dried tomatoes in microwave for 15-20 seconds to soften.
Assemble salad ingredients.

The grocery store in the photo is the Royal and located at: 1710 Garfield Place in Hollywood (between Franklin & Hollywood Blvd., one block west of Western.)
phone: 323) 463-7576.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Everything You Wanted To Know About The 99 Cent Chef But Where Afraid To Ask...

The Chef has been called many things, including "Rachael Ray on Crack." Two LA blogs have added to that list, including Metroblogs -- an alternative news source of LA current events, which published an unadulterated Q & A, unearthing The 99 Cent Chef's origins and what happens when a guard catches the Chef breakdancing in the store's aisles. Click here to read all the outrageous tidbits on Metroblog.

Next, an email "shot" was fired by the Thrillist: "We only cover what we like, we don't write reviews. That would require us to tell you about things that suck, which, while potentially funny, would be a huge waste of your time. Instead, we sift through the crap to find the best in food, drinks, events, gear, services and travel." Thrillist refered to the Chef as a "chintzy gourmet," a label he will wear proudly from now on. Click here to read the short email "shot" on Thrillist (scroll to the end).

Friday, April 4, 2008

Deal of the Day - Steak Fajita Flatbread

If other Stouffer's Corner Bistro Flatbreads are anything like the Steak Fajita Flatbread, they are onto something good. The Chef tried one out from this 99c only Store the other day and came away impressed, although I made a mistake of following the box directions to microwave instead of oven baking. As a result the bread part came out spongy; time permiting, bake instead.

Otherwise the toppings are a tasty combination of enchilada sauce subing for marinara, strips of steak replacing pepperoni, jalepeno instead of red pepper flakes, topped with cheddar/ mozzarella and surprise, surprise -- the quality and quantity is superb, unlike the anemic Lean Cuisine 4 Cheese Pizza the Chef dissed last month.
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