Friday, November 26, 2010

3rd Year Blogging Anniversary - Video

With over 20 videos in the cookie jar this year, the Chintzy Chef pulls out a few tasty highlights from 2010. And what a year it's been! From a video recipe for my delicious Spaghetti Carbonara with Bacon Bits to a month-long  six-video series on local hot dog haunts. Ever had an L.A. Street Dog? Not only does the Chef take it to the streets to show you where to stuff your face, but I get back to the kitchen to provide step-by-step instructions on how you can make this tube steak classic, wherever you may be. Now that's sharing.

Now, this Chef does not live by encased meat alone.  I've also emphasized healthy fare this year -- be sure to try out these recipes for nutritious and delicious eats (click on name):
Thai Cucumber SaladVeggie Wrap with HummusWatermelon, Mango & Spinach SaladBraised Romaine Hearts, and a Wardorf Salad.

Ever eaten a live, ink-black spiny sea urchin?
My Chasing Sea Urchin video is not for the squeamish --but you'll get to enjoy a slapstick chase sequence straight out of a Buster Keaton silent comedy. And this year's highlights also include my travel videos --  take a careening, thrilling plunge down a Mammoth Mountain ski slope and then hit the apres ski happy hour, or come along to decadent, neon-lit Fremont Street in the old part of Las Vegas to search for a 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail. There's also a video diary documenting the great time had in Seattle shooting my Public TV cooking debut (be sure to view the behind-the-scenes featurette).

For all my local readers, I'm proud to tip you off to a new project I launched this year -- Restaurant Nocturnes, a twilight exploration of the up-to-the-minute scene featuring hip, classic, and old-school neighborhood eateries all over Los Angeles.  I post new entries 3 times a week on Twitter (click here). Restaurant Nocturnes is an arty photo/video series that lets me return to my street/documentary roots.

Each entry is short and sweet - showing the restaurant exterior, with thumbnail entree descriptions and some prices. I've done nearly 200 so far, covering everything from trendy convergence points, like The Gorbals in downtown L.A., owned by Top Chef winner Ilan Hall, to my favorite taco shack, Cactus on Vine Street in Hollywood, home of the city's tastiest flame-charred pork al pastor (after 8pm). I also created brief videos that include audio recorded at each location -- nighttime in L.A. has never looked and sounded so cool.  Zagat, forget about it -- this series is as  local as it gets, and is indispensable to any of my readers who plan on visiting our city. Click on the following links to view each of my three video compilations: Restaurant Nocturnes I, Restaurant Nocturnes II, & Restaurant Nocturnes III.

As I hit the three-year blogging mark (November 30th), I've only scratched the Teflon surface of the food world. And I have a lot more delicious recipes and outrageous ideas left to explore. You can expect the unexpected here: in the months to come, I'll present a 99 Cent Chef original recipe, The Loxaco, that combines Jewish and Mexican cuisines; my politically-charged Tea Party Chicken Soup, and a video cooking demo with my stuffed animal friends T-Bone and his girlfriend Honey Bunny.  Plus, I'm scheduled to make an appearance on the Cooking Channel!  It's going to be a fun year ahead, so do check back.  But first, click to play the video below, of culinary and comedy clips from my blogging third year!
The 99 Cent Chef's 3rd Year Anniversary - Video
Play it here. The video runs 6 minutes, 40 seconds.

A special 99 thanks to all my 99 Cent Players, including: Bob McGuinness (a cameo here), Pete Handelman (see his fun videos here), and journalist Jenny Cunningham; and also to my local markets and the 99c only Stores for offering all the great for-sale ingredients. Special thanks to L.A. restaurants, chefs and patrons for allowing The Chef shooting privileges. And the biggest thanks (with hugs) to my Number Taste Tester and Editor, my wife Amy.

To view or embed from Youtube click here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

French Fried Onions & Green Bean Casserole

Nothing is fresh in my latest cheapie recipe, and I'm proud of it! Yeah, that's right, The 99 Cent Chef's latest dish comes straight from the Mad Men cable tv series holiday dinner table -- I'm talking 1960's Betty Crocker Cookbook can opener cuisine here.

And this recipe involves the same amount of cooking skill as defrosting a Swanson Frozen TV Dinner. This is classic casserole comfort food that will fit perfectly on your Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving table -- an heirloom recipe to continue handing down.

You can read about the creation of this recipe from the Campbell's Soup archives, just click here.

All you need is a warm oven and a baking dish. And it's so easy to make you could do it blindfolded while nursing a martini.

Serve my French Fried Onions & Green Bean Casserole flanked by sliced turkey with stuffing and cool cranberry sauce. This creamy soul-soothing veggie side is over the top in tastiness.

And all the ingredients are on sale for the holidays at any grocery store. French fried onions are a decadent topping -- while canned green beans are boring until you mix in a can of Campbell's Mushroom Soup.

For a 21 Century version, use fresh green beans that are on sale for a dollar per pound from now until Christmas.

I look forward to a French Fried Onions & Green Bean Casserole every November. I first had it at my in-law's Thanksgiving table; and now my mother-in-law, Annette, is generous enough to share her recipe (from a brittle, yellowing magazine clip). I hand it over to you, my special holiday visitors, for safe-keeping. Enjoy.

Click on the following links for more holiday feasting recipes, including: Stuffing Cupcakes with Cranberry Frosting and Gravy, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Homemade Egg Nog Video, Green Beans with Almonds, Bacon Wrapped Dates with Cream Cheese, Mom's Pumpkin PieMom's Mini-Pecan Pies, Cranberry Orange and Coconut Cookies, Roasted Pumpkin with Pasta, Whiskey Yams with Brown Sugar Pumpkin SeedsRoasted Potatoes with Carrots, Honey Orange Glazed Carrots, and my Sage Roasted Turkey recipe.

  • 2 cans of green beans, drained - I used "French Cut", any type will do.
  • 1 can of mushroom soup - or any "cream" soup you like, include vegan. 
  • 1/2 "soup can" of water - Directions call for a full can of water, but I found it gets too watery.
  • 1 package of French Fried Onions - or from a can.
  • Pepper to taste - I find there is plenty of salt in the packaged ingredients.

In a casserole dish combine, green beans*, mushroom soup, 1/2 can of water, and half a package of French fried onions. Don't fill the dish all the way to the top, as it may bubble over when hot. Mix well, cover, and place in a 350-degree oven.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes; since everything is already cooked you are just heating it all up.
Uncover and top with the rest of the French fried onions, and bake another 10-15 minutes.

This is a great dish to bring to any Thanksgiving gathering (best to bring a half package of crunchy fried onions to add at the last minute -- it will be too soggy otherwise).

* Okay to use a package of fresh frozen green beans. Allow to defrost and drain extra liquid, then add to baking dish with other ingredients.

For a fresh green bean version (about a pound),  remove any stems pieces. Chop green beans in half if they are too long. Blanch beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes (or to the desired tenderness). Remove beans and add to the casserole dish. In this case, you can salt to taste, then follow the rest of my directions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sausage & Cauliflower with Pasta

Here is a hardy cheap pasta dish that uses up a whole head of cauliflower. And there will even be enough to fill up any ravenous semester final cramming college dorm mate.

Often cauliflower goes bad before I can use it all up, but now that problem is solved with my Sausage & Cauliflower with Pasta.

Normally I would use expensive Italian sausage, but I've found 8 oz. links of Farmer John's sausage links are a tasty and cheaper substitution. Even at a regular market these small packages are barely over a dollar, and my local 99c only Store seems to always stock them. I miss the fennel and Italian herb flavors, but you can get most of the lost spices back by adding dried Italian herbs to cooked breakfast sausage. I usually buy cauliflower there too, but my local chain grocery carries it on sale, too.

The dish is easy to make, just brown the sausage; then steam the cauliflower florets for a few minutes while your pasta is boiling. Three main ingredients and some dried herbs are all that's needed for this latest, and satisfying 99 Cent Chef entree.

Ingredients (serves 3 - 4)
  • Head of cauliflower (about 2-3 lbs.) - break into florets. Broccoli works just as well.
  • 8 ounce package of breakfast sausage links - okay to use any sausage on sale, even Italian.
  • 1 package pasta - any type you like.
  • 1/4 cup of pasta water - to steam cauliflower.
  • 1 tablespoon of dried parmesan - or fresh shaved, optional.
  • Pinch of dried Italian herbs - or fresh.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Break apart sausage links and saute until brown, in a large pan. Remove sausage and set aside. Sprinkle a pinch of Italian herbs on sausage. Leave a tablespoon (or more) of rendered grease in the pan for flavor (some sausage may have more fat, so drain it if necessary).

Start boiling your pasta, after a couple of minutes spoon out a few tablespoons of pasta water (about 1/4 cup) and add to pan. Scrape loose brown bits, then add cauliflower florets. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and steam cauliflower until tender, about 5-10 minutes.

Finally, return sausage to cooked cauliflower, sprinkle on dried parmesan (optional) and stir in pasta. Mix well, heat through for a minute and serve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Clam Chowder - New England Style

Let the wind and rain rattle the windows, and the snow block the driveway; it's time to get toasty with this classic East Coast autumn soup -- rich with cream, and made hearty with potatoes and clams.

Fortunately, anyone can enjoy my New England Clam Chowder, as all the main ingredients come cheaply: just a couple of 99 cent cans of chopped clams, 2 slices of bacon, a large russet potato, an onion, a pint carton of half & half cream, and some regular milk. I picked up most of the ingredients at this 99c Only Store, but regular markets stock these budget items.

Canned clams are always in my cupboard. As long as you don't cook them too long, they are quite tender and are very flavorful. Try them in a Pasta, or even on a Pita Pizza (click on the names to see my recipes).

New England Clam Chowder is the kind of dish that tastes better heated up the next day, so do save some for later!

Ingredients (2-3 servings)
  • 2 cans of chopped clams - about 6.5 ounces in each can.
  • 2 cups (a pint carton) of half & half, or cream.
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 large russet potato - about 2 cups, when chopped into 1/2 inch cubes.
  • 1 medium onion - chopped.
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 tablespoon garlic - fresh or from jar, chopped.
  • 2 tablespoons of flour.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

In a large soup pot, saute bacon a couple of minutes, until fat begins to render - no need to brown bacon. Add chopped onion and cook until soft, about 7-10 minutes. During last 2 minutes mix in chopped garlic.

Chop russet potato into 1/2 inch cubes - I left skin on, but you can remove it. Stir flour into milk. Add chopped potatoes, milk and half & half (or cream). Open canned clams and add juice only - set aside chopped clams for now. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir while bringing chowder to a low boil, then turn down heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Add more milk if chowder cooks down too much.

Check chowder from time to time and stir -- don't boil, let it cook at a low temperature. After 45 minutes stir-in chopped clams. Cook uncovered another 5 -10 minutes to heat through. Turn off heat and let it sit a couple of minutes so the chowder will thicken.

A slice of sourdough, a crunchy roll, or crackers, are an excellent accompaniment to soak up my cheaply creamy and flavorful New England Clam Chowder.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Roast Chicken With Green & Black Olives

No chopping, peeling or sauteing was used in the preparation of this recipe -- in other words, it's easy.

Among my favorite canned or bottled pantry ingredients are green and black olives. Just check out my Fish Veracruz and my wife's delicious tuna salad, both made with green olives; I'll also add canned black olives to most any pasta dish .

It was only a matter of time before I came up with adding both to 69 cent per pound chicken leg quarters (in 10 lb. bags) from my local Latin market . And olives are a dollar store staple.

Sometimes you take a chance and it all works out. Briny green olives and plump black olives roasting in the juices of dark chicken meat meld and compliment each other - the sourness and salt from the olives are made mild, adding just the right amount of tartness. This dish is a little bit Middle Eastern and a touch Italian.
I especially enjoy making a simple dish with great flavor -- I hope you do too.

Ingredients (serves 3 - 4)
1 small jar of green olives - with or without pimentos, drained. They can be chopped, sliced or whole, whatever is on sale.
1 can of black olives - drained.
3 - 4 chicken leg quarters - or any chicken pieces on sale.
Pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add chicken to a large pot or pan. Drain green and black olives. *Sprinkle olives over and in-between chicken pieces. Season with pepper. Roast uncovered for an hour and a half. If you use white meat, reduce time to about an hour. Done when chicken juices run clear (no red) when pierced with a knife or fork. Skin-on chicken will render more fat, so you may need to skim off some of it (but do leave a little, it's such a delicious decadent pleasure, especially drizzled over rice or couscous).

* For extra flavor add any fresh or favorite herb you have on hand, a teaspoon of chopped garlic and a cup of white wine, along with the olives.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Election Day Recipe - The Waldorf Salad

Warning this recipe contains politically charged ingredients!
The Cheapest Chef tosses his whisk into this dizzyingly political salad spinner of an election, and serves up the upscale Waldorf Salad, originally created in the high-end New York City Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Restaurant -- and prepared with produce most likely picked by the calloused hands of illegal workers from Mexico and Central America.

If you enjoy these ingredients: lettuce, celery, almonds and  grapes (which mostly come from California), then give thanks to the immigrants who risk their lives and break their backs to bring America's bounty cheaply to your dinner table.

In this overwrought week, some Arizona politicians (and prison lobbyists) are going after an easy target this November -- spreading poisonous fear in the form of anti-immigrant legislation: Arizona Bill SB 1070.

Yeah, let's throw out all the workers that our below-minimum-wage-hiring agribuisnesses depend on, then sit back and watch food prices skyrocket. Better yet arrest all the illegal harvesters, then make them work the fields for free.

 So as the local citizenry dines at a Top Chef operated big city restaurant, they are most likely eating their five course meal prepared by an uninsured undocumented chef de partie (line cook), on plates, wine glasses and cutlery cleaned by another illegal dish washer.

Play my 29 second video "Celery Pickers" here.

Wouldn't it be better to advocate for a guest worker program that treats the members of this needed labor force fairly, and allows them to come and go safely between seasonal jobs here and their homelands?
Well that's my election-eve rant -- so on to my delicious Waldorf Salad, made with budget produce from my local Latin market. This is the crunchiest salad you will ever have, made with fresh apples, celery, nuts, juicy grapes, and covered in creamy mayo. It's an eclectic, but savory flavor combination. You can prepare it well ahead, plus it's quick to do.

The hard work is the chopping, and hopefully you are working with a sharp blade. I was lucky to get a knife sharpener to try out last month (click here to see it), so I'll get another year of good use out of them (thanks, AnySharp!).

So this November 2nd, get out and vote -- I will back those that support the fair treatment of our hard working neighbors who help bring a bountiful harvest of fresh produce to all of our dinner tables, not the ones who offer nothing but fearful bluster!

Ingredients (serves 3 - 4)
  • 2 red and/or green apples - cored and chopped.
  • 2 stalks of celery - sliced thinly.
  • 1 cup of red or green grapes - sliced in half.
  • A leaf or two of lettuce per serving.
  • 2 tablespoons of mayo - or as much as you prefer. Or use plain low fat yogurt for a lighter version.
  • A small package of almonds - walnuts are traditional, but I could not find any on sale.
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon or lime juice - fresh or from a bottle.
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar, or favorite sweetener - optional.

Thinly slice 2 stalks of celery. If the grapes are large, slice them in half. I got grapes on sale, but with seeds, so I had to slice and remove them. Core, then chop two apples.

Add chopped fruit and celery in a large serving bowl. Drizzle in lemon or lime juice, to keep the apples from turning brown. Spoon in mayo (or yogurt) and mix well. Taste and see if you would like to add any sweetener. Finally mix in almonds (or any nuts on sale). If the nuts are salted, then give them a quick rinse and pat dry, before adding to salad.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter, plate or individual bowls, and spoon on the Waldorf Salad. It can be served cold or at room temperature.
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