Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Restaurants Nocturnes XII

The Alley Cat Chef has picked the lock of his kitchen cage with a car key and is cruising Los Angeles streets again -- for Restaurant Nocturnes XII. This Chef does not live for recipes alone, and when the moonlit street beckons, I set aside my whisk and pick up a camera. 

My newest video compilation lets you in on the menu specials and nightly comings and goings at a tasty dozen restaurants, from  the Brite Spot in Echo Park, to the 1950s Googie architecture treasure Pann's, to the neo-Latin cuisine at innovator John Sedar's Playa in West Hollywood, to the beloved but endangered Henry's, a classic old school Mex/American taco joint in the Valley.

It's a fascinating tour of LA's dining scene after dark, shot with a digital still camera and turned into a time-lapse video clip suitable for framing, and after the video, the Considerate Chef gives you links to read all about the featured restaurants.

Looking to hang with hipsters on Harleys? Check out the recently refurbished Brite Spot coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. I liked it when it was cheap, with coffee-stained carpets. Now there are Brussels sprouts in the breakfast potato hash, and eggs scrambles go for 10+ bucks. But the food is good, and if you've just spilled out of the nearby  Echoplex alt.music club at 2 a.m., the revamped Brite Spot is a much more appealing place to to take a date to rather than a taco truck down the street.

Heading west toward Silverlake, you'll find the new Cortez restaurant just off Sunset at Allison Boulevard. Opened in October by Marta Teegan and Robert Stelzner, the owners of Cookbook, Echo Park's sustainable market , Cortez serves seasonal farmer's market-sourced cuisine. (Click here to read a recent review in L.A. Weekly.)  I dropped by on a weeknight at 6:30 p.m. to find three diners at the two communal tables, but customers began to arrive as I was shooting -- and by the time I folded up my tripod, half an hour later, the place was packed. Listen in as the honey-voiced hostess gives the Frugal Fotog a rundown of the enticing entrees, and you'll know why it's become a local favorite.

Another notable Nocturne is the L.A. classic Henry's Tacos, a Mex/American fast food joint on Moorpark Street in the Valley.  It may be over for them -- after 51 years, a landlord dispute led to this month's final closing announcement. But supporters have rallied for a brief stay of execution. Will Henry's survive -- maybe a new location down the street? The suspense is killing me, like their lauded and loaded Taco Burger!

The Googie-style coffee shop Pann's, on La Tijera Boulevard in South L.A, , with its glass walls and Space Age arrow roof, has been flipping pancakes for locals and architecture fanatics since 1958. It was recently named as one of the "10 Best Fried Chicken in Los Angeles" by the L.A. Weekly, and the food is as good as it ever was.

The San Francisco transplant Cafe Gratitude fits right in with the diet- and health-conscious crowd in thespian-centric Hollywood. The menu items at its Larchmont Boulevard location are all affirmations, as in: I AM DAZZLING, a Caesar Salad with romaine lettuce, avocado, Brazil nut parmesan and capers tossed with Caesar dressing; or I AM LIBERATED, a creamy hemp seed pesto pasta with kelp noodles, heirloom cherry tomatoes, green and Kalamata olives and  spinach topped with Brazil nut parmesan and fresh basil. Whew, I feel way better already, and all I did was photograph the place.

I finish up this 12th edition of Restaurant Nocturnes with the soothing wash of ocean waves at  Tony's, a classic  joint that has served seafood grilled, steamed or fried since the 1950s. Sure, it's located on the tourist-crowded Redondo Beach Pier, but it's not outrageously expensive, just in the $20 - $25 range for dinner, and you couldn't have a better seat to watch the sun go down while dining. For a cheaper time, belly up to the bar for nightly live music and a Happy Hour cocktail with an appetizer or one of  Tony's "Basket Items." I'll let the waitress fill you in on some tasty sounding aquatic entrees.

So, click on the play button below to take in the neon-lit eateries of Los Angeles with the Cruising Cuisiner as your guide. Best of all, you won't have to spend a cent for gas money.
Restaurant Nocturnes XII - VIDEO

Play it here. Video runs 7 minutes, 11 seconds.

To view or embed from YouTube, click here.

Restaurants in order of appearance - click on name to see website or review:
1.Brite Spot     2.Cortez     3.Henry's Tacos
4.Steingarten LA    5.Pann's     6.Papilles Bistro
7. Mexicali     8.Dae Bok Korean Restaurant
9. Cafe Gratitude     10.Master Burger
11. Playa     12.Tony's

To see more Restaurant Nocturnes, just click on any name:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Borscht - Beet and Cabbage Soup

Call me a lazy cheapskate, go ahead. I've peeled and cooked messy beats and stained my shirt and hands in the process, but I like the convenience and cost of a can of beets. For about a buck you get almost a dozen small whole beets -- now that's a great deal. And the beet liquid is perfect for a Eastern European winter soup called Borscht. (But I do have a farmers market Beet Roasting Recipe, just click here, or type "beets" into search window located on the upper right side of this blog to see more recipes.)

I made my Borscht vegetarian friendly by leaving out the meat and adding cabbage (although I used chicken flavored granules, but you can use vegetable stock or plain water.) And I added a kitchen sink full of aromatics like celery, carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaf and fresh herbs. Of course you can make this recipe your own and add or subtract from my ingredient list.

Looking up a few Borscht recipes online, I learned that cubes of beef or sausage is often used. You can do it that way, but you do need to cook the beef until it's tender, about 2 hours - while my vegetarian version only takes an hour.

And make sure to serve The 99 Cent Chef's steaming bowl of Borscht with a few dollops of cheap sour cream on top!

  • One 15 ounce can of beets - including liquid. Sliced or whole beets. Okay to use a 2-3 fresh beets. Just peel and boil until almost tender, about 30 minutes. Reserve liquid for recipe.
  • 1/2 cabbage - roughly chopped.
  • 1 medium onion - chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • Extra chopped veggies - including: a rib of celery, a couple of potatoes, and 1 cup of chopped carrots.
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar - optional
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups water and/or favorite vegetable broth - Okay to use a beef or chicken stock (or one bouillon cube.)
  • Fresh herbs or favorite dried herb blend - optional.
  • 1 tablespoon oil for sauteing veggies.
  • Pepper to taste - I left out salt because the chicken granules I used have plenty.

In a large stock pot, over medium heat, add tablespoon of oil. Add all chopped veggies except cabbage and beets. Saute and stir about 5-8 minutes until soft.

Add the chopped cabbage and beets with their juice after veggies are cooked. If the beets are whole you may want to cut them in half, close to bite sized.

Add broth, vinegar, and/or water. Sprinkle on herbs and the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. You may not need salt, as canned beets and broth are salty enough for me.

Bring Borscht to a boil, then reduce heat to low simmer. I cook with the lid off so a cup or two of liquid will cook out, thus making an intense broth. Low simmer for about an hour.

If you are in a hurry, add less broth or water (about 6 cups total) and cook until cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes.

Serve Borscht hot with a couple dollops of sour cream.

Since this a an old recipe, there are many variations. Some recipes called for adding potatoes instead of cabbage. Of course you can add both for more heft.

There are also meaty versions of Borscht. Most recipes call for sliced or cubed beef steak. You will need to cook longer (covered) to tenderize meat, for about 2 hours. If you have a favorite sausage then you can use it, and cook it until done or heated through. Almost any meat including chicken and pork can be added.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deal of the Day - Beef Kabob

This is the most unappealing Deal of the Day I've oggled, but it's also one of the most delicious! It looks like something you would not want to step in. However, Culture Classics Beef Kabob is a delicious dynamite stick full of Middle Eastern spices.

The beef log is larger than a hot dog with a nice ground texture that stayed moist when I microwaved it. There is an intense and pleasing tumeric and sumac spice flavor with just a hint of pepper heat.  The beef kabob is nestled in a fat slab of pita bread sprinkled with rice, chopped bell pepper and onions.

frozen & thawed

The one drawback is that the pita gets soggy when micowaved. (Next time I would microwave the beef stick and pita bread until warm, then keep zapping the beef stick, and finish the pita in a frying pan.) A sprinkling of  chopped veggies, while small, gave the plain rice extra flavor. The package advertized a secret sauce, which will remain secret as there was little of it try and analyse. (I'll have to get another kabob and make notes on the secret sauce.)

And for 99 cents it's an incredible flavorful deal I picked up at my new favorite local market, Superior Grocers. I saw it while shopping for a Thanksgiving turkey, it was in the frozen food section (there are also Pork and Chicken Kabobs to try out.) I'm not sure how long these will be sold at this price so I'm getting a stack of them for office lunches.

For a cheap frozen meal I was surprised at the  short list of ingredients. Most frozen fare this inexpensive has a laundry list of additives that takes a Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives to translate.

So, On The 99 Cent Chef's Deal of the Day rating system of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I could take off a point for a slightly soggy pita, but this was such a delicious change of office lunch pace, I'm giving Cultural Classics Beef Kabob a perfect 9 !

For any of you lucky enough to live near a Superior Grocers do pick one up and try it yourself, just be prepared for your office mates to rib you with a few popper scooper jokes.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Baked Chicken with Grapes

My roasted chicken entree is simply delicious -- both savory and sweet. For a single serving you only need a handful of grapes, so along with inexpensive chicken, this is one chintzy meal.

I roasted a chicken leg and thigh. The sweet grapes cooked beautifully and flavored the chicken juices. I also added half an airline bottle of white wine for extra flavor. Any fruit juice, like orange or apple, is a tasty alcohol substitution - also, okay to go with broth or plain water.

This entree has all the hallmarks for heavy rotation in this chintzy kitchen -- it's delish and so quick and easy to do: just season the bird, add liquid and grapes, then bake it. I even used grapes past their prime, some were soggy or had blemishes, kind of like using a brown banana in oatmeal, they may not look perfect but still taste sweet.

I always find chicken for way less than a dollar per pound, and while grapes cost more than chicken, you only need a dozen grapes for this recipe.

This is a budget entree I'll be baking often, now that it's cold enough to comfortably use the oven again. Make sure to double my recipe, because serving anything sweet for dinner will have the kids coming back for seconds!

Ingredients ( one serving)
  • 1 chicken leg quarter - okay to use any chicken pieces you like or find on sale.
  • 8 - 12 grapes - any type of grape, red or white. I cooked with seedless red grapes. You can add or subtract the amount of grapes to suit your taste.
  • 1/4 cup of white or red wine - I used white wine. Okay to use a favorite broth, apple or orange juice, or just add water.
  • Herbs - optional. I have a herb garden, so I used a mix of basil, oregano, parsley and sage. You can also use a pinch (1/4 teaspoon) of a favorite cheap dried herb, or mix of herbs like an Italian Mix.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a roasting pan just big enough to hold the chicken, salt and pepper it. Sprinkle on the grapes.

Add wine (broth or water) and herbs. A little bit of liquid helps steam the grapes. It will cook away but will be replaced by chicken juices. If you are cooking breast meat then you may want a 1/2 cup of liquid to help keep the breast from drying out.

Roast chicken uncovered, until done, about 45 minutes to an hour. Depending how large the chicken pieces are, especially breast meat, you will want to check for doneness. Just pierce or slice into the thickest part of chicken with a knife. Juices will run clear when cooked through.

This recipe is easy to double or triple. You can cut up a whole chicken and add the pieces to a large roasting pan. Just add a cup of liquid and plenty of grapes.

You can even bake a whole chicken your favorite way, just add a bunch of grapes all around the chicken and in the cavity. Make sure the grapes come in contact with chicken juices some time during baking. Use your fav chicken recipe. I usually bake whole chicken about 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Again, check for doneness by slicing into thigh meat where it connects to the bird and seeing if the juices run clear (or that there is no raw redness in the cut.) I cover the breast with foil the first hour, to keep it from drying out.

You can use any type of wine. Tasty substitutions are a favorite broth, apple or orange juice.

You can also just braise the chicken and grapes on the stove top if you like. Brown the chicken first for a few minutes, then add liquid and grapes. Will take about same amount of time, over a low/medium heat.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

5th Anniversary of Blogging - 2 Videos

What a wild 5 years it's been. And I've got 366 blog posts and over 130 food-themed videos to prove it. So check out the Culinary Cheap$kates video highlight reel below -- it's a feast for the eyes and ears, and it's just the icing on the cupcake. (And click on any color-coded name in the paragraphs below to see recipe links and/or video links.)

Play it here. Video runs 8 minutes, 20 seconds.

When I started The 99 Cent Chef five years ago food blogs with videos were just beginning to appear on the internet. Noticing how easy it was to upload videos, I decided to start my food blog. I've always followed television cooking shows: from The French Chef with Julia Child (I watched as a teenager,) to the unveiling of the Food Network. What I noticed lacking were tasty recipes cheap enough for anyone to make, presented with a bit of wit.

This Grinchy Chef does not live for recipes alone, heck that's no fun. I like to mix it up, so I delve into many food-related themes - my blog is a variety show for foodies. If you look on the right side of this blog and scroll down just a little bit, you'll see different groups of videos that are just a click away, including Recipes, Comedy, Restaurant Reviews, and Documentaries. Or you can go to YouTube and subscribe here to see all my videos.

My nephew Chef Zakk

There were no silver spoons on my dinner table growing up -- my mother was a waitress for some years and I was exposed to the working-class side of the restaurant business. Counting my Mom's tips after her shift, I grew up literally pinching pennies.

I like the challenge of creating scrumptious meals using inexpensive ingredients. And this blog is dedicated to working stiffs, struggling-to-pay-tuition students, retirees living on Social Security, and families (without health insurance) living on minimum wage. You can just get by and still eat well. I moved to Los Angeles when I turned 21, knowing nobody, and with only a few hundred bucks in my wallet -- so I learned how to stretch a dollar in the big city.

For my blog, I create appetizers, side dishes, and entrees with ingredients costing 99.99 cents or less, that I cull from 99c only Stores, ethnic markets, and regular grocery stores. I include fresh fruit and veggies in my recipes, too (that I get on sale for way less than a dollar per pound.) 

You won't find many recipes using beef, but I've created plenty of delicious entrees using economic chicken and pork. (Like my go-to recipe of French Cassoulet that combines roasting chicken with white beans - so good.) You won't go hungry reading The 99 Cent Chef food blog, and you'll be entertained along the way with playful prose, eye candy photos, and clever videos.

I began this just as the economy crashed -- then things started happening fast, and after 6 months I was a chintzy food expert on NBC's Nighty News and NPR Marketplace! You could say I was the flavor of the month to the media.

The Chintzy Chef & Brendan Francis Newnam of NPR radio

I've been steadily cranking out videos like a fast-food burger slinger - quick and tasty, like my one minute Coffee Comedy shorts; or sometimes it's a Wolvesmouth-like tasting menu involving 8 unique video small plates illustrating my trip to Seattle for a Public TV cooking segment (on the menu was a Thanksgiving side dish twist I called Stuffing Cupcakes.) You'll never know what I'll come up with, so do check back.

Stuffing Cupcakes with Cranberry Frosting & Gravy

I started this blog to make some fun food videos. They've got to be the most unique cuisine collection of video shorts on the internet: from a recipe for Pasta alla Carbonara with Bacon Bits, to a "Don't Eat and Drive" Public Service Announcement video; and food travelogs, including a search for a 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail in Las Vegas, and family vacations in Louisiana, chowing-down on Cajun cuisine (Alligator Po' Boy anyone?) to funny behind the scenes footage of my appearance on the Cooking Channels Food(ography). You won't see a more diverse and out-there personal cooking blog on the web.

Pasta alla Carbonara with Bacon Bits

As you can see I do more than just rattle pots and pans -- when I get out of the kitchen that's when the fun really begins. Living in Los Angeles, I get a thrill introducing my blog visitors to our melting pot food culture. You can check out my month long series of videos on the local exploding food truck scene, including the one that jump started it all, Kogi Taco Truck. I covered it's travels through the streets night and day. When chef Roy Choi added Korean BBQ onto a Mexican tortilla he created a culinary sensation, and an avalanche of unique food trucks followed. I still think Kogi Taco Truck is the top dog.

You wouldn't know it, but Los Angeles is fast becoming the Hot Dog Capital of the World. Well, I did another video series on some of my favorite temples to tube steak. There are Soul Dogs topped with yams and collard greens, and carts selling wieners made from heirloom, grass-fed and hormone-free, animals (check out my video on Let's Be Frank, here.)

But, I would say the epicenter is way out in the Valley, at Fabs Hot Dogs, located in an outdoor mall (wouldn't you know it.) The owner, Joe Fabrocini, travels throughout the country picking up regional recipes like the Kansas City Dog, Carolina Slaw Dog, New Jersey Ripper, and our own LA Street Dog. And he does them to perfection, including a Chicago Dog topped with neon green pickle relish -- and be sure to check out my radioactive reaction after ingesting one! And as a bonus, I shot a video recipe of bacon-wrapped LA Street Dog.

I live in South Los Angeles so you know I got the soul food angle covered. Check out the video of my favorite chintzy soul food restaurant Marilyn's Soul Food Express. And just down the street on Crenshaw Boulevard are the Pulitzer Prize food winner Jonathan Gold's recommended hot dogs at Earlez Grille. Rub elbows with the chefs, colorful customers, and the raconteur owner, Duane -- for hot dogz in the hood.

Just this year I introduced a unique way to present my cheap and delicious recipes -- using stop motion animation and time lapse photography. These short videos give you step-by-step instructions presented succinctly while retaining my clever and fun antics. (Plus, you don't have to look at my mug!) To see what I mean just click on the video compilation below:
A Year of Stop Motion Food Animation

Play it here. Video runs 2 minutes, 16 seconds.

My background is in art, film, video editing, and street photography. All these disciplines come together in my cinematic series, Restaurant Nocturnes. This Noir-Eyed Chef likes nothing better than cruising neon splashed nighttime Los Angeles streets and shooting restaurant facades -- this is when they look the coolest. And as a bonus, I collect audio menu descriptions for each one, so this series is groovy to look at, and you learn their culinary stance.

With 11 Restaurant Nocturnes under my belt, I've only scratched the Teflon surface of LA's dining scene. I compile a baker's dozen eateries in each Nocturne, and I include every kind of cafe: from Top Chef season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio's hip ink. restaurant on Melrose Avenue, to Chinatown's Hop Louie, a time capsule constructed in the 1940s.

I also started an anthropological series called First Bites. I'm shooting my now 2 1/2-year-old neighbor, Lola, tasting her first sushi California Roll, wheatgrass, asparagus, and many more ingredients. It's a hilarious series that I will be revisiting. 99 thanks to her parents Bob and Lori. I've also started shooting a Southern version called Miles First Cajun Bite, which includes tasting: crawfish, jambalaya, and cheese grits -- the kid not only eats it but wears it! Click on the titles above to see a sample of these too cute L 'Enfant Terribles.

Lola's First Bite

My food blog would be anemic without the contributions of family, friends, restaurants, and their staff. Anytime you see me in a video, there is someone helping me shoot it (especially Amy, Pete, and Bob) and I owe them 99 thanks. And it's so much better when I can get my Mom, sisters, and my young buck nephews, Chef Matt and Chef Zakk, on camera. They are fun to hang out with, plus they make look good.

Finally, thanks to all my blog visitors for your time and comments. Subscribe and keep coming back as I have a cupboard full of recipes, videos, and fun food ideas to share with you!

5th Anniversary Video YouTube link (to view full size) click here
One Year of Stop Motion Animation YouTube link click here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving & Christmas Recipe 2012 Compilation

It's the most busy and overwhelming cooking day -- well don't fret, The 99 Cent Chef wants to take the stress out and make it a bit easier for you. I got it all here: my holiday recipes, along with a cupboard full of money-saving tips for you during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

 Below is everything you need to serve a sumptuous and cost-saving dinner table feast. Presented with links to my recipes, easy-to-follow directions, and illustrated with yummy photos and fun videos. And make sure you bookmark this page because Christmas is right around the corner -- yikes!

First up, if you live in Los Angeles, the Grinchiest Chef would recommend getting your big bird at any Superior Grocers -- just click here to see the great deals to be had, it's incredible. (Be sure to check back, this market just opened last week right down the street from me, so the deals to be found here are just beginning.)

You can get a 10-27 pound turkey for 47 cents per pound with a $25 purchase. That's no problem, when Superior Grocers sells yams at 5 pounds for 69 cents, russet potatoes 8 pounds for 99 cents, tomatoes 4 pounds for 99 cents, yellow onions 7 pounds for 99 cents, green bell peppers 5 for a dollar, collard greens for 69 cents per pound, and pork butt (2 per package) for 77 cents a pound. (Now, that's a whole new upcoming pork dish, Mexican Carnitas, I made a video for -- you gotta grab the deals wherever they show up!)

The main event is the centerpiece, a fat turkey overloaded with stuffing. Now, wouldn't it be great if you could get away with just setting out a stack of heated Banquet Turkey Dinners? That really is the cheapest way to go. Well I know that won't fly, but one year in my bachelor days I had one. My wacky review of this frozen poultry fiasco dinner is a click away here.

But seriously, last year I posted my version of a Turkey with Stuffing recipe, just click here to read all about it. Not only is there a recipe that features my Mother-in-laws's decedent sausage stuffing, but I made a video below for you. And it's done in my newest movie technique of stop motion animation to boot.

My recipe is stuffed with cooking tips and cheap shopping sources like my local 99c only Store that carries boxes of stuffing and Hormel Bacon & Pork Sausage Links for, you guessed it, 99.99 cents. Right now they are selling everything but the bird! See their latest flyer of ingredients, here.

Come take a walk on the wild sides with The 99 Cent Rebel Chef. And you can be sure the following links will go over big with your hungry family and visiting neighbors. You've never seen stuffing made like this: Stuffing Cupcakes with Cranberry Topping & Gravy. And here's a wacky backstage video I made when PBS in Seattle flew me out to make my recipe for them.

To get the step-by-step directions for this most deliciously unique savory and sweet stuffing recipe click here. It's easy and quick to make, all you need (or borrow) is a cupcake pan. Stuffing Cupcakes are portable for an office party or any gathering you may be invited to. If you are like me, stuffing, next to roasted turkey, is the main event for my ravenous taste buds.

Boring Creamed Spinach is a typical Christmas side, but I have a Hindi twist. One of my favorite Indian restaurant side dishes is Saag Paneer, which is just like creamed spinach, but with cheese and the added spice punch of ground cumin. My version is made with easy-to-get (and lower fat) cottage cheese instead of Indian Paneer (cheese) and Ghee (butter). Once you and your family try my cheesy and creamy Saag Paneer, you won't go back to Creamed Spinach. And the recipe is a click away, here.

If you are looking for traditional sides I have the old-school French Fried Onions and Green Bean Casserole, which is right out of the 1960's Mad Mad TV series. Yea, all you need is a can opener for the green beans and Campbell's Mushroom Soup. This is a classic recipe where Betty Crocker has it right -- creamy, crunchy and so satisfying. Click here to see how easy and cheap it is to make.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts are edible Christmas ornaments that you can add to the oven during the last 30 minutes of your roasting turkey. Just drizzle them with oil and dust with salt and pepper. Go here to see the recipe details. It couldn't be simpler to do and here is my stop motion animated video to prove it.

Of course, I have some more sides for you, just click on any of the following names:  Whiskey Yams with Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds, Squash Tomatoes and Onions, Brussels Sprouts in Sour Cream, Roasted Potatoes with Carrots, Honey Orange Glazed Carrots, Collard Green with Molasses and a Pear and Spinach Salad with Creamy Dressing.

And if that isn't enough -- it's dessert time! After you push yourself away from the table and waddle to the couch to catch a holiday game on the TV, be sure to grab a handful of  my wife's Cranberry Orange and Coconut Cookies (click on the name for recipe.)

But you can't do better than desserts made by Mom. They know what makes a family happy and mine has been generous enough to show me how she does it. Here are a couple of videos I made of her homemade Pumpkin Pies and Mini Pecan Pies.

Now is the time to hit up your local grocery for cans of pumpkin, or if you are cheap like me, cans of sweet potato. You can use either, as the taste is identically delicious.

Check out my Mom's recipe for her Pumpkin Pie by clicking here. Here is my video of Mom making her luscious Pumpkin Pie.

Every Christmas holiday my wife and I eagerly await a package from Mom of her famous Mini Pecan Pies. A dozen of them travel well inside a shoebox from Louisiana to Los Angeles. These small pies are the tastiest present one can receive, and I got her recipe for you -- all you have to do is click here.

This is a great Christmas party dessert, but make sure to give your host a few, as they will disappear way too fast. If you don't believe me, just check out the video I made of Mom setting out a plateful -- and watch my relatives devour them in no time flat! (By the way, I think you will be impressed how the Chintzy Chef gets around paying normally exorbitant pecan prices.)

Well after all that slaving in the kitchen you deserve an Eggnog. In my first holiday-themed video from 2008, I made a Homemade Eggnog that went a 99 cent airline bottle of rum too far. Be sure to view past the recipe for my humorously Tipsy Tree Trimming fiasco -- blogpost with written recipe and photos here.

I hope all my visitors have a great holiday. Keep checking back here for more budget recipes and loads of new food videos.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Argentine Chimichurri Sauce

This is the perfect window herb garden recipe. The Argentine condiment, Chimichurri Sauce, is slathered on meat, chicken and just about anything.

It couldn't be simpler to do: just blend together some parsley, oregano, garlic, vinegar (or lime juice) and olive oil. Similar to an Italian pesto, the result is a pungent and herb infused salad dressing-like mixture that is so addicting you'll understand why it compliments so many entrees.

Besides meat, you can serve the sauce on bread, pasta, a baked potato, or any favorite cooked veggie. (And just yesterday I mixed a tablespoon-full into my breakfast egg scramble.)

I first had it a decade ago at an Argentine restaurant on Sunset Boulevard called The Goucho Grill (now gone.) I would always stop there before viewing an independent or foreign film at the next door Sunset 5 mall movie complex (since taken over by Sundance Cinemas.) Sitting at the counter I watch fire spitting up and around slabs of chicken and rib-eye steaks on the smoking grill grating. First, I would order a cold South American beer (usually Christal) and almost immediately a small bowl of Chimichurri Sauce with a basket of fresh baked sliced white bread would be placed in front of me.

It didn't take long for the sauce, bread and beer to disappear. And there was never enough Chimichurri Sauce, so I always asked for more. With a slight heat from raw garlic, the herbs, oil and vinegar (or lime juice) delivered a punch of intense flavor. I usually ordered a half grilled chicken with fries for less than $10. As I returned again and again, the prices climbed until I felt priced out. But I have no complaints -- it lasted a few years (and I even ordered a more expensive rib-eye steak from time to time.)

Now when I go to the Sunset 5 to get an art film fix I first stop by Carney's (just a few blocks West) for a great $3.75 Happy Hour of a burger, fries and a beer (click here to see my video of the best Happy Hour on the Sunset Strip.)

As I mentions earlier, if you have an herb garden then it couldn't be cheaper to make. And parsley is the least expensive herb at regular markets, and is especially cheap in an ethnic market. Oregano is harder to come by, so it's okay to use it dried from a jar.

So next time roast a chicken, grill a steak, or pan fry fish, make sure to drizzle on The 99 Cent Chef version of Chimichurri Sauce.

  • 2 cups of parsley - larger stems removed.
  • 1/4 cup of oregano leaves - strip off the leaves from the stems. Okay to use a tablespoon of dried oregano.
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil - or a favorite veggie oil.
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar - any type, I used white vinegar. You could use lime or lemon juice instead.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic - fresh or from a jar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • A spicy addition is 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
Remove larger stems from parsley - some stem are okay as they are tender and you are going to blender it all.

Strip off leave from fresh oregano - these stems are hard and woody, so try not to add too much of these.

Add herbs to a food processor or blender. Add the chopped garlic. Pour in the olive oil and blender it all together. Pulse blender until herbs are fine chopped, about a minute.

Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add red pepper flakes for extra heat. Pulse blender a couple more times and taste.

Chimichurra Sauce if a great meat marinade as well. Just smear it on your favorite protein and let it sit in the refrigerator about an hour, then fire up the grill or broiler.

Some recipes go with a half mixing of parsley and cilantro. You can add extra oil to stretch the sauce out more.

Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Will last a couple of weeks. When leaves begin to brown then it is done for.

If you do not have a blender then just fine chop the herbs and crush the garlic. Whisk in oil, vinegar and garlic.

Chimichurra Sauce is a great condiment that tops any grilled and roasted meat or fish. It makes a flavorful salad dressing, and also goes well drizzled on potatoes or a favorite veggie. Or just set some out with a loaf of fresh bread from you favorite grocery or deli bakery.
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