What Is Your Most Elegant Yet Inexpensive Homemade Dish?
One of mine has got to be octopus salad:
1 can of ready to eat Goya octopus in olive oil
1 bunch of arugula
1 potato boiled and cubed
1 dozen whole olives (calamata)
1 tomato diced (plum)
1 tbsp capers
extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove minced
salt and pepper
Combine ingredients adding salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Serve on bone white dinner plates with Portuguese roll sliced on the bias and an assertive high acid (inexpensive) white wine. Serves two.
I guess my first question is, define elegant because it can mean different things to different people. To me elegant means simple yet sophisticated all at the same time.
Octopus salad definately sounds elegant.
For me: Butternut soup with a tiny bit of cummin and fresh lime at the discretion of the diner. Actually many soups hit the elegant mark...a good roasted tomato soup or lobster bisque can slay at the dinner table.
elegant AND inexpensive. Another example is a chicken loaf topped with dijon mustard and cranberry chutney served with mixed green salad. This gets really cheap when you have leftover chicken or turkey:
ground cooked chicken or turkey
carrots, celery, onions (slightly sauteed)
Combine and bake for 45 min.
Meringue is underrated in the United States. Three egg whites, a cup of sugar, and ten minutes standing there with the electric beater and you've got meringues Chantilly or aux fraises or au chocolat or whatever. Or you can add chopped walnuts then bake the meringue in sheets and put the sheets together with whipped cream to make a Dacquoise. Or just make kisses and serve them with ice cream. The expense almost doesn't exist and these desserts are always showy and good.
a) Well-presented beef carpaccio
b) Teriyaki cachama, an Amazon fish related to pirhana
c) Smoked capybara served as Virginia smoke ham
d) Cheese-arugula omelette with a tad of caviar in the egg mix
e) French carrot soup served cold with foo foo touches
f) Plated salads each with just a touch of something expensive
g) Apple galette instead of apple pie
h) Well presented melon slices with maple syrup for dessert
i) Use of French sauces on less elaborate and less expensive main dishes.
re: Sam Fujisaka
Sam, have you actually eaten capybara? I lived in Brasil for two years and have spent much time in Argentina, yet I only got a swanky pair of boots from the critter---never saw it on a menu. Is it primarily a home-cooked thing that I missed out on, and what does it taste like?
There was a lot of smoked mahas (capybara) in the Pucallpa, Peru, market. I would steam it to get the moisture back in balance. It really did taste like a Virginia smoked ham: I lied to my guests for a bit. They bought it! Smoked does taste like ham. Next time I see one running around missing a pair of boots, I'll know what happened.
I make this pate recipe when I want to bring something nice to a party but I'm feeling broke (and/or lazy). Chicken livers are v. cheap and you can make this recipe in about 15 minutes, yet it is quite elegant and delicious when complete.
I agree with the souffle suggestion. Dessert souffles are always a big hit because no-one seems to make them at home.
My easiest dish is pasta carbonara which can be made with bacon instead of pancetta to keep cost down - this was my standby dish in my student days. This is always a popular dish with my friends who wouldn't think of making it themselves.
Don't know if this is elegant or not ... I'm more of a comfort food cook, save elegant for dessert. But ...
Risotto made with arborio rice, chicken stock, and onion, celery, and carrot diced fine, with freshly ground white pepper (sometimes needs no salt)
Salad of baby greens, sliced blood orange, and homemade dressing of balsamic vinegar, bit of olive oil, ginger, superfine sugar
Homemade charcuterie, like rabbit sausages served with frisee salad or chicken liver crostini with preserved prunes
Consommé, either beef or tomato are lovely light ways to start a meal with a real depth of flavor. I usually serve the tomato with a little melon dice and a poached shrimp dusted with pimenton.
Cured beef tenderloin, an expensive cut sure but it can be served to lots of people so it is inexpensive per serving
Walnut crusted Goat Cheese Soufflés can be made ahead and reheated, they have a lovely luxurious texture and you don't need top quality goat cheese
House-cured gravlax or house-smoked salmon, again an expensive cut that can be served to lots of people
Shirred eggs with truffle butter
Warm homemade cookies straight out of the oven
Warm homemade yeast rolls straight out of the oven
In many ways, meals where each component is perfectly cooked, ready at the same time, and served warm are the ultimate luxury. That happens regrettably rarely...
Not so sure about elegant, but the dish this year that received the most raves was homemade manicotti with fresh basil and roasted (homegrown) 4-colour heirloom tomato sauce, served in individual cast-iron dishes.
Steak frites with roasted marrow and mustard demi-glace sauce.
Simple classic sugar, milk, egg, bread dishes -
sweet and savory bread buddings, stratas
profiteroles or any cream puffs, eclairs, pate a choux
meringues, including baked alaska
good plain for desserts but can be adapted as hors d'oeuvres, sides or light entrées with very small amounts of expensive additions
I second Vietnamese salad rolls. Actually, I think anything rolled up automatically looks fancier.
Which brings me to another nomination - strudel. Sweet or savoury, it's easy to make and cheap (I mean, how much for a box of filo or puff pastry?).
Stuffed dishes look elegant, too. OK, maybe not baked potatoes with the works, but I sometimes serve orzo salad inside a hollowed tomato, and it looks much better than plated the regular way. Fill popovers with stew or something creamed and it'ds instantly classy.
For dessert, just make individual sizes of whatever - cake, soufflé, bread pudding, flan, etc. If it's mini, it's fancy.
Ya know, the bunch of us should arrange a covered dish get together... Mother of God!
After reading this thread I'm totally energized to eat extra good today!
Like I needed an excuse...
I forget what excuse I used yesterday!
I have to agree that Risotto consistently delivers a profound reward...
I do some variation every couple of months...
The other day I did a particularly beautiful one...
I toasted the Arborio with sautéed onions, shallots, olive oil, and garlic like reg'lar----added some dry Sherry--- but I added a few things to the hot broth that made it red... Panca pepper paste (Latin grocery item, flavorful but not too hot), Tomato 'powder' (thespicehouse.com), and some paprika... So, as the thing progressed, it got prettier and prettier...
Near the end I folded in a lil' Half & Half, 2 jars of whole roasted red peppers--chopped, and chopped sautéed asparagus...
Creamy orange colors, with red and light green...
Magnificent, and super tasty, blessed at the table with some select extra virgin and grated Asiago...
Note: Get some of that jarred Panca Pepper Paste and add it to braises and brothy dishes...
Some heat, great color and flavor...
It elevates the brothy parts unbelievably...