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Aug 19, 2008 12:20 PM

How to wow on a budget

I've invited a date over for dinner. I would like to make a stellar meal for the two of us but I'm on a budget. Any hot ideas or reccomendations? Thanks!

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  1. Chicken thighs! People always rely on skinless boneless chicken breasts when they cook chicken, but in fact, the meat is both bland and expensive. If you prepare your thighs right, you'll have a wonderful end result that is super-cheap.

    One of my family's favorites is what I call a summer cacciatore. It's skinless, boneless thighs, browned and cooked with sausages, wine, broth, fresh tomatoes, onions, basil, red peppers, spinach...whatever sounds good. Your chicken will be tender and juicy and the dinner is great.

    Or, if you want something more casual, you can always look up a nice glaze, maybe a plum bbq sauce or something. Bake your skin-on thighs on high heat until they are done, brush on the glaze and finish in the broiler.

    1. I'd suggest making risotto and a nice salad. The rice is a tad expensive, but you can take advantage of all the wonderful produce available right now. Here's a risotto I made last summer with zucchini and zucchini flowers that we loved:

      Another great risotto is with tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and basil.

      1. Pork tenderloin - Bon Appetit has a wonderful recipe for orange chipotle pork tenderloin. I bought a tenderloin yesterday for $5 and it is more than enough for 2 healthy appetites. Then accompany with some other Mexican recipes or simply classic white rice, grilled veggies, creme caramel for dessert.

        Beer can chicken is awesome, as is grilled lemon chicken under a brick (Batali).

        1 Reply
        1. re: sarah galvin

          I second pork tenderloin. Lately, I've been using this marinade recipe because it's so simple. Substitute orange juice for sherry:

        2. What is your budget? Could you get a piece of salmon? There are a million easy and inexpensive ways to prepare it and the side dish options are unlimited.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lhb78

            I can swing fish, I just can't overboard with the "luxury" items like foie gras, caviar, etc. :)

            1. re: MIss G

              One thing to think about - depending on the size of your kitchen/apartment/home is the wafting aroma of fish cooking. I ignore it at this point, but you might want to consider it. You could make gravlax ahead of time as an appetizer.

          2. I had surprise guests this weekend and had to make do with a $25 budget and 6 hours to come up with the following:

            Appetizers: Potato croquettes with chipotle yogurt and saffron aioli
            Salad: Thai basil and romaine salad with Sriracha dressing
            Mains: Red curry tofu; Chicken adobo
            Sides: Steamed rice
            Dessert: Avocado-coconut ice cream

            With the champagne I had on hand, it turned out to be a very cheap and well-received meal for 3 that has provided enough leftovers for lunch and dinner today and yesterday.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JungMann


              can you post your recipe for the thai basil and romaine salad with sriracha dressing? i would greatly appreciate it!