Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gourmet at Home

Broke or not, you still want to have yummy food. Noodles and sauce get old after a while. And how often can you do meatloaf before your family protests?

Is it possible to cook real gourmet food on a WIC budget?

Well, no. Prosciutto and quality aged Parmesean cheese and fresh herbs just aren't in the average noodle and burger budget. But you can take those fancy recipes and adapt them to your budget and still get a very tasty meal.

Let's take something fancy:

Veal Parmesan



  • 4 veal cutlets, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs, seasoned with garlic powder, oregano, parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten with a little water
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup homemade or canned tomato sauce, seasoned with oregano, parsley, salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the flour on a plate or piece of waxed paper. Place the bread crumbs on a separate plate. Dip the veal in the flour to coat both sides and shake off excess. Then dip in the egg wash. Finally, dip in the bread crumbs and coat both sides. Place on a baking rack in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat well. Add the veal, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until nicely browned, 2 or 3 minutes per side, adjusting the heat if it browns too fast. Remove from pan and do the second batch, adding the remaining olive oil as needed. Spread 2 tablespoons of sauce on each slice of veal. Top each with one-fourth of the mozzarella slices and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese. Place on a lightly oiled or sprayed baking sheet. Place under a hot broiler on high heat until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Okay. First off, even if you have a fondness for veal, it's really expensive. Ditto on the cheese, usually - if you're just getting a little, compare the per-pound price on the pre-grated cannister to the per-pound on the fresh stuff.

So let's use chicken. You can either get chicken breasts and treat them exactly as this recipe treats the veal (they're thicker, so pound them flat or cook them longer), or buy some prepared pre-breaded frozen chicken breasts like I did. I like the Tyson ones, and found a bag big enough for my family for about $9.

I buy Kraft grated Parmesan at Sam's Club in the REALLY big cannister. It's less than half the price as the smaller container at Safeway, and I use it in lots of stuff, including Hubby's lunch salads. You can also save money by watching for sales on mozzarella in the cheese section at your supermarket. The little balls of mozzarella will be less expensive per pound than the shredded stuff, but if you're only buying enough for the recipe a bag of shreds might be cheaper.

My Chicken Parmesan works like this:

Chicken Parmesan

1 bag Tyson breaded chicken fillets
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or one slice of cheese per chicken breast)
1 cup of spaghetti sauce
Spray Olive Oil

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish lightly with oil. Arrange frozen chicken breasts in dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Place a big spoonful of spaghetti sauce on each chicken breast (you're not trying to smother them, but you could if you wanted to). Top with the remaining Parmesan, and cover it all with the mozzarella.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is hot through. Serve over pasta.

Gourmet, no. A nice change from tuna casserole? Absolutely!


zegron said...

Both sound great. How do you make your tuna casserole?

Smile! said...

Tuna Casserole:

1 can of tuna, well drained
1/2 bag of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2-3/4 soup can of milk
1c mixed frozen vegetables

Mix it all up in a BIG casserole dish. Bake covered for 30-60 minutes, or until your family protests that they are starving.

Variation: Stir in a cup of shredded cheese, your choice.

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