Cheap-Ass Monday Hobo in April April 7, 2009Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cooking Challenge, Food.
Or, uh, something.
Once again, we’re participating in Thursday Night Smackdown’s Hobo Monday challenge – yay fun! we get to cook like we’re broke for one night! I’m not sure how we’ll be able tell the difference between this and how we usually cook, but, hey, that’s all part of the fun, right?
Anyway. The challenge is to prepare a meal for 2 for $5 or less. And this time, to do it without pasta.
And, since last month we won the smugness award, which, unfortunately did NOT include cash OR prizes (ahem), and we did it without pasta, we now have a reputation to uphold . . .
We can do this. We have a pantry full of staples and refrigerator full of leftovers – we’re good.
Last week, we grilled some chicken breasts, and as it happens, we had some leftover. Mainly because the chicken breasts we get in the grocery stores are close to a pound apiece – who eats that much in one meal?
We had two good-sized chunks of seasoned, cooked chicken leftover from the other night, and we decided to make use of them. Waste not want not, you know. . . besides, it was good – just too much.
So we started with some onions. Onions are usually a good place to start, wouldn’t you agree?
I sliced a couple of onions from pole to pole, rather than across the equator put them in a small sauté pan to cook.
We sauteéd the onions in ghee rather than oil or even just butter. After all, we’ve got plenty of ghee.
Besides, ghee, or clarified butter, is supposed to be healthier than regular butter or vegetable oil.
I read it on the internet – it must be true, right?
Actually, I’d have to say we carmelized the onions. To steal a phrase – Yumm-o. (shhh)
We nicely browned the onions – (kind of) low and slow – once the onions get deeply browned, they’re almost sweet, which is just incredible. At that point, we added a little cinnamon. There was a bit of cinnamon in the original chicken, and I thought that a sprinkle or so more would certainly not hurt – and the cinnamon flavor would “bloom” in the bit of fat in the sauté pan – adding an extra dimension of flavor.
We removed the cinnamony onions from the pan and just heated the leftover chicken that Peeps had nicely diced. We added a bit more of the clarified butter, again, because we could, and slightly browned the chicken.
Here’s the thing with chicken – I have chicken issues, I guess. I lived on a farm, and, well, I’d usually rather have chicken cooked TO DEATH. Just saying. So we diced this chicken up and made sure it was thoroughly done with no question.
Anyway, once the chicken was browned and thoroughly heated, I wanted to echo the flavors that it had been marinated in originally, so we tossed in about a quarter teaspoon each of cinnamon, oregano (dried) and Hungarian hot paprika. I heated that in the pan just until it was fragrant – then pulled it off heat.
Meanwhile, Peeps had put together a sourdough pizza crust for me and shaped it into a lovely rectangle. I’ll just say that he probably makes one of the best pizza crusts you’ll find outside of New York. The perfect outside for my chickeny-oniony filling.
I spread the diced chicken on the middle third of my pizza-dough rectangle, then grated some black pepper on top.
Then a layer of lovely, sweet, deeply caramelized onions.
Cheese. We need cheese. We have a few slices in the fridge – left from . . . something. We usually get a Sam’s Club pack of provolone, divide it up and freeze the packages. We had a bit in the fridge – about a quarter pound – the perfect melty cheesy goodness to go with our Mediterranean, uh, stuffed bread.
So there you go. Seasoned chicken, caramelized onions, and provolone cheese, all layered on a pizza crust dough.
Now what? Well, we had a few options – we could have made a calzone-type dish, which would have needed a lot more cheese and some sort of sauce.
Or a stromboli, which cries out for layers of cold cuts.
I’m not sure exactly what defines “braided bread” so we’re pretty much making it up. And it’s not even really braided. The layers were layered upon the center third of the dough, and I sliced the outer thirds. Folded up the ends, then alternated folding the side slit sections.
Does that even make sense? It wasn’t really difficult – a simple matter of left, then right, until we ran out of sections.
Then into the oven at about 375° for about 40 minutes.
And yes, we baked it on parchment on a pizza stone. It is, after all, pizza crust dough.
Not a real pizza stone – we use unglazed quarry tile on the bottom rack of the oven a lá Alton Brown.
He’s a clever guy.
I almost forgot. We had a lone egg white knocking around in the fridge too – we’d used the yolk for cookies, but that’s another story. I don’t know that it would have occurred to me to brush the loaf with egg white then sprinkle with sesame seed if the egg hadn’t already been separated, but I’m glad it did. Sesame seeds just add a finishing touch that’s hard to define. But it’s worth the thirty seconds of extra effort.
So there you have it. April’s Cheap Ass Monday Hobo Entry. And now for the nerdy math stuff:2 smallish onions (1/2 pound) – .15 1 pound leftover chicken - 2.00 homemade sourdough pizza crust – .20 (2 cups flour + sourdough starter) 1/4 pound provolone – .75
1/2 egg (egg white) – .04 1 tsp. (1/8 ounce) sesame seeds – .13 1 oz ghee for sauteéing – .14
Grand total for two people (with, of course, leftovers for my lunch) - $3.40 which is well under the $5 Cheap Ass limit! Plus it was darn tasty, besides.