It’s a brand new year with an even tighter budget. Eeek! Since Larry and I are not into living a life of deprivation we decided to explore what we absolutely had to have besides our basic needs. Eating, cooking and entertaining were our top priorities. It’s not unusual for us to entertain friends over a home cooked meal at least three-four times a month. So how were we going to accomplish this within our budget? We decided to have two ways of entertaining. One would be to have simple suppers with a one dish entree. No frills such as dessert or appetizer, just a spontaneous invite to join us for our normal weekday meal.
We also wanted to continue having themed based dinner parties serving a complete meal of appetizer,main course,side dish and dessert. We decided to set a budget of $20 for each dinner. How would we be able to accomplish this? Here’s what we came up with. First we would ask our guests to contribute to the meal by bringing a beverage of choice and an appetizer, salad or dessert. We would cook the main dish and whatever else needed. In addition we would limit the number of guests to a maximum of four.
It would be a win-win situation for all of us. Our guest would be spending less than they would in a restaurant and they would also have the opportunity to learn how to make a new dish with the recipes I provided.
I decided upon a Cuban menu this month since a bunch of us were going to a local club to learn a new (for us) kind of Cuban dance called Son. Here’s what we made.
Cuban dinner for Six
Appetizer: Yucca fritas ( fried yucca) with mojo criolla sauce
2 large yucca roots
1/4 cup cooking oil
Cut yucca into 4 inch lengths. Leave peels on yucca. Steam them until knife cuts into them and they are soft ( not mushy) like potatoes. Cool and strip peels off. Cut into french fry size wedges. Fry in hot oil until brown on all sides and sprinkle with salt.
Mojo Criolla sauce
6-7 cloves garlic- crushed
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 Tablsp. white vinegar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Crush and pulverize garlic cloves with salt and pepper. Add cumin powder. Combine garlic mixture, vinegar, orange,lime juice and olive oil in blender and blend until frothy. Add chopped cilantro and adjust with more salt as needed.
Salad: Orange avocado salad with lime cumin vinaigrette
Orange avocado salad with lime cumin vinaigrette
3 cups mixed salad greens
1-avocado sliced or chunked
3 oranges- peels cut off and cut into 1 inch chunks
1/4-1/2 cup sliced red onions
Toss ingredients above gently with vinaigrette.
Lime cumin vinaigrette * from Deborah Madison- Vegetarian cooking for Everyone
1 garlic clove
grated rind of 2 limes
3 Tablsp. lime juice
2 Tablsp.chopped shallots
1/2 jalapeno chili- seeded and minced
1/2 tsp.cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tablsp. chopped cilantro
Mash and pulverize garlic with salt. Combine with lime rind,juice, shallots and chili.
Toast cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Cool and then grind into a fine powder. Add to lime mixture. Whisk in mustard and oil. Taste and adjust with more salt if needed. Let rest for 15 minutes and add cilantro just serving.
Entree: Arroz con pollo ( rice with chicken)
Arroz con Pollo
4 chicken thighs
4 chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic- minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp.dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
2 Tablsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tablsp. olive oil
2 cups onion- chopped
4 cloves garlic- minced
1 red bell pepper- -sliced
3-4 ripe Roma tomatoes- chopped
12 oz. of beer
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups short grain white rice
3/4 cup of fresh or frozen peas
Cut each chicken breast into 2 half pieces. Marinate the chicken breasts and thighs with the garlic, salt, pepper, oregano,cumin,coriander and red wine vinegar for 6-24 hours. Refrigerate.
In a large oven proof pan, fry chicken pieces over medium high heat in oil until browned on all sides. They should not be cooked through. Set aside chicken when browned and saute the onion and garlic with the oil from fried chicken. Saute onions until soft and yellow. Add bell pepper slices and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook at medium flame until the tomatoes are soft and juices have been released. Add beer and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add rice and mix thoroughly. Turn off heat and place chicken pieces decoratively over rice. Place a foil over the pan and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Take foil off and sprinkle peas over rice and chicken and bake for 10 minutes longer.
Rice will be soft and almost soupy. I like the rice to be soft and almost risotto like in texture. If you want it to be drier, bake it a bit longer uncovered.
Dessert: Fresh pineapple and mango sorbet
Fresh pineapple slices with mango sorbet and guava halves*
Cut pineapple into small wedges and serve with scoops of store bought mango sorbet.
*If you are able to find fresh guava, include on plate.
Total cost for arroz con pollo and fried yucca with mojo sauce and ingredients: $18
It really amounted to less since I bought two whole chickens and was able to use the drumsticks and wings for another meal.