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Do you find ways to cook "gourmet" on a budget? How?

What gourmet meals can you whip out on a budget? I'm looking to write more budget-friendly "gourmet" recipes. I live in California, so year-round produce is an option.

Thanks everyone :) I'll be sure to credit you if I cook one of your ideas.

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rickharris4 years ago
When you define Gourmet are you looking for high end restaurant presentation - after all most food is cooked in the same way!

You need to watch as many good cooking programs as you can, Get some good (ideally French cuisine) books with LOTS of pictures.

And

Practice. Focus on presentation (we eat 60% at least with our eyes)

Use fresh produce, try to buy small amounts so you waste less.

Put LESS on the plate, get some nice crockery in interesting shapes, In general I use square plates because, to me, it makes presentation easier.

Make friends with a Butcher, a Fish supplier, A good green grocer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxBHB8IJXvI

Show nice simple presentation

http://www.fotosearch.com/gourmet-images/gourmet-presentation-display/UNE150/

LOTS of presentation pictures.

and here

http://www.slideshare.net/Gourmet


its less about your cooking and more about hor you show it off. (mind it's hard to make a burger look good!)
garnishrecipes (author)  rickharris4 years ago
Got my hands on a good public program cooking show (America's Test Kitchen). Wonderful advice- I'm already learning ways to tailor tomato sauces based on total cook time and when the tomatoes are added. Thank you for the tip!
I agree, cooking shows can be a great way to find out about inexpensive gourmet recipes. I live in Massachusetts, and although there are a lot of gourmet restaurants around, I love to cook a gourmet meal at home when I can.
Excellent - Keep cooking!
lemonie4 years ago
It just needs to be good really.
If you can cook well, you have a lot of choice. Much of "gourmet" is skill/talent.

L
garnishrecipes (author) 4 years ago
Thank you both!

I revised my question below- I think I overcomplicated it a bit.

However, your answers to the original portion were just what I didn't know I needed- they got me thinking about my less effective kitchen practices :)

I've replied to each of you below. Thank you for the effort you put into your feedback!

Revised Q's:

Are there any particular must-have condiments, flavors, pairings, etc which turn cheap eating into a culinary experience? I'm looking to stock my tight-budget fridge with some staple ingredients.

I find a lot of luck at the Asian market, but I'd like to expand to more Mediterranean flavors.

Also, when designing recipes, what are some tips to keep the cost of trial-and-error low?

Replies to Original Question:

Rickharris-

Thank you for the helpful links!

Your point about using less for both plating and ingredient use is great! Breaking a recipe down into single portions (and smaller portions for the photography) will be a big help for both cost and reducing photography eyesores.

When testing, I tend to make a full size recipe- that leads to more cost if the recipe is a flop. There's usually a bit of flop when transitioning a concept into an original recipe.

I will do my best to look up more good quality cooking shows (growing up, I loved anything food related on PBS. Julia Child especially) during my down time.

I'm going to check out the links for better presentation tips. You make a good point about French culinary books for technique & plating. I do have a copy of the French Culinary Institute's instructions for both savory and pastry. (I'm by no means a chef, but I briefly attended there.) It wouldn't be too much trouble to pick these up and practice again.

Canucksgirl-

You are great with these forums :) Thank you for more feedback!

I like the idea of protein first during recipe design. It does simplify flavor pairings from the start.

However, on a really tight budget, I tend to skip protein and go for beans. Do you think that would still work for a composition start point? I feel like beans are a tricky start for a main dish. I've got to pick up a few vegetarian cookbooks from the library...

Rickharris & Canucksgirl-

My major issue lately with sourcing protein is where to find it at a good price. I'll call around the Bay Area to find a good butcher and fishmonger. I imagine if I'm eating higher quality food, I wont' need to buy as much of it.

Currently, If meat is on sale, I tend to buy in bulk and store. Going to Costco is starting to wear on me, so I look for things that are close to the sell-by date and freeze them.

I'll check out local butchers to see if I can get a better deal. I feel like the cost of my Costco membership is minor depression when shopping there ;)

Again, thank you both! I apologize if my answer is long winded.
Ignore (mainly) the dates on things - unless it makes it cheaper - If it Looks Ok and smells OK then it most likely is OK.

Go for cheaper cuts that need to be cooked slightly differently (usually longer)

Offal Liver, kidney is VERY cheap (at least in the UK) Cook quickly slightly pink in the middle to retain flavour and a soft texture.

Many cheaper cuts of meat work well if stewed, casserole (posh stew), slow roasted or boiled.

Cooking meat at much lower temperature works and makes for tender meat because the protein isn't stressed. By low I mean around 80 deg C 175 deg F for up to 8 hours. Beef is cooked when it reaches 160/170 deg C Pork & lamb at 170, poultry at 180. Setting your oven to these temperatures and waiting several hours leads to more succulent meat and the ability to cook very cheap cuts.

Slow cookers work well.

Bacon joints cook well and are cheap (boil)

I can swap budget recipes if your interested in low cost cooking

For herbs Grow a window box or pots of Basil , Thyme, Mint, Parsley, Coriander, all grow easily on the window sill and are MUCH cheaper than buying fresh or dry.

Kidney and pasta:

Put pan of salty water on for pasta.

Sauté an onion until soft but not brown
Clean and 1/4 4 or 5 kidneys
Toss in seasoned flour
Add to the onion and fry for 3 or 4 mins

Add 1/2 pint of beef stock (cubes will do fine)

Stir until thickened and put lid on. Sauce should be thickness of single (pouring) cream (runny but not watery)


Put pasta bows on to boil. I make my own pasts (easy) but buy pasts bows because for some things life is too short!

1/2 a cup of pasta will feed 2 people. Most people cook too much.

When past is cooked drain and add to a serving dish.

Stir in a spoonful of crème fresh to Kidney mix and pour over the pasta

Serve. feeds 2.

rickharris4 years ago
One of my Favourite winter lunch menus is soup:

Leek and Potato soup.

Take:
1 onion
3 leeks
4 med potatoes

Slice onion and leek, dice potato
Fry in a little olive oil until soft but not brown.

Add 1.5 pints of vegetable stock ( I use 2 stock cubes)
Cook until veg is soft and cooked - about 20 mins.

Add .5 pint of milk.

Blend with a stick blender in the pan until smooth and creamy.

Serve with a swirl of Crème fraîche or single cream if you can afford and a few Parsley leaves as garnish

If you can make your own bread then so much the better (and it's worth it)


You can use this basic technique to make:

Tomato - replace leeks with 3 tins of chopped tomatoes.

Replace the leeks and potato with oven roasted butter nut squash and sweet potato spice with nutmeg Milk not required.

Replace the leeks with about 1 pound of carrots in chunks. Spice with coriander.

garnishrecipes (author)  rickharris4 years ago
Oh I just saw this! :) This is great. All 4 of the soups look delicious; I'm looking forward to trying them. Thank you for sharing :)
canucksgirl4 years ago
Getting food in-season is the first place to start. Something imported inevitably will have a higher price than something you can get from a local Farmer's Market, or a Seafood/Fish Market or a local Butcher; and the in-season food tends to taste better also.

What I do is source out my protein first, taking advantage of what's plentiful and best priced. It also makes pairing your vegetables and starches much easier to do. I like taking inspiration from chef's and using their knowledge of things that work together and then try and put my own spin on it according to my own palate. Talking to your Farmers at the market, or the Fish Monger or the Butcher can also gain some interesting recommendations and information on how they prepare their own food.

How you turn your meal into a "gourmet" one is probably debatable. Some chef's can be very pretentious while others keep it simple and let the ingredients do their thing. If you have a nice balance in textures, color, flavor and its properly seasoned, you can take something rather "simple" to a "gourmet" level.