Cheap Meals for Dummies – Vol. 1

Drums & Potatoes

For those of you who enjoy cooking, my good friend Robert Clement continues to bless us here at C4C by sharing some of his favorite fancy recipes. That man can cook. But what if you don’t enjoy cooking? What if you’re not any good at following quality recipes? What if you never have the ingredients recipes call for? What if you simply can’t cook to save your ass? You know, the type of person who can screw up toast? Or worse yet, what if you’re just broke, or on a tight budget? Well, that’s where I come in with Cheap Meals for Dummies. Recipes so cheap and easy that even the biggest cooking dummies can pull them off without breaking the bank or burning down the kitchen. So put down the frozen food and step slowly away from the microwave, because it’s time to put on your dunce cap… err… I mean chef’s hat and do some really easy cooking.

Deep Fried Drums & Salted Potatoes

Estimated cost per plate: $1.50 – $2.00

What you’ll need:
A Package of Chicken Drumsticks
A Handful of Potatoes

Optional Ingredients:
Frank’s Red Hot
Pineapple Cake Mix & 2 Eggs
Butter, Garlic Powder & Parmesan Cheese
Flour & 2 Eggs (Mustard for crispy)
Salsa Con Queso & Bacon Bits

We’ll start with the potatoes because they take longer, so they’ll have time to cook while you’re doing the chicken. Fill a pot with enough water to submerge the potatoes. Add a generous amount of salt to the water. Optional: You can add other spices as well, such as pepper, garlic powder, Sazón, etc… but just plain old salt and water if you’re going full-on dummy. Put the potatoes in the water and crank the burner as high as it will go. That’s it… you’re just boiling potatoes. (They’ll take like 20-25 minutes to soften.)

Now let’s get to the good stuff, the drumsticks. Ideally, you have a deep fryer, or at the very least enough oil to put in a pot to submerge the drums completely. If not, you’ll have to put a layer of oil in a pan and actually flip the drums halfway through. If you’re a true dummy, use tongs and gently set them down when you flip them or you’ll get polka-dotted burns on your hands and arms from the oil splattering. That shit’s hot, you know? Anyway, all we’re doing here is deep frying the drums… so heat the oil first to 350 in a deep fryer, or using medium on a burner if you’re doing it on the stove top.  Then just drop them in the oil and and walk away for 10 to 12 minutes. (Or slightly more if you like your chicken extra crispy.)

So all we’ve done is boil potatoes in water and chicken in oil. So far, so easy. Now for the trick to flavoring them. Pick any of the options below, whichever you prefer:

Buffalo Drums (Pictured): Take a round Tupperware container with a lid, or an old Country Crock container if you’re ghetto, and dump some Buffalo sauce into it. (Preferably Frank’s Red Hot, the best condiment in the world.) Put the top on and shake and swirl it around. Place the drums one at a time fat side down into the container, then close it and swirl it around in a circle. This coats the drumstick with hot sauce but keeps the handle clean so you don’t get sticky fingers like you do with chicken wings.

Other variations: Same directions as the Buffalo drums, but you can substitute whatever you like. Barbecue sauce, sweet and sour, teriyaki, blue cheese, etc.

Garlic Parmesan Drums: Same thing with the Tupperware container, only this time you’re going to melt some butter in the microwave first and add a sprinkle of garlic powder to the liquid once it melts. Don’t go too crazy on the garlic powder, nobody wants to smell your stank breath after dinner. Put the melted garlic butter into the Tupperware, close the lid, and then swirl it around. Open the lid… shake some Parmesan cheese into the container, drop the drums in one at a time and swirl them around. Go easy on the Parmesan and just add more in between in each drum.

For battered drums, there’s a couple extra steps before deep frying:

Pineapple-Battered Drums (Pictured): This is one of my made up tricks which takes a couple extra steps before deep frying, but I’ll tell you how because they’re freaking delicious. You’ll need a box of Pineapple Cake Mix. Get two Tupperware containers with lids. In the first one, stir two eggs with a fork into liquid. In the second one, fill it halfway with pineapple cake mix. Take a drum and put it in the egg container first and swirl it around. Remove it and drop it into the cake mix and shake it gently until the drumstick grabs pineapple cake mix on all sides. Then deep fry as usual and the end result is a battered drumstick from heaven.

Regular Battered Drums: Or if you’re ghetto, we’ll call them Banquet-style drums. This also requires the extra steps before deep frying. You do the same thing as the pineapple trick, but put some pepper in with the stirred eggs and use flour instead of cake mix. If you like your chicken super crispy, you can either repeat the process again to double batter them, or simply add some mustard in with the eggs and the mustard will make them come out all crunchy.

As for the potatoes… they’re easy too. Take them out of the water when they’re done and slice an X in the top of them so they split evenly open. Then you can simply eat them as-is (pictured) by dipping them in melted butter, or you can get a little fancier by pouring salsa con queso (cheese sauce, you dummy) over them and sprinkle bacon bits on top for a cheesy-bacon potato sort of thing.

I got a pack of 12 drums on sale at Aldi for 3 bucks, so 3 or 4 to a plate is only 75 cents to a dollar. The potatoes were 3 bucks a sack, so using only a few per plate amounts to like 35 cents. Tack on any of the extras like the eggs, cake mix, flour or sauces.. and you’re still only talking $1.50 to $2.00 per plate.

There you have it. Cheap, easy, delicious, and it kicks the shit out of your frozen dinner, dummy. Now go wash the dishes. Being a cooking dummy is cool, but being a cooking dummy with a kitchen full of dirty dishes is kind of gross.

~Jamie Capria


Slow Cooker Beef Paprikash

Slow Cooker Beef Paprikash1 medium Onion, sliced
2 pounds cubed Beef Stew meat
2 Tablespoons Flour
Salt and Black Pepper
2 Red Bell Peppers, coarsely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Beef Broth
2 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon Caraway Seeds, crushed
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/4 cup Dill and Parsley, freshly chopped
Egg Noodles, cooked

Spread the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. Toss the beef with the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and place on top of the onions. Top with the bell peppers and garlic. Stir together the broth, paprika, tomato paste and caraway and pour over the beef. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Uncover and let stand at least 10 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and dill/parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles.

~Robert Clement

Corned Beef and Cabbage in Guinness

Corned beef and Cabbage in Guinness3.5-4 pounds flat cut Corned Beef Brisket
1 bottle or can of Guinness Draught
1 medium Yellow Onion, peeled and cut into wedges
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 teaspoon Ground Allspice
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 head Cabbage, cut into wedges, rinsed & drained
6 medium White Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 pound Carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Rinse the meat under cold water, and pat dry. This will help to remove some of the excess saltiness.

Heat a heavy stock pot over high heat with some oil and brown the meat well on all sides. Pour the beer into the stock pot and top it off with enough water to just cover the meat.

Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and pepper to the stock pot. Bring it to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for about 3 hours.

Add the carrots, then potatoes and then the cabbage wedges to the pot, in that order. Cover the pot again and continue cooking until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Remove the meat to a cutting board and the vegetables to large bowl, leaving the liquid in the stock pot. Over high heat, bring the cooking liquid to a boil,and cook until the amount of liquid is reduced by half.

After the meat has rested, slice it against the grain in strips about 1/4 thick. Serve with the vegetables and the sauce on the side.

~Robert Clement

Marsala Pork & Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

Creamy Marsala Pork Loins

Seared Pork Loin Chops in Creamy Marsala Sauce
Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus  with Parmesan
Fried Pierogies Smothered in Marsala Sauce

Creamy Marsala Sauce:
4 thin slices Prosciutto, chopped
1 Shallot or 1/2 small Onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup Marsala Wine
2 teaspoons fresh Chives, chopped
1 teaspoon Dry Oregano
1 cup Heavy Cream

Pork Chops:
4 Pork Loin Chops, boneless
Salt and Pepper to taste
Flour for dredging
Oil for searing

1 bunch Asparagus (White or Green)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Drizzle of Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
5 or 6 thin slices Prosciutto, cut into 1×3 pieces
Parmesan Cheese, freshly and coarsely grated

8-12 frozen Pierogies, any flavor
2 Tablespoons butter

Season the chops with salt and black pepper, then dredge them in flour. Heat a skillet on medium-high heat with a little bit of oil. When the pan and oil are hot, brown the chops on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Take them out and place them on a plate to the side.

Prosciutto is going to add great flavor and texture to the sauce. Add the prosciutto and onions to the pan and cook them until the prosciutto is brown and the onions are just turning brown, about 2 or 3 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup of Marsala wine to the pan along with the chives and oregano. Scrape the burnt pieces off the bottom of the pan and bring the liquid to a boil.

Next, add the heavy cream and stir occasionally until the sauce has thickened, about 3 or 4 minutes. Return the chops to the pan and lower the heat, then let it simmer about 5 or 6 minutes. Turn the chops often to heat them thoroughly, but also to get that yummy sauce all over them.

Serve the chops topped with the sauce and garnished with some freshly chopped chives.

Rinse the asparagus and trim at least an inch off the bottom of each spear. Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the asparagus down in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil, lemon juice, and sprinkle the salt over the asparagus. Turn the spears to coat them.

Place the prosciutto pieces out on a flat surface and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over them.Lay the asparagus on the prosciutto evenly, so the same amount of the tip and base of the spear sticks out. Roll the spears to wrap them and then place them back onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle a little more Parmesan over them and then bake in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the asparagus is slightly roasted.

For the pierogies, heat a pan on medium heat and melt the butter. Add the pierogies, still frozen, and cook on both sides just until they are thawed, but cooked just as crispy or tender as you like them. Use some of the leftover Marsala sauce on the top.

~Robert Clement

Chicken Saltimbocca & Spinach Salad

Chicken Saltimbocca

Chicken Saltimbocca
Spinach Salad

Take chicken cutlets, or thin-sliced breast, and pound them until they are evenly flat. Using two sheets of waxed paper or putting them into a large freezer bag works well. Lay a slice of prosciutto on each flattened piece of chicken. Next, take some chopped spinach seasoned with salt and black pepper and toss it with a couple spoons of extra virgin olive oil. Don’t use a lot of oil because you don’t want to make spinach pesto, you just want to moisten the spinach. Spread the spinach over the top of the prosciutto, making sure it is evenly covered. Generously sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese over the spinach. Starting from the short tapered end, roll them up like you would a jelly roll. Use a couple toothpicks to secure them. Heat a skillet on high heat with a little bit of oil.

Place the rolls into the pan and cook until golden brown on each side, about 5-10 minutes altogether. Next, reduce the heat to medium and add about 1.5 – 2 cups of chicken broth and the juice from a fresh small lemon. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the burnt brown pieces on the bottom of the pan. Cover and simmer on medium heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the chicken and place them on a plate, and remove the toothpicks. Turn the heat back up to high and simmer the broth until it reduces down to about 2/3 to 1/2 cup. Reducing it down will intensify the flavors. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken just before serving.

The salad is light, refreshing, and very easy to make. Add to a large bowl about 5 or 6 handfuls of spinach leaves. Add 3 green onions, thinly sliced. Add 1/3 cup of dried cranberries. You can use raisins if you’re not fond of cranberries. Add 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, sliced in half. Add 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts. Add 1/2 Grannie Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced. In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, salt and black pepper to taste. Mix these ingredients well. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well, until everything is evenly coated and the ingredients are mixed well. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill until ready to serve. Top the salad with crumbled Feta cheese.

~Robert Clement

Reuben & Fried Red Cabbage

Reuben & Fried Red CabbageReuben Sandwich
Fried Red Cabbage with Bacon and Onions

Nothing fancy here, just simple yumminess.

You’ll need to start the cabbage first because it takes longer to cook. Slice a head of red cabbage in half and then cut out the white core. Lie the half head with the cut side down and slice in half again, lengthwise. Now cross-cut it with 1/4 inch slices until all the head is sliced.

Heat a large skillet on medium-low heat and add 4-6 slices of bacon that has been cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Cook until most of the fat has been rendered (turns into grease) and then add 2 onions that have been cut into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper and stir.

Once the onions have released their juices and begin to get tender, add the sliced cabbage. Raise the heat to medium, stir and cover. Continue to stir every few minutes until the cabbage has become slightly wilted and soft, yet still crisp. Toward the end, season with more salt and pepper and add a couple shakes of red pepper flakes, if you wish.

Now, for the sandwich. Spread butter on one side of two slices of rye bread. On the other side, spread a little “special sauce.” Typically, people use Thousand Island or Russian Dressing. I made my own with available condiments. Basically, I used mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, chili powder, and fresh ground black pepper.

Place it in the middle of your pan on medium-low heat with the buttered side down and dressing up. Cover with a slice of Swiss cheese. Add two slices of corned beef. Spread some sauerkraut that has been drained and then repeat the process in reverse, with two slices corned beef, one slice Swiss cheese, and the second slice of bread with the dressing side down.

The reason for cooking on a lower heat is to give the heat a chance to transfer into the middle of the sandwich, melting the cheese and warming the sauerkraut. Cook both sides until golden brown. Slice in half and serve.

~Robert Clement

Bleu Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops

Stuffed Pork Chops & Sauteed Turnips Bleu Cheese-Bacon-Chive Stuffed Pork Chops
Sauteed Turnips and Wilted Turnip Greens
Cheddar-Bacon Twice Baked Potato

First, you’ll need to fry a few slices of bacon and crumble them, then set them aside.

In a bowl, combine some crumbled bleu cheese with fresh chopped chives and some of the crumbled bacon. Using a filet knife, cut a pocket into the side of a boneless pork chop. Thick cuts, like what I used, are much easier to do. Spoon some bleu cheese mixture into the pocket. Be careful not to over-stuff. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops. Garnish with fresh chopped chives.

Scrub the potato until it is clean. Stick a fork into it in a few places, then brush it lightly with oil. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, then let cool. Slice the top 1/3 off the potato and then spoon out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch on the skin. Mash the insides in a bowl and add chopped green onions. Also, add a little milk or sour cream to give it moisture. Mix in some of the crumbled bacon and a little bit of shredded cheddar cheese.

Fill the potatoes with the mixture and top with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon. Add them to the oven about 15 minutes before the pork chops are finished.

Dice some turnips and heat a large pan on medium-high heat with olive oil. Add the turnips and cook, stirring occasionally until they have become tender and slightly browned. Lower the heat to medium and add some turnip greens that have been roughly chopped. Add salt and pepper to taste and cover. Simmer until the leaves have wilted, stirring occasionally. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice and mix, then serve.

~Robert Clement