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Poor Girl Gourmet – Eating Sustainably is for Everyone

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The concept of Amy McCoy’s Poor Girl Gourmet – Eat In Style on a Bare-Bones Budget is simple: eating sustainable, ethically-raised, family farm food is financially feasible for everyone.

Through her recipes, Amy shows that, for close to the price of a “family meal” bucket of fast food, a family of four can sit down to a wholesome, nourishing, lovingly-grown meal. Delicious meals like Kale Lasagne with Walnut Pesto, and Braised Pork Shoulder with Honey Mustard Cole Slaw!

Amy was generous enough to share a favorite recipe for Chicken in Cider Gravy – a recurring dish in our meal plans! NOTE: We’ve adjusted the numbers to reflect the current higher price of packaged chicken at finer grocery stores ($2.29/lb). Even at $3/lb., this meal for four still rings in under $5 per person. This, of course, is irrelevant for those of you keeping your own meat birds!

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Chicken in Cider Gravy

This is a variation of a chicken in white wine gravy recipe that I make when I have half a bottle of white wine hanging around. I developed this version to use the cider that was about to ferment in my refrigerator in place of the white wine, and added mustard. I think this is an improvement on the white wine version of the recipe, and the gravy would also be fantastic with pork shanks or pork shoulder.
If you want to increase the amount of chicken in this dish, you can add a couple additional drumsticks and thighs using the same amount of liquid. That would allow you to create a potpie worth of company with the Savory Pie Crust (page 134) a night or two later with very little effort.

1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, pieced into thighs, drumsticks, wings, and breasts (see Note)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped, plus 6 medium carrots (approximately 1 pound), peeled, sliced on the diagonal
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ cups apple cider
2 cups chicken broth

1 Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
2 You’ll need enough oil to coat the bottom of a Dutch oven. Use a smidge more than ¼ cup if necessary. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until the oil becomes shiny. Working in small batches, 3 to 4 chicken pieces each, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown until the skin is crisp. Remove the chicken from the pan and place it on a plate. There should still be enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If not, add enough to do so.
3 Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent and the carrots and celery are softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the thyme and mustard. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables in the pan and cook until no raw flour is evident, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the cider, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the broth and simmer, uncovered, for 1 to 2 minutes.
4 Place the sliced carrots and the chicken, skin side up, into the pot.  The chicken should be in one layer with only the skin above the liquid. Bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken meat falls off the bone—meaning no knife, peeps—approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, being careful throughout not to let the liquid come to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve it forth.
NOTE: Ask your butcher to cut the chicken for you if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself.

Estimated cost for four: $10.92 $13.32. That’s for you big eaters who can polish this off between four of you. If we’re talking six servings, we’re looking at $1.82 per serving. The chicken should cost no more than $1.69 around $2.29 per pound. At 4 pounds, that’s $6.76 $9.16, though I am expecting you to be on the lookout for 99¢-per-pound chicken, okay? The olive oil is 48¢. The onion costs 33¢. The carrots cost 94¢ at $3.99 for 5 pounds of carrots, figuring that our soffritto carrot is at most 1/6 of a pound. The celery costs 20¢ at 10 stalks in a bunch costing $1.99. The cider was 56¢ using 1½ cups from 8 cups at $2.99. The broth was 2 cups of the 4-cup box that costs $2.19, so that’s  $1.10. The flour is 24¢ per cup, so that’s 5¢.  The mustard is 2 tablespoons from a bottle that costs $2.99 for 19 tablespoons, so that’s 32¢. We’ll throw in 18¢ for the thyme. If you serve this with the Buttery Mashed Potatoes (page 121) those will cost you around $2.50, keeping you well under the $15.00 $16.00 dinner budget, and leaving a person or two in your family happy to have some Chicken in Cider Gravy leftovers.
—From Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget by Amy McCoy/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Amy’s recipes are simple, the dishes are beautifully photographed, and the most valuable part of the book comes in the form of “Poor Girl Pointers”: simple, seemingly-common-sense (but then why don’t we do it) practices that can be a life line for those who may be wondering where to start. Tips like meal planning, buying meat on the bone and “do not forsake your freezer” provide the guidance and discipline that many of us with busy lives need.

So, HOMEGROWNers, how do you save money while eating family farm food? Leave your comment here and you’ll get a chance to win a copy of Poor Girl Gourmet – Eat In Style on a Bare-Bones Budget!

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