Five Budget-Conscious Main Courses

Recipe courtesy of Maggie Ruggiero, Gourmet, 2007.

Balsamic Chicken

The balsamic vinegar in this recipe -- and you can use the regular old affordable supermarket variety -- provides a sweet and sour base and great depth of flavor to this very quick sauce. This sauce would go nicely on sauteed pork chops or a flavorful fish such as salmon or bluefish as well. Serve with smashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with garlic.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1½ pounds chicken thighs with skin in and bone in
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup )
1 garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
4 plum tomatoes, (about 1 pound) chopped or one 14½ ounce can diced tomatoes with the liquid
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup canned chicken broth or Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot; reduce the heat to medium-high and add the chicken breasts, skin side down. Saute for 6 minutes or until the skin is nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and saute for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Transfer with tongs or a slotted spoon to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

2. Reduce the heat to medium; add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened slightly, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the vinegar and broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add any juices from the chicken plate to the pan and the butter and heat just until the butter is melted. Transfer the chicken, skin side up, to each of 4 plates and top each serving with some of the sauce.

Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton, "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals"

Sesame Steak

Ingredients:

3 tbs soy sauce
K2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
2 tbs rice vinegar
1 tbs dark brown sugar
2 tsps finely grated ginger
1½ tsps toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced (about 1 tsp)
1 pound chuck steak
kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
4 tbs vegetable oil
4 cups thinly shredded napa cabbage (about 1 pound)
¼ pound snow peas, halved diagonally
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Whisk together the soy sauce, scallions, vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, sesame oil and garlic and set aside. Season the steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Cut into pieces, if necessary, in order to fit it all into the skillet.

2. Heat 2 tbs of the oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot; add the meat. Sear the steak on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes total for medium-rare (which I, personally, prefer).

3. Transfer the meat to a platter, cover loosely with foil, then let rest while you cook the cabbage. Discard the fat in the skillet; heat the remaining 2 tbs oil in the same skillet over high heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cabbage and snow peas. Saute for 3 minutes or until the cabbage is crisp-tender. Add the snow peas, red pepper flakes and salt to taste; saute just until peas are hot, about 30 seconds.

4. To serve, slice the steak thin, against the grain, at an angle. Add any juices from the platter to the soy sauce mixture and toss the meat with the sauce in the bowl. Arrange a mound of cabbage on four plates; top with the meat and the sauce.

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