Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What the Dinner Cost: Thai Feast

The lesson here is that home cooking is inexpensive! We bought most of the items at sale prices, but even at regular prices--double or triple for some things--this would still be a reasonably priced meal.

We were told to expect between 7 and 20 and the actual number was about at the half-way point. We ended up using less food than we brought, because the kitchen we used was not well-equipped. We only had two medium skillets and one medium saucepan. Everyone had at least one large helping, but some of the hungry people ended up being sated by the brownies and ice cream we had for dessert.

Rice with Thai broth (Big Lots!): $1.50
Shrimp ($2.50/lb), coconut milk ($1.00), curry paste ($1.50): $5.00
Veggies roasted at home, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onion,reduced for quick sale:$2.00
Braised greens (garden) topped with tofu: $2.50
Peanut sauce: maybe $2.00??
Salad blend bought at Sam's Club: $3.00
Ice Cream: $4.00
Brownies baked at home: $2.00

WHAT? Under $25.00????

Add a few cheap bottles of wine . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dinner Party for the College Cook, with Thai Peanut Sauce

We are going to visit Miss Em soon and she requested that we make dinner for a bunch of her friends. In case you don't know, parents are supposed to provide food for students, either by taking the group out to a restaurant or making dinner. Miss Em has gone to some very nice meals, both in restaurants and in apartments. One set of parents made a multi-course Indian dinner, including samosas, a time-consuming labor of love, I am sure.

We were going to bring a vat of Miss Em's fave shrimp and corn soup, but then Miss Em suggested Thai shrimp curry. OK! That's even easier than the soup. What about the rest of the menu? It has to be expandable in case more people come than anticipated. So far, there have been 8 rsvps, but Miss Em said the number may go up to 15 or even 20.

We are going to bring as much pre-cooked as possible, since we will be spending the day doing other things. Plus, there's little more anxiety-provoking than cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen.

Thai shrimp curry
Tofu and veggies with peanut sauce

Brownies and ice cream

Because I have a lot of ingredients stockpiled--and Louisiana shrimp is on sale for under $3.00 a lb this week!--we can do the food portion for under $35.00. I'll do a breakdown in another post.

For the nonce, here is the recipe for peanut sauce. For a cup. It keeps a long time.

4 TBS peanut butter
4 TBS vegetable oil (NOT olive)
4 TBS soy sauce
4 TBS sugar
4 TBS vinegar
1 tsp Asian sesame oil (if you don't have this, leave it out. That's what a Thai grandma would do)
a little hot pepper, if you so desire

Mix together.

Yes, this is what they put on chicken in Thai restaurants. Now you can do it at home.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Condiments for the College Cook: Thai

If you want the easy 20 ingredient/14 meals no-stove system put together by Frugal Son and me, get a hold of our ebook--upper left for the pdf. or on Amazon for your Kindle: College Cooking Crash Course.

Now I want to go beyond the restrictions. First, I want to show the value in amassing a pantry of condiments. Second, I want to use up a bunch of stuff in my fridge.

For Thai food: good to have curry paste (comes in a small jar in green, red, yellow), fish sauce (can sub soy sauce), coconut milk.

With two of the above, you can jazz up your plain-Jane rice and whatever that you make in your beloved rice cooker. I say two because I ran out of curry paste.

In cooking, I follow the mantra of Roger Ebert, whose blog on his rice cooker was and is an inspiration: the pot knows. So proportions are of littler consequence than one would think.

Into the pot I put 1 large coffee mug of rice.
Then I added some stock (you could use water): 1 1/2 coffee mugs. I did need to add more.
Then I added some chopped eggplant that was moldering in the fridge.
Then I added some chopped scallions (you could use onion, or even garlic).
Then I added a few sliced carrots also moldering in the fridge.
Then I added some hot pepper growing in the garden.

Then I turned it on.

When the rice seemed almost done, I added more water and half a can of coconut milk I had left from something else.

Then I added a few handfuls of spinach.

When it seemed almost done, I stirred in some shrimp I wanted to use up

Then I put some in a bowl and added some fish sauce. Then I squirted some rooster sauce on. Then I made Mr FS take a picture.

And it was good.