Although I probably should clip coupons, I can’t seem to manage it. Sometimes, if there is a peel-off coupon attached to a box of cereal at the supermarket, I will peel it off, drop it into my pocket while I finish shopping, and then forget to hand it to the cashier when I check out. My brain is simply too busy to think about that theoretical 50 cents waiting silently in my pocket. It’s too busy trying to remember whether I really did grab that bunch of scallions I needed in the produce section and wondering how much bread is left in the cupboard at home. I am simply not a couponer, and I’m prepared to forgive myself for that.
Last week, I waited with a deliberately pleasant (I hope) look on my face, while the woman in front of me in line produced no fewer than 50 coupons, flipping through her massively yawning file in search of a match for each of her items. She looked to me smugly as her total dropped from $150 to $50. “Wow,” I said. “Well done.” In person, it didn’t sound so insulting. I know that because…
On her way out, with a wink, she slipped me a 25-cent coupon for my organic eggs and said, “I never buy organic. Too rich for my blood.”
But, for me, eggs–even organic, and even without a coupon–are already a budget food, thank you very much. Fry them and serve them bistro-style, alongside a fancy-looking potato dish and something green, and you have a dinner that costs little and offers plenty, even if your family wouldn’t normally go crazy about eggs for supper.
I know you know how to fry an egg, and your family has a favorite green veggie you can roast or steam. (Or give my “house salad” recipe a try!) So, without further ado, my fancy potatoes: potato galette, adapted from a Cooks Illustrated recipe. (When I say “adapted,” I really mean “spiced up.” It was good in its original form, but it needed a good dash of Penzey’s, some onion, and a handful of cheese.) A budget friendly meal for those with busy minds…
2 1/2 pounds of Yukon Gold or red potatoes
1 large onion, sliced thinly (optional)
5 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of your favorite seasoning blend (I like Penzey’s Cajun, Northwoods, or Southwest in this dish…and pretty much everything else)
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 cup of shredded cheddar, Parmesan, or other hard cheese
Not many ingredients, right? This dish is all about the technique. It’s a little fussy in the beginning, but it’s totally worth the effort–especially when you realize that this is really what you are making. Everything else (eggs & salad or veggie) will take 5 minutes.
1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Scrub your potatoes, but no need to peel. Get out your food processor and fit it with the slicing blade. You need to slice your potatoes as evenly and thinly as possible. Slice them all up. Dump the slices into a colander and rinse the slices very well, using your fingers to separate them under the running water. The idea here is to get rid of as much of the potato starch as you can.
2. Use a tea towel to dry them off as much as you can in the colander. Then use the towel to lift them into a really big bowl. Slice the onion in your food processor–why not, since you’ve already gotten it out?–and then add the onion to the bowl.
3. In a very large, oven-safe skillet, melt your butter. Add it and all of the other ingredients to the bowl and stir well. I just use my hands. It’s important to get the potatoes really coated with all the seasonings and the cornstarch. You should probably also add a bit of salt and some pepper, if your seasoning blend doesn’t have much salt and pepper in it.
4. Now, to the bottom of your hot skillet (over medium-high heat), add a layer of potatoes and onions. You can do it in a pretty pattern if you like, spiraling out from the center. (When it’s done, you’ll flip it over, so your efforts, should you choose to undertake them, will show.) Whether you create a pattern or not, do try to achieve as much contact as possible between the potatoes and the bottom of the pan. Now, dump all the remaining potatoes on top.
5. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray or rub it with butter, and lay it on top of the potatoes. Use something heavy (I use my big-dog cast-iron pan) to press down on top of the potatoes. Cook over medium high for 5-7 minutes, to create a brown crust on the bottom. Take a peek at mine at this point in the process:
6. Now heft the pan (covered and weighted) into the hot oven. Your job here is essentially done, so you can go ahead and start cleaning your food processor. (That is the worst part of this undertaking! When they devise a self-cleaning food processor, I will buy one…without a coupon.) After 25 minutes, remove the foil and weight. Cook for another 20-25 minutes until it’s golden brown and melty. Let it cool while you fry your eggs and toss your salad or steam your veggie. Then remove it from the pan onto a cutting board. Serve in wedges, alongside some eggs over easy (with yolks soft enough for dipping), and your favorite simple green veggie.