Monday, March 16, 2015

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Having company?  Don't panic.  Your budget doesn't have to be the victim.

Remember, people eat with their eyes.  Make something look fancier, bigger, or more expensive and people will believe that it is.  Use that to your advantage when company comes for a meal but the budget just doesn't have that much give.

First, buy some of those boneless, skinless chicken breasts for an average cost of $3.44/lb US ($6.36/lb UK).  Buy 1/4 to 1/3 pound per person.  No one wants to run out of food when they have guests and left overs can always be enjoyed again by your family.

Now, take those chicken breasts home and place each breast between two layers of cling film with enough space around the breast to allow them to "grow" because that is exactly what we are going to make them do.

If you have a food mallet use that or use something else to do the job.  Here on the boat I use the wooden handle of my rolling pin.  Start "beating" on the center of the piece of meat and work towards the edges.  Repeat, trying to get the meat uniformly thin all over but no so thin it gets holes in it.

When you are done, the meat should look at least twice as big.  And, as an added benefit, it will cook faster and be more tender than in its original form. 

Cut each breast into portion size.  The individual sizes of the breasts will determine how many you get.  Be generous.

Now, use the chicken in one of your favorite recipes. 

I like to make chicken picatta or chicken Marsala.  Both are easy and fast to do but they look and sound extra special.  Garlic oil pasta with Parmesan and peas added for color or pesto pasta with Parmesan is a nice side for both along with a Caesar salad or just a wonderful regular green salad with croutons to give it a little "sparkle".  Make your own salad dressings or just decant some tasty ones from the bottles to add a company touch. 

Some great bread, homemade or from a good bakery  and your meal is set except for the sweet course or cheese course or both.  A lovely pie or cake works as the sweet or some special brownies.

If you are pulling out all the stops and doing a cheese course remember that you don't need to provide a large amount of cheese.  Buy smaller portions of 3 cheeses and go for higher quality.  Add basic butter crackers and some grapes and you are set.

There you have it.  Much cheaper than taking everyone out and a menu you can survive making.  Promise.

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