Bravo’s Top Chef Chicago (GE) is heating up, and after April 16's elimination only 10 “cheftestants” remain in the kitchen. Watching the chefs scramble during a Quickfire Challenge might inspire you to whip up some shrimp and scallop beignets of your own, but what if you are cooking on a budget? Never fear. MainStreet caught up with current cheftestant Nikki Cascone, co-owner of restaurant 24 Prince in New York City, to find out how to go gourmet, without breaking the bank.
“When you’re on a budget, cooking fresh ingredients rather than buying pre-made items is an economical and healthy way to save money,” says Cascone.
Here are some exclusive tips, distilled straight from Top Chef contestant Nikki herself:
Pick a Protein: Start by picking the protein source for your meal. Shrimp, less fatty pork cuts and chicken (especially whole) are economical, tasty and healthy choices. As a lighter, vegetarian alternative, use dairy as your protein.
Go Seasonal: Once you have selected your main course you can begin creating a dish around it. Check out the produce isle or your local farmers market and see what is in season. This will provide the finest quality products for your dish, resulting in the best taste.
Toss a Salad: As a seasonal example, if I were serving roasted chicken, I may pick up some cucumbers and tomatoes along with some fresh herbs and make a salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar. The acidity of the salad will nicely compliment any of the suggested meat selections.
Think Square: To round out the meal I might pick up some carrots, red potatoes and maybe a seasonal green vegetable and lightly sauté that with some garlic, salt and olive oil. That’s a square meal that is healthy, low in fat, economical and delicious.