HUHO (since I am too uncreative to think up a better name): This compilation of how-tos, written by you and me, aims to help people with little in the way of resources and expertise get through unfortunate situations relating to money, finances, and bureaucracy.
It will be an open-source document, likely a Word doc wiki?, that can be edited and added to as the contributors see fit. Not only do I want it to include our stories, but I want it to include details, specifics, the steps in the process, what one can expect, what hurdles one may come against, and suggestions for how to get around them. This should be a pragmatic resource that takes a person in need through all the steps and details of the situation at hand.
As you should be able to tell from the description above, it isn't just a recipe collection--read the whole thing and see if there isn't some other area in which you have expertise you could offer.
But me, I got chicken thighs. And lemon. And garlic. And a recipe I got out of a $5 bargain cookbook at Barnes & Noble. And that's my first bit of advice: Don't shun the $5 bargain cookbooks! I make more stuff out of the bargain cookbooks than I've ever made from books by celebrity chefs.
Here is what I know about the chicken thighs and the lemon and the garlic: It is cheap. It is unbelievably tasty. It scales up or down nicely, but I wouldn't suggest scaling it down because it also is delicious left over. Cold or hot, doesn't matter.
The negatives: It is not a quick recipe, and it is not low-fat. People concerned about the fat content should consider skinning the thighs before cooking and perhaps using a defatted chicken stock. Me, I have to confess I don't really give a shit, because if it isn't one thing killing you these days it's another. Let's eat.
8 chicken thighs
20 [that is not a typo] cloves garlic
2-1/2 cups chicken stock*
5-6 ounces of cheap white wine--a wine glass full--OR 4 ounces apple juice plus the juice of 1 lemon
2-4 tablespoons flour
1-2 tablespoons oil
*Note about the chicken stock: The cheapest way to procure 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock is to make it yourself with the carcass of a roast chicken. But who has time for this? I find stock-making incredibly tedious. So the second-cheapest way to procure 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock is to cheat, by dissolving the flavoring packet from a package of chicken-flavored ramen in 2-1/2 cups of boiling water. Yes, I really just typed that. You're going to infuse the stuff with a boatload of garlic anyway, so it doesn't matter. And the third-cheapest way to get chicken stock is to buy bouillon cubes when they're on sale and keep those around.
Peel 20 cloves of garlic by whacking each clove with a knife to loosen the peel first. Chuck the peeled cloves into your 2-1/2 cups chicken stock which you then heat on the stove to a nice simmer. Cover loosely and simmer 40 minutes. I told you this wasn't a quick recipe.
In a big ol' pan that is preferably NOT non-stick, brown up, with a tablespoon or two of oil, your chicken thighs. Salt and pepper 'em, and paprika's good on them, too. Beyond that they don't need much. The flavor's going to be in the sauce.
Turn on your oven to 375.
When the thighs are browned nicely (they need not be cooked through), remove them to an oblong casserole dish.
Leave the pan you fried 'em in on medium-low heat. Into that same frying pan, sprinkle 2-4 tablespoons of flour and stir it into the pan drippings, which I hope you did not drain off. Whether you use only 2 tablespoons of flour, or 3, or 4 is going to depend on what's in the pan. If you skinned the thighs before browning, you will have less fat in the pan and may only need 2 tablespoons of flour. What you are aiming for here is equal parts fat and flour.
Now chuck in EITHER the wine OR the apple/lemon juice combo and stir with the flour and fat mixture, scraping the pan really well.
And now you can strain your 2-1/2 cups garlicked chicken stock into the frying pan, blending with the flour, the fat, and the wine. It will go together more smoothly than you may think it will, honest; if you blended the fat and flour well to begin with, you will have no lumps at all. Lower the heat on the pan to, uh, low, and turn your attention to the casserole dish of chicken thighs, over which you will place:
1. The garlic cloves you strained out of the stock, and
2. One peeled, sliced lemon.
And over all this, pour the sauce. Cover the casserole with foil or a lid, and slide it into the oven, where it will remain for 40 minutes.
Forty minutes turns out to be exactly how long it takes me to make rice in the cheap electric steamer I've got, so that's what I serve this with, because it's tough to get cheaper than rice. Green beans also go well. In any case I usally keep the veggies and starches very simple, because what comes out of that oven 40 minutes later is some fantastically rich and delicious chicken, in a sauce you could pour over damn near anything, except maybe chocolate cake.
This would all go much faster if you infused the garlic into the stock the day before, but I never remember to do this. And about that garlic: 20 cloves sounds excessive, but the flavor in this dish is not overwhelmingly garlicky, so if overly garlicked food normally puts you off, give it a chance first.
WHY I THINK THIS DISH QUALIFIES AS CHEAP, OR, WHERE DO I GET OFF?
Because I can usually count on the local Grocery Chain putting enormous packs of chicken thighs on sale for $0.99 a pound. These usually contain between 14-16 chicken thighs which means I can make this dish twice if I want to. And I usually want to, because what the hell else do you do with a bunch of chicken thighs?
Lemons are cheap.
Garlic they're practically giving away.
And chicken stock is either free (if you made your own), super-cheap (if you use the ramen noodles trick), or fairly cheap (if you use canned or bouillon you bought on sale). Really, the most expensive thing in this is the wine (or the apple juice, if you use that), and whichever you use, you aren't using much.
*Some of you who cook better than I do need to check it out, because I'm certain you could contribute a recipe or two.
Helen, I am thinking that potato gratin particularly could be adapted for lower income brackets, but that may just be because I'm a little in love with the look of that potato gratin. I'm telling you, it totally wants me.