We are total suckers for this kind of story! Recently our hometown alternative rag asked two local chefs to take a bag of cheap (read: not nice) groceries and turn them into something gourmet. The results were pretty impressive, and while we might not go to the same lengths (separating frozen vegetables?) it is an inspiring look at turning unappetizing ingredients into something more interesting.
The challenge, laid down by Columbus Alive, was to take $25 worth of groceries and come up with a meal for four. These groceries included such frugal classics such as ramen noodles, Kraft mac 'n' cheese, and frozen pizza. There were some more respectable ingredients, too, like apples, cabbage, squash, and a rotisserie chicken. Not a bad haul for $25.
The writer turned all this over to two local Columbus chefs, Alana Shock and John Dornback. (Full disclosure: I have eaten in both their restaurants and found their food very good.)
They both deconstructed and reconstructed these ingredients in really amazing ways! Dornback's plates looked Food Network ready, with lovely plating and garnishes.
Alana's were slightly less fancified, but she also produced a staggering array of dishes: eleven! She picked apart the vegetables in the bag of frozen veggies, and deconstructed the Kraft cheese packet and mixed it with bacon fat to make a soup she called, hilariously, The Krafty Beast.
I also loved her acorn squash stuffed with cornbread and cheddar, and her version of simplified cassoulet. I thought her dishes were pretty outstanding. (Really full disclosure here: Alana cooked my rehearsal dinner so I really am a little biased.)
It is always fun to see professional chefs, especially ones as committed to local and seasonal ingredients as these two are, doing such witty and inventive things with ingredients like these. Take a look at the full piece!
• The Cheap Issue: Deal-icious - Chefs make over cheap ingredients into gourmet dinners
Thanks for the tip, Jeff!
Related: Jacques Pépin Cooks Dinner for Six with $24
(Images: Jodi Miller/Columbus Alive)