3 Ways to Make Impressive, Inexpensive Dinners

Billy Vasquez is as homey as hash browns and happily, just as cheap! Vasquez, a pal of mine from LA, is also known as The 99 Cent Chef, and I've shared his tips for squeezing the most out of your food dollars, whether you shop at farmer's markets or Billy's fave, 99 Cent Only Stores.

Today, the chef dishes on how to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, or the culinary equivalent of that old trope. In other words, how can you cook dinner-party worthy meals out of potatoes, beans, seasonal vegetables, and inexpensive cuts of meat?

1. Put the Pressure On

If Jacques Pepin is the king of filet mignon, then Chef Billy is the serf of turf. The 99 Cent Chef buys bone-in pork shoulder at his local Latin market for about a dollar a pound. At conventional grocery stores, he keeps his eyes open for sales on unpretentious cuts of beef with names like rump, shank, and butt. Then he gets out his pressure cooker (a slow cooker works, too).

"The tough cuts of beef and pork can take a lot of slow cooking to bring out the flavors," Billy says. "I have a pressure cooker that I use to cook whole pork shoulder or beef shank into fall-apart tenderness in about a third of the normal time."

2. Scramble Up Some Savings

After a year of skyrocketing egg prices, Chef Billy is back into eggs, now that prices are on the decline. He mostly uses eggs to whip up big-honking breakfasts, but these dishes make satisfying dinners, too.

Baked Denver Omelet

Baked Denver Omelet. Photo by Sugarplum
Baked Denver Omelet. Photo by Sugarplum.

3. Beans are Magically Cheap

The 99 Cent Chef cooks with beans and rice more than anything else. When my best buddy Amy introduced us, Billy made a jambalaya that was so off-the-charts delicious I remember thinking Amy should marry this guy. Now Amy is his wife, and Billy is sharing his mom's recipe.

Chef John's Sufferin' Succotash Salad

Sufferin' Succotash Salad. Photo by Chef John
Sufferin' Succotash Salad. Photo by Chef John.

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