This summer, I’m going to be posting a series of fifteen low-cost, tasty, and easy-to-prepare meals that are literally straight from my own kitchen.
A few days ago, I was going through the produce section of our grocery store when I noticed a great sale on baby potatoes. They’re delicious and easy to prepare in lots of contexts, so I picked them up.
Then I noticed a sale on broccoli – another sale not mentioned in the flyer – so I picked up a few heads of that for pennies.
Near the milk and fruit juices, I noticed a sale on premium apple juice – a higher quality kind than I usually buy – for about what I pay for our regular juice, so I snagged that. My kids love apple juice with their breakfast, after all.
As I walked past the meat counter, I noticed some amazing thick pork chops – and they were also on sale for $1 each, another sale not listed in the flyer.
In other words, this meal fell together almost out of nowhere.
This meal took about five minutes of prep work, all told. Seriously. Once the chops and potatoes were on the grill and the broccoli was steaming, I just played with the kids, and the time spent getting the meal components to that point was about five minutes.
Several hours before the meal, I took the chops out and put them in a bowl.
You’ll notice the “Simply Apple” juice in the background. Ordinarily, I’d just use whatever apple juice was 100% juice and on sale that week – and this week, it happened to be “Simply Apple” that was on deep discount.
Anyway, I poured enough of the apple juice in the bowl to cover the chops…
… and I then flipped the chops around gently in the bowl so that each surface got some exposure to the apple juice. I then covered the bowl and stuck it in the fridge. Total time: about a minute.
As mealtime approached, I started preheating the grill, then I came inside, spread out a piece of aluminum foil, put some baby potatoes, a few teaspoons of minced garlic, and some ice cubes on top.
The garlic is for flavor – you can put whatever flavorings you want in there. You might want pepper. You might want salt. You might want chives. Whatever floats your boat.
The ice cubes are essential – in fact, I wish I had added a few more. The ice cubes melt inside the packet and eventually provide a great steaming effect, cooking the potatoes and keeping them moist.
So, I just wrap up the potatoes – and wrap ‘em again:
This package is ready to be tossed on the grill and cooked. I toss it on immediately, in fact, before the grill is entirely done preheating.
Now, for the broccoli…
All I have to do is chop the florets off of the stalks, chop up a bit of the stalks as well, and put it all in our vegetable steamer that we received as a wedding gift. Set the timer, walk away, and wait for the ding.
There are a lot of techniques for steaming vegetables without a steamer. The easiest one I’ve found is to take a large pot, pour some water in it, submerge a plate upside down in the water, sit a bowl of vegetables on top of that plate, then cover the entire thing and boil the water for 10 minutes or so (depending on the vegetables).
That’s it for the prep work. All you have to do now is throw the chops on the grill when it’s done preheating…
You’re going to have some leftover apple juice that had raw pork in it. My suggestion is to simply pour it over the pork chops as soon as you put them on the grill, and don’t hesitate to splash a little, either. It’ll all cook off while the grill lid is closed, creating a great apple smoke that adds pure flavor to the chops.
In fact, I poured myself another cup of fresh apple juice and poured this over the chops each time I flipped them, again not worrying about spilling a little. It produced some amazing smelling smoke.
My technique for grilling chops is to wait until the grill is about as hot as you can get it, then throw the chops on one side for about two or three minutes to sear it. Then, I turn the heat down to medium, flip them over, and do most of the rest of the cooking on that side.
This same technique works in a skillet if you don’t have a grill. Just put some vegetable oil in a skillet, turn the heat up very high, and wait until the oil is just starting to smoke. Toss in the chops, let them sear on one side for about three minutes or so, then turn the heat down to medium and flip them.
In both cases, trust a meat thermometer to tell you when you’re done. Pork needs to be cooked to 160F (about 75C).
In any event, my plate looked like this:
The meal was amazingly inexpensive, considering a meal like this at the local barbecue place would easily be $10.
The chop cost $1. I used approximately $0.10 worth of apple juice on this particular chop. The two potatoes cost about $0.15. The broccoli cost about $0.15 as well. Add in the energy costs and this entire plate was prepared for about $1.50. This was a $6 meal for our family of four.
Not only that, it tasted fantastic. There was just the perfect little hint of apple in the chops, the potatoes were tender and moist on the inside, and the broccoli was wonderful.