We did indeed enjoy the duck breast dinner last night that has been featured in the column for the past few days. Everyone was really impressed with how good it was, mostly based on preconceived notions of not liking duck. Now I have a family of converts. The only problem was how much those little mallard breasts cost.
My wife and I started to discuss this after dinner. 2 full organic duck breasts from Whole Foods were $16. That was the main course for us and two of our kids. Then we added up the rest of the meal, totaling roughly $30 INCLUDING a bottle of red wine. In Mark Bittman’s article about the price of feeding a family – comparing a typical dinner at McDonalds – he sites the McDonalds meal at $28. Now I need to brag a little here. The meal that we ate in honor of the late Michael Kamen was really amazing. Duck breast marinated in Pomegranate Syrup and orange, wild rice with spicy pecans and golden raisins, an arugula salad with meyer lemon dressing and a bottle of nice Cotes du Rhone wine. In an upscale restaurant that same meal would have been $200.
The crazy thing is that I wasn’t trying to save money. We are always conscientious about what we spend at the grocery, but this dinner was to be special so a little extra cost was going to be fine. The night before we had dinner guests and we made Linguini and Clams for four. The clams were the same price as the duck. The total cost of that dinner was about the same, which included dessert.
Mark Bittman’s point was that a family of four can prepare a nutritious and delicious dinner for $9. It may not be gourmet or organic but it will be a far sight better than the golden arches. My point is that for the same price as the McDonalds meal you CAN have a gourmet dinner that IS organic.
We don’t fix meals like that every night, but for guests or a special occasion I think that it is a wonderful, affordable alternative to dining out. I hope everyone processes the cost vs. enjoyment factor of the occasional “fancy” meal at home and finds ways to enjoy the culinary pleasures that can be had (for a small price).
Here is a recipe that saves money. If you have been following along, you know that things that are pre packaged are more expensive and never as good as what you can make at home in a few minutes. I actually use a food processor for this one because of the time that it saves as well as the appropriate texture it creates. If you don’t have one you can use a blender or do it by hand.
- 12 oz. Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 Red Pepper, finely chopped
- 1 Jalapeño Pepper, minced
- 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/4 Red Onion, finely chopped
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Chef’s Knife
- Food Processor (optional)
- If you are using a food processor then you do not have to chop the vegetables so finely. Add all vegetables to food processor and briefly pulse. (Note: for not as spicy only use 1/2 jalapeño.)
- Add olive oil a little bit at a time, continuing to pulse. Stop when you get a smooth but slightly chunky consistency.
- Salt and Pepper to taste.