BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Ricotta Meatballs

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 7 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $13.50
  • 1 Comment

It's easy to come up with excuses not to cook. Even I do it sometimes. I have a regular conversation with myself most days around 5:30 PM that I like to call "The Burrito Debate."

I happen to love burritos. In addition to being utterly delicious, they're everything one needs in a meal in one complete, monstrous sizable package. The downside, of course, is that they're full of refined carbs (rice, tortilla) and one burrito typically has enough calories to satisfy three linebackers. Which, alas, I am not. 

But man, at 5:30, after a day of working, sometimes cooking dinner is the last thing I want to do, and that's when The Burrito Debate gets started: 

PRO: My favorite taqueria is on the way home! They'll be so happy to make me a burrito!

CON: Eating one will make me uncomfortably full and probably lead me to pass out at 8 PM.

PRO: There's fiber in beans!

CON: Bean farts.

Sometimes I give in, of course. But when I don't, I like to make meatballs. Throwing these together is *almost* as easy as ordering a burrito, and the payoff is much greater. This interpretation comes together in minutes, and satisfies deeply. I like to serve them in tomato sauce with a few dollops of ricotta and eat them with a spoon so I can get lots of sauce and creamy ricotta in every bite. 

If you feel compelled to make this a complete meal, add some crusty bread and a crisp green salad. If, however, you prefer eating them out of a bowl in your pajamas on the couch, come sit by me. 


  • 1/2 lb ground beef (80/20 is ideal) $3 
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped onion (about 1/4 medium onion) $0.50 for a whole onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced Pantry
  • 3/4 cup ricotta (preferably whole milk) $3.50 for 14 oz.
  • 2 tbsp grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese $3.50 for 10 ounces
  • 1 handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped finely $1 for a bunch
  • 1/4 tsp salt Pantry
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper Pantry
  • dash red pepper flakes Optional
  • 1 egg yolk $1.50 for 6
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed Pantry

Recipe Serves 2-3


  1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a mixing bowl.
  2. Use your hands to mix thoroughly. 
  3. Wet your hands slightly, and roll the meat mixture into 1-inch balls. Set the balls on a clean plate or baking sheet.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  5. Cook the meatballs for 2-3 minutes on all sides, until browned and cooked through.
  6. Serve as they are, or in warm tomato sauce with a few dollops of ricotta and more parsley. 

French Kiss Chicken

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 55 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $14
  • 1 Comment

There is no question that my love language is culinary. Sick in bed? I'll bring over pho! Just had a baby? I'll be over with a pan of Brown Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese. But to me, there is no food more potent with love than a freshly roasted whole chicken with herbs and garlic.

As it roasts, its heavenly scent fills your kitchen, wafting down the halls (and perhaps even into the apartment next door), letting everyone know that something special is being cooked. It's simple, but the very definition of wholesome, and goes with just about anything. 

This isn't the first chicken I've roasted, but it may be the simplest preparation. Here, I blend the classic French dried herb combination, Herbes de Provence (a mixture of savorymarjoramrosemarythymeoregano and lavender) with chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and slather it thickly over a beautiful whole chicken.



The herb-garlic mixture does double duty, creating a crust that helps hold moisture in, while also infusing the chicken with all that herbaceous, herbal flavor.   

The product is a wonderfully juicy, rustic chicken that should be served with simple sides that complement, but don't overwhelm it. Roasted potatoes, a creamy but simply flavored risotto or sauteed cannellini beans would be a great option, along with something sturdy and green, like massaged kale or roasted rapini.

So, instead of chocolate or roses, consider giving a freshly roasted chicken this Valentines Day. Not only does it kind of look like a heart, but you can't make soup broth out of leftover chocolates and roses.


  • 1 whole (5-pound) roasting chicken, giblets removed $10
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped Pantry
  • 1/8 cup Herbes de Provence (usually found near the spices) $4 for 6 ounces  
  • 2 tsp each salt and pepper Pantry

Recipe Serves 4


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Rinse the chicken under cool running water and pat dry, using paper towels. 
  3. Place in a large (at least 9"x13") casserole pan and set aside.
  4. Combine the garlic, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well to combine.
  5. Slather the garlic-herb mixture all over the chicken, inside the cavity, and all over the skin, slipping your hand in between the skin and the flesh, to rub a bit in there as well. 
  6. If desired, truss the chicken (this is not required).
  7. Place the chicken breast-side-up in the pan and cover tightly with foil.
  8. Roast, covered, for 30 minutes (if you chicken is larger or smaller than 5 lbs, adjust the cooking time slightly).
  9. Uncover the chicken and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the skin is golden-brown and the juices run clear (stick a knife into the thigh to check this).
  10. Let rest for 5 minutes, then carve and serve hot.

Guinness Mac and Cheese

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 25 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $10.50

Look, I don't care about football.

When I was a kid, my dad would scream at the TV on Sunday afternoons, while the blue guys and the red guys wrassled each other for the ball, and every now and then he would call me into the living room to show me a particularly great wrassle-ball interaction.

"Watch this, sweetie!" he'd say to me as an instant replay flashed across the screen. "This is beautiful!"

And I'd watch, as the red guys wrassled the blue guys, failing to see any of the beauty he mentioned whatsoever. 

"Cool, Dad. Can I go back to my room now?"

As I'd leave the living room, I'd pass my mom in the kitchen, who, inevitably, had also just been forced to watch something inexplicably "beautiful" on the screen. We'd nod at each other, like longtime office co-workers, weary of the same clueless boss.

These days, the few times a year I watch football, I do it for one of two reasons.

A) The other people watching:

Or B) the food. Obviously.

The last time I watched an entire game, it was because I love the people who were also watching, but also because it was a great opportunity to make pizza dough-based pretzels and a creamy, unctuous beer-cheddar sauce. Beer and cheddar have such an affinity for one another--the sour punch of the beer plays gorgeously with the nutty tang of the cheddar (particularly the sharp variety). The combination of the two invokes the umami-must-not-stop-eating-this-deliciousness effect, which is reason enough for me.

As I stirred the simple sauce on the stove (just browned onions in a roux with Guinness stout, cheddar and mustard), I couldn't help but think of how perfect this sauce would be for a mac and cheese. Beer and cheese are a dream combination, and tender pasta seemed like the perfect vehicle for them both.

So today I made just that. Just watch. It's beautiful.

Note: Feel free to skip the pasta and just use the cheese sauce as a dip for pretzels, breadsticks or chips.


  • 8 oz. elbow macaroni, shells, penne or other small cut of pasta $1.50 for 16 oz.
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish(es) $1 for a stick
  • 1 medium onion, chopped $0.50
  • 3 tablespoons flour Pantry
  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole) $1.50 for a pint
  • 1 cup Guinness stout $2.50 for a 10-ounce can
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus a small handful for garnish $3.50
  • dash of soy sauce Pantry
  • salt and pepper to taste Pantry
  • 2 teaspoons dijon or whole grain mustard Optional
  • chopped fresh chives Optional

Recipe Serves 4


  1. Preheat the broiler to high. 
  2. Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, just until onions begin to brown and become very fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the butter-onion mixture and whisk together. 
  6. Add the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until a thick white sauce forms. 
  7. Add the beer and continue whisking for another 2-3 minutes, until it begins to thicken.
  8. Add the 2 cups of cheese, one large handful at a time and continue stirring, to make a thick cheese sauce.
  9. Add soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and the mustard, if using. Stir well.
  10. Fold the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce until completely coated.
  11. Scrape the pasta-sauce mixture into a 9-inch by 12-inch casserole dish or 4 8-ounce ramekins.
  12. Top with the reserved handful of cheese.
  13. Broil for 1-2 minutes (watch carefully), until the cheese begins to bubble and brown slightly.
  14. Serve immediately topped with chopped chives and a tiny dollop of mustard, if desired.

Hot Buttered Pretzels

  • Prep Time 20 minutes
  • Cook Time 15 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $2.50

Hard pretzels don't really do much for me. Sure, they're oft-lauded as a great healthy snack, but honestly, I'd rather have a bowl of kale. Even the peanut butter-filled kind, while marginally better than plain ones, leave me unsatisfied--not to mention thirsty.

But soft, buttery pretzels, hot out of the oven, with a lightly crisp exterior and a chewy, yet puffy interior are a totally different story. Serve them with  tangy mustard or creamy cheese sauce for the ultimate game night/ballgame/study session snack (don't forget the cold beer!). You could probably even get away with serving them (plus soup and maybe a light salad) for an easy supper.

Most importantly, they're super-simple to make, using pizza dough (check out my latest book for more on this glorious product!). Make it yourself, or pick it up at the store and go from there.


  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 recipe pizza dough $1.50
  • flour for rolling Pantry
  • 1 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted $1             
  • 2 tablespoons large-grain salt, such as sea salt or kosher salt (optional) Pantry

Recipe Serves 5-7


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Fill a large pot with 10 cups of water. Place on the stove over high heat and whisk in the baking soda. Bring water to a light boil.
  3. Meanwhile, roll the dough out into ten 12-inch ropes on a lightly floured surface. 
  4. To roll a pretzel shape, draw the ends of the rope together to form a circle. Twist the ends together once or twice. Layer the twisted ends onto the bottom curve of the shape. You can use a little water to wet the ends to make them stick. Here's a video tutorial.
  5. Working in small batches, drop the pretzel-shaped pieces of dough into the water, boil for 30 seconds seconds, and then transfer to the prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake until pretzels are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. 
  7. Brush with the melted butter, then sprinkle lightly with the salt.
  8. Serve plain or with desired dipping sauce (see headnote).

Category: Meals

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Pumpkin Queso

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 10 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $7.25

Bring this to the Halloween party instead, and let the scariest thing in the room be Mike from Accounting's ill-advised Miley-Cyrus-at-the-VMA's costume--not scary fake cheese dip.

Goblins, ghosts and witches are scary, sure. But you know what really freaks me out? Super-processed cheese.

WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? I ask you. Why bother with what is, as far as I'm concerned, basically melted, reshaped plastic that is scientifically edible, but culinarily criminal? Why would you do that, when there are so many other delicious cheeses available? The argument that processed cheese is great because it's smooth and melty does nothing to convince me. Any cheese is smooth and melty if you treat it right.

Processed cheese is lower in fat, you say? Well, yeah. That's because it's not food. 

But this queso, my friends, is totally real food, that also happens super melty and gooey, the way queso ought to be. The help of a little canned pureed pumpkin (or fresh roasted and home-pureed, if you have that kind of time) makes it supple and creamy, while also adding to it a healthy dose of fiber and vitamins A and C--and zero fat. I add chopped onions and fresh jalapeño for extra flavor, but you could swap in canned green chiles for the jalapeño, if you prefer.

So please, I beg of you, just say no to the old Rotel-and-Velveeta combo. This is so much better. Bring this to the Halloween party instead, and let the scariest thing in the room be Mike from Accounting's ill-advised Miley-Cyrus-at-the-VMA's costume--not scary fake cheese dip. 


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter $1 for a stick
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion (about 1/8 onion) $0.50 for a whole onion
  • 1/2 jalapeño, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you're sensitive to spice or you're serving it to kids) $0.25 for a whole jalapeño
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, pureed pumpkin $2 for a 15-oz. can
  • 3/4 cup Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, shredded $3.50 for 8 oz.
  • salt to taste Pantry

Recipe Serves 4


  1. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until soft and very fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the jalapeño and stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the pumpkin and the cheese.
  5. Continue stirring until completely incorporated.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 4-5 minutes, until very bubbly.
  7. Salt to taste.
  8. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Category: Meals

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