Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Homemade is Better: Rub with Love

Ready prepared and packaged spice mixes are a great addition to any Cheapskate Pantry. For a very small investment, they offer a huge amount of flavor and keep for a long time when stored in a cool, dry space. They are also great to have on hand for those nights when you haven't had time to get to the grocery store or plan anything for dinner. All you have to do is defrost your meat, apply rub and broil or grill to your hearts content.

Additionally, spice rubs can also make excellent thoughtful and affordable gifts like the ones above that were given to me as a birthday present by my friend Camille that she picked up at Pike's Place Market on a recent trip to Seattle. Just pick out a couple of varieties or flavor combinations that you think your gift recipient might like. Then prepare a few recipe cards or suggestions for how to prepare the meat and package all together in a lovely gift bag. (Hint: for gift wrapping materials try your local 99 cent store.) If you want to make your gift even more personal, you can even mix and prepare your own spice rubs. Here are a few from my MyRecipes.com to try:

Pepper Garlic Spice Rub
Dry Jerk Spice Rub
Paprika Spice Blend
East West Spice Rub
Moroccan Spice Rub
Herb Spice Rub

Last Night Don and I enjoyed a lovely dinner inspired by a Cooking Light recipe from MyRecipe.com called Open Faced Burgers with Onion Mushroom Topping. Instead of preparing our own spice mixture, we used the smoked paprika blend that was already in our pantry. We started by dredging the hamburger patties in the spice mixture and rubbing gently into the flesh to ensure maximum flavour. Then grill burgers to desired degree of doneness.

To compliment the smoked paprika flavour, we also grilled sliced onion rings for about five minutes until they started to soften and turn translucent. Then add sliced mushrooms to the pan and stirfry until done. At the end splash the pan with a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar and stir together being sure to get all the browned bits at the bottom of the pan and let the onions and mushrooms soak up all the flavor.

Serve the mushroom onion mixture on top of the burger patties. As the recipe suggests, you can serve as an open faced sandwich and eat with knife or fork. However, Don and I had some extra ciabatta buns that we bought for another recipe this week so we used those. They were perfect because they heald the sandwich together a little more firmly and absorbed all of the juices from the burger and mushroom thus maximizing the flavour consumption. This was an excellent recipe and Don and I will definitely make this again.

Now for the most important part, here is the breakdown on cost:

1/2 pound Ground Beef $0.75 (on sale $2.99 for 2 pounds)
1 Onion $0.25 (on sale 4/$1.00)
4 Ounces sliced mushrooms $0.84 (buy whole and slice your own, $1.68 for 8 ounces)
2 Ciabbata buns $1.50 ($3.00 for 4)
Pantry Items: Spice Rub, Balsamic Vinegar

Total cost for two people was $3.34 or $1.67 per person. Even though the ciabatta buns were a bit of a splurge, I saved so much money by using other inexpensive ingredients and buying items on sale that it was worth the extra money for the perfect pairing combination. Additionally, given that it was 90 degrees outside, we even saved money on our air conditioning bill by cooking outside on the grill rather than heating up the kitchen. If you can't even beat the cost of this homemade gourmet burger at a drive through restaurant, why would you want to? Homemade is not only cheaper, it's better. Hope you give this scrumptious burger a try.

1 comment:

Camille said...

Please Please PLEASE let me know when these are on your menu next time. I want to come over and help and make my own! :)

P.S. The spice rubs were actually bought at the fish market at Fisherman's Terminal near Chinooks, but I know you can find the Rub With Love spices at high-end grocery stores and probably at Pike's Place too.