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'09 Comfort Foods, On A Shoestring

When times get tough, folks tend to reach for comfort foods, and experts say they'll be THE big food trend in 2009.

They say pretty much anything high in carbs and covered in cheese qualifies. Other foods likely to rise on the popularity charts next year include pastas, ginger, and locally-grown items.

With that in mind, The Early Show Saturday Edition decided to have its
Chef on a Shoestring" try to prepare a New Year's Eve cocktail party menu chock full of comfort foods, on a special holiday, but still meager, budget of $80.

Chris Santos, executive chef at the New York restaurant "Stanton Social", took us up on our challenge.


  • Cheesy Potato Skins
  • Philly Cheesesteak Sliders
  • Ovendried Tomato Mac n' Cheese
  • Chicken Caesar Salad Bites
  • Ginger Clementine Sparkler
  • Guinness Cake


    Sriracha is the generic name for Thai-style hot sauce named after the seaside city of Si Racha, Thailand, where it was first produced for the local seafood restaurants. Typically made from sun-ripened chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, it's a common condiment in many Asian restaurants.

    Oven Dried Tomatoes: Chef Santos takes Roma tomatoes and slowly cooks them for about eight hours at a very low heat. After cooking for such a long time at low heat, they become shriveled and slightly dehydrated, but also super flavorful.


    Cheese Sauce

    4 cups evaporated milk
    2 cups heavy cream
    2 cups milk
    2-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    1-1/4 cups gruyere cheese
    1 cup goat cheese
    1/3 cup smoked goat cheese
    Sriracha to taste
    Salt to taste
    Pepper to taste

    In a large sauce pot bring the evaporated milk, heavy cream and milk to a boil.
    Slowly fold in the cheeses until completely melted.
    Season with Sriracha, salt and pepper.

    Philly Cheese Steak

    8 ounces thinly slicked steak
    5 ounces caramelized white onions
    Extra Virgin olive oil

    Slice steak very thinly.
    Grill over high heat until meat is browned on both sides and tender.
    Thinly slice white onions, and caramelize in oil and butter slowly over low heat; approximately 40 minutes.
    Slice and toast baguette, top with sliced steak, onions, cheese sauce.
    Add salt, pepper and serve hot.

    Potato Skins

    4 pounds Yukon gold or red baby bliss potatoes
    1 pound bacon, roughly chopped
    1 bunch chives, chopped
    1/2 cup olive oil
    Dried thyme

    Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
    Split potatoes in half and scoop out the middles with a melon ball scoop.
    Coat the potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme and place into oven.
    Roast until crispy and golden; approximately 30 minutes.
    In a medium sized skillet cook the bacon until crispy and brown.
    Top each potato with cheese sauce, bacon and chopped chives.

    Mac & Cheese

    2 Roma tomato, oven dried*
    3 ounces chorizo
    2 ounces shredded gruyere cheese
    1 egg yolk
    10 ounces mini penne pasta
    1 cup bread crumbs
    1/2 cup cilantro
    2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
    1/2 stick melted butter
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

    *Trim the stem ends off of the tomatoes, quarter lengthwise and remove and discard seeds. Place in a nonmetallic bowl and coat with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover bowl and allow to marinate in refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.
    Preheat oven to 200°F.
    Place tomatoes in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet.
    Bake for 16 to 20 hours. (Ideally, the best time to place them in the oven is around 7:00 in the evening and bake the tomatoes throughout the night.)
    Cool completely before storing.

    Dice chorizo and in a medium sized skillet cook in olive oil. Set aside to dry on paper towel.
    Dice oven dried tomatoes.
    Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente and drain; approximately 9 minutes.
    In a hot skillet, add chorizo, tomatoes and pasta.
    Add in cheese sauce and mix until evenly spread.
    Continue mixing and slowly incorporate one egg yolk and shredded Gruyere cheese.
    Place in a medium sized oven safe baking dish and top with bread crumbs, chili powder and melted butter.
    Bake in a 400°F over for about 8 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.
    Serve hot.

    For more recipes, go to Page 2.

  • Chicken Caesar Bites

    1 skinned chicken breast
    1 egg white
    1/2 cup of cream
    1 tablespoon of capers
    1 teaspoon of anchovies
    Salt to taste
    Pepper to taste
    1 head romaine lettuce
    1 loaf crusty white bread
    1 cup Cesar dressing
    1/2 cup grated grana cheese

    Remove skin from chicken breast and dice into small cubes.
    In a food processor, pulse chicken breast and the egg white and blend to a puree, then mix in the cream and salt.
    Place mixture in a cold bowl cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
    Fold in the chopped capers, anchovies and pepper, adding cream as necessary to loosen the mixture into a mousse consistency.
    Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to the boil, while you are waiting for the water to boil place mixture in a piping bag and cut the end of so you have a 1 centimeter hole.
    Pipe cylinders onto plastic wrap.
    Place the cylinders into the boiling water, turn the heat off and cover the pot; leave to cook for about 10-12 minutes. Refresh in iced cold water and drain on paper towel.

    Then cut out bread into croutons with a ring mold and place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and cook at 320ºF until golden brown then leave to cool.
    Slice the chicken mixture into pieces to fit the crouton, place on the crouton and garnish with julienne romaine lettuce, dressed in Caesar dressing.
    Finish with some grated grana cheese, cracked black pepper and serve.

    Ginger Clementine Sparkler

    3 ounces ginger simple syrup
    4 Clementines, peeled and segmented
    2.5 ounces canton ginger liquor
    1 bottle of champagne
    3 ounces campari
    5 whole star anise

    Ginger Simple Syrup
    8 ounces ginger/chopped
    6 cups water
    6 cups of sugar

    Put all in one pot and bring to the boil, then pass through in a fine mesh strainer
    In a pitcher muddle 2.5 Clementines , add ginger simple and canton ginger.
    Pour in bottle of champagne, and ice. Stir
    Add the remaining Clementine segments, and star anise.
    Pour in campari and serve

    Guinness Cake

    4-1/2 ounces chopped dried dates
    3 ounces Guinness
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    4-1/2 ounces butter
    5-1/4 ounces dark brown sugar
    3 eggs
    1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    pinch salt
    3-3/4 ounces flour

    Warm Guinness and add to dates, allow to sit 10 minutes. Puree.
    In a medium sized mixing bowl add baking soda and cream the butter and sugar until smooth.
    Add eggs, vanilla, flour and salt, mix to combine.
    Combine the Guinness/date pureed mixture and dry mix.
    Fill eight 4 ounce ramekins/aluminum cups and bake 325ºF for 18 minutes.
    Remove from the ramekins and serve warm.

    So, how did Chris do with our special $80 budget?

    Cheese Sauce
    evaporated milk $2.37
    heavy cream $1.19
    cheddar cheese $1.99
    gruyere cheese $3.50
    goat cheese $2.99
    smoked goat cheese $2.99
    Sirracha $2.49
    Total Price $17.52

    Philly Cheesesteak Sliders
    steak $4.99
    white onions .99
    Baguette $2.29
    Total Price $8.27

    Potato Skins
    potatoes $3.81
    bacon $3.99
    chives $1.49
    Total Price $9.29

    Mac & Cheese
    Roma tomatoes .78
    chorizo $1.99
    penne $1.59
    bread crumbs $2.00
    cilantro $1.99
    ancho chili powder .79
    Total Price $9.14

    Chicken Caesar Bites
    chicken $1.99
    capers $1.69
    anchovies $0.99
    romaine lettuce $1.59
    bread $2.29
    Cesar dressing $1.99
    grana cheese $3.00
    Total Price $13.54

    Ginger Clementine Sparkler
    Clementines $3.99
    ginger liquor $1.99
    champagne $6.51
    campari $2.99
    star anise .89
    ginger .79
    Total Price $17.16

    Guinness Cake
    dates $1.99
    Guinness $1.99
    Total Price $3.98

    Total Price = $78.90

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