Bistro-Style Eating, On A Budget!

The Early Show Saturday Edition got a little edgy, as Boston's Bill Poirier accepted our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge.

Poirier is executive chef and partner of Sonsie, whose menus have been described as edgy, yet refined. The restaurant is considered one of Boston's most innovative, combining world bistro cuisine with a neighborhood feel. Poirier opened Sonsie in 1993, and it quickly became Boston's culinary hot spot. Boston Magazine called it the place to "see and be seen."

Poirier's mission on Saturday: creating a three course, gourmet dinner on our special, recession-lean budget of just $35.

He also tossed his chef's hat into our "How Low Can You Go?" competition: The "Shoestring" chef with the lowest total tab will be invited back to prep our blowout holiday meal at the end of the year.

The main event? The perfect spaghetti and meatballs.

His menu included:

  • Spinach & Pear Salad with Crumbled Blue Cheese
  • Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs, Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
  • Chocolate Ricotta with Fresh Strawberries


    Red Bartlett Pear: Bartletts are extremely aromatic pears, and have a definitive "pear flavor." Just as Yellow Bartletts change color while ripening, so do Red Bartletts, changing from a dark red, often with light vertical striping, to become a bright red. Aside from color, there are no other differences between the two types of Bartlett pears.


    Stacked Spinach & Pear Salad with Crumbled Blue Cheese

    2 pears (core removed)
    4 cups baby spinach (washed)
    8 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    Salt & Pepper to taste


    Thinly slice pear into 1/8 inch slices horizontal and keep each pear together to retain its shape. Arrange alternate layers of half a pear and 1 cup spinach leaves per salad to make a stack.

    Sprinkle each salad with 2 tablespoons of blue cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle each salad with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon vinegar just before serving.

    Serves four.

    Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs, Golden Raisins amd Pine Nuts

    1 pound ground turkey
    2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
    4 tablespoons soaked golden raisins
    2 teaspoons chopped garlic
    3 tablespoons chop onion
    2 tablespoons chop parsley
    1 egg yolk
    2 tablespoons milk
    6 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon sugar


    To prepare meatballs place all above ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mix all well and shape into eight 2½-ounce balls. Place meatballs on cookie sheet with pan liner and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes and reserve.

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 tablespoons sliced garlic
    1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounce)
    6 fresh basil leaves
    3/4 cup water
    Salt & Pepper to taste
    1 pound spaghetti


    In sauce pot over medium high heat, sauté garlic with olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes, basil, water, salt and pepper to taste. Add reserved meatballs and simmer slowly for 30 minutes. Cook pasta and serve each portion with 2 meatballs and some sauce.

    Serves four.

    Chocolate Ricotta with Fresh Strawberries

    1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
    3 tablespoons sugar
    1 tablespoon Crème de Cocoa Liqueur
    6 tablespoons chocolate syrup
    1 cup sliced strawberries mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar
    4 mint sprigs


    Place ricotta, sugar, liqueur and chocolate syrup into a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Divide mixture into four martini glasses. Garnish each glass with strawberries and mint.

    Serves four.

    So, how did Bill do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

    Spinach & Pear Salad
    pears $1.59
    spinach $3.59
    blue cheese $1.80
    total $6.98

    Spaghetti & Meatballs
    turkey $3.99
    pine nuts $1.99
    raisins $1.79
    garlic $.39
    onion $.59
    parsley $.99
    bread crumbs $1.19
    crushed tomatoes $1.59
    basil $1.50
    spaghetti $1.59
    total $15.61

    Chocolate Ricotta
    ricotta cheese $2.29
    Cocoa Liqueur $1.99
    strawberries $2.50
    chocolate syrup $1.99
    mint $1.99
    total $10.76

    His total: $33.35!

    Where does that put him?

    1. Scott Peacock $32.60
    Watershed Restaurant

    2. Patrick Connolly $33.32
    Bobo Restaurant

    3. Bill Poirier $33.35
    Sonsie Restaurant