Cat Cora's Southern Comfort Food, on a Budget

There may be no better place to go for good old-fashioned, down-home comfort food than the South - and who better to dish it out than Cat Cora?

The Jackson, Miss. native is the Food Network's first female "Iron Chef" and Bon Appetit magazine's executive chef.

And, as part of "The Early Show on Saturday Morning"'s Taste of America look at the best foods in the land, Cora accepted our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge, attempting to make a multi-course meal on our slim, $40 budget.

Cora harkened back to her Southern roots as she whipped up a meal including Grits with Stewed Chicken, Sautéed Wild Greens, Grilled Lamb Chops with Alma's Mustard and, for dessert, Red Velvet Cupcakes. Oh, and we can't forget her Pink Grapefruit and Vodka Punch!

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She also had her chef's hat automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition: The "Shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients cost will be asked back to prepare the feast for our year-end holiday extravaganza!


Grits: Though it's now commonly used to mean "hominy grits," the term "grits" actually refers to any coarsely ground grain, such as corn, oats or rice. Most grits come in a choice of grinds -- coarse, medium and fine. Grits can be cooked with water or milk -- usually by boiling or baking -- and eaten as hot cereal or served as a side dish. (Source:



Serves 4

2 cups milk
1 cup quick yellow grits (not instant)
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper


Place a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the milk and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the grits. When the grits begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and butter. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover and hold warm.

Stewed Chicken

1 chicken (2 1/2-3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 peeled garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 peeled, coarsely chopped medium yellow onions
1 half cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock
1-6 ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 half cup grated Mizithra cheese (optional)


Pre-boil water with sea salt.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. A wet chicken will cause the oil to splatter while the chicken is sautéing. Mix the cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the chicken pieces on all sides with the seasoning.

Mince 3 of the garlic cloves. Heat the olive oil in a large non-reactive deep skillet over high heat. A 12 inch skillet with sides about 2 1/2 to 3 inches high will allow you to brown all the chicken at once. If you don't have a skillet large enough, brown them in two batches using 1/2 the oil for each batch. What's important is that the chicken isn't overcrowded which would cause them to steam rather than brown,

Add the chicken to the oil and brown for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn the pieces using a metal spatula, as they have a tendency to stick to the pan. Remove the pieces when they are well browned on all sides.

Lower the heat to medium-high and add the onions and minced garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions have softened and are a rich golden brown. Add the wine, and scrap the bottom of the pan with a spatula or spoon to deglaze the pan, loosening any particles stuck on the bottom.

When the wine has evaporated, add the water, chicken stock, tomato paste, fresh oregano and remaining 2 garlic cloves. Return the chicken to the pan. The liquid should cover about 3/4 of the chicken pieces. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for about an hour or until the chicken is tender and thoroughly cooked. If the sauce becomes too thick, it can be thinned with a little more water. Season the finished sauce with Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

For more of Cat's recipes, go to Page 2.