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Fresh, Tasty Gourmet Meal On Shoestring

Michael Kramer brings new meaning to the word "fresh."

He's the executive chef at VOICE, the new restaurant at the Hotel ICON in Houston.

It's already drawing raves.

Kramer specializes there in fresh, local ingredients, cutting-edge techniques, and artful presentation to make VOICE a Houston hotspot.

On The Early Show Saturday Edition, Kramer agreed to try to make a three-course gourmet meal for four on our recession-busting, meager budget of $35.

He's also tossing his chef's hat into the ring of our "How Low Can You Go" "Shoestring" chefs. The one whose total is lowest will be back to prepare our big, blowout holiday meal at the end of the year!


  • Roasted Portobello Mushroom Salad
  • Roast Chicken with Red Bliss Potatoes, Butternut Squash & Basil Pesto
  • Butterscotch Pudding


    Portobello Mushrooms: The most important thing to know is that it's a big, brown mushroom. Its little brother (crimini) is a little brown mushroom. In the U.S., they've become the "vegetarian meat." Grilled, they have a very meaty texture. They're great roasted as salad toppings as well.


    Roasted Portobello Mushroom Salad


    For the salad:
    1 large portobello mushrooms
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    1/2 pound baby greens
    1/2 cup golden raisins
    1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
    Fresh ground black pepper

    For the balsamic vinaigrette:
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    3 tablespoons Honey
    Fresh ground black pepper


    Preheat oven to 400°F.

    For the portobello mushrooms, remove the black "gills" from under the portobellos.

    Next, in a small mixing bowl toss the mushrooms with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season well with salt and pepper.

    Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and cook until they are soft but firm. Remove from oven, set aside and cool.

    Next, for the balsamic vinaigrette, in a medium-size mixing bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    To compose the salad, slice the portobello mushrooms in thin slices, and lay them down equally on the plates.

    Toss some of the raisins and almonds on the plate. Next, toss the greens with some of the balsamic vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Place the greens on the plate, and sprinkle the additional raisins and almonds on top of the salad.


  • Roast Chicken with Red Bliss Potatoes, Butternut Squash & Basil Pesto


    For the chicken:
    1/2 cup canola oil or any vegetable oil
    4 chicken breasts
    Fresh ground black pepper

    For the vegetables:
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 pound red bliss potatoes, cleaned, quartered, roasted*
    1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1 inch dice, roasted*
    1/2 pound baby spinach, washed
    Fresh ground pepper

    * To roast vegetables pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. Arrange vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they are tender.

    For the basil pesto:
    1 cup fresh basil leaves
    1/4 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, washed
    1 garlic clove, peeled
    1 tablespoon pine nuts
    Juice of ¼ of a lemon
    2 tablespoon parmesan cheese
    1/2 cup olive oil


    Set oven to 400ºF.

    To make the basil pesto, place the basil leaves, spinach, garlic clove, pine nuts, and lemon juice in a blender.

    Turn the blender on medium speed and start adding the olive oil. Blend well for about 2 minutes until the pesto comes together. Next add the parmesan cheese salt and pepper to taste. Remove from blender and set aside.

    For the chicken, in a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add the canola oil until it gets hot.

    Next, season the chicken breast well with salt and pepper, and place in the pan skin side down. Place the chicken in the oven, and cook for 6 minutes, turn over and place back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven, set aside and keep warm.

    For the vegetables, in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil. Add to the pan the roasted potatoes, and butternut squash, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until warmed through, and add the spinach just to wilt into the vegetables. Set aside and keep warm.

    To plate, place some of the vegetable mixture on the center of the plate.
    Drizzle some of the basil pesto around the plate, and drizzle some olive oil on top of that.

    Next, slice the chicken breast onto the plate and lay across the vegetable mixture.

    Butterscotch Pudding


    3 ounces butter
    1/2 pound of brown sugar
    2 cups milk
    1-1/4 cup cream
    1/4 cup corn starch
    1 vanilla bean
    4 egg yolks

    For the whipped cream:
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate


    In a small pot over medium heat, heat the butter and brown sugar together, and cook until dark.

    In another pot heat the milk, cream, and vanilla bean together. Add the cream mixture to the butter and sugar and mix well.

    Using a little water, mix it with the corn starch, just enough to dissolve the starch.

    Place the cream mixture over medium heat, add the cornstarch to thicken, let it cook for a minute.

    Place the egg yolks in a medium size mixing bowl. Temper the mixture into the yolks and combine well.

    Pour into the desired serving bowls and cool.

    For the whipped cream, place the cream in a medium mixing bowl, and whip to soft peaks. Add the sugar and mix until firm.

    To finish, add a dollop of the whipped cream to the top of the butterscotch pudding. Next, using a grater or microplane, shave some chocolate on top of the cream and serve.


    Portobello Mushroom Salad
    Portobello mushrooms $2.99
    Baby greens $1.99
    Raisins $1.34
    Slivered almonds $1.99
    Dijon mustard $1.69
    Honey $2.19
    Total $12.19

    Roast Chicken
    Chicken breasts $5.97
    Red bliss potatoes $1.13
    Butternut squash $1.19
    Baby spinach $1.79
    Basil $1.49
    Garlic $ 0.39
    Pine nuts $1.99
    Lemon $ 0.59
    Parmesan cheese $2.24
    Total $16.78

    Butterscotch Pudding
    Cream $1.19
    Corn starch $1.19
    Eggs $0.99
    Chocolate $2.19
    Total $5.56

    Total: $34.53


    1. Amanda Freitag $34.34
    2. Michael White $34.37
    3. Michael Kramer $34.53
    4. Diane Henderiks $34.83