Grill Like South America's Star Chef

If chefs were pop stars, Argentina's Francis Mallmann would fit right in.

Both the London Times and USA Today say Mallman's three restaurants are among the top ten places to eat in the world.

Now, the man widely considered South America's top chef has reinvented the art of cooking over a fire, and he lets us all in on his secrets in the rustic cookbook he co-authored with Peter Kaminsky, "Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way."

Read an excerpt here

But for all his accomplishments, can this culinary biggie prepare a three-course meal for only $35? "The Early Show Saturday Edition" viewers found out when Mallmann accepted our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge.

And when he did, he automatically tossed his chef's hat into our "How Low Can You Go" ring.

The "Shoestring" chefs whose ingredients totals are lowest will be invited back to prep our big, year-end holiday feasts.

Smashed Beets with Greens, Goat Cheese, and Garlic Chips
Chicken Breasts with Burnt Brown Sugar, Orange Confit, and Thyme
Potato Dominos
Burnt Oranges with Rosemary


Beets: This firm, round root vegetable has leafy green tops, which are also edible and highly nutritious. Beets are available year-round and should be chosen by their firmness and smooth skins. Small or medium beets are generally more tender than large ones. If the beet greens are attached they should be crisp and bright. (Source: "Food Lover's Companion")


Smashed Beets with Greens, Goat Cheese, and Garlic Chips

The beauty of beets isn't apparent when they're boiled into tasteless submission. But if they're cooked in a broth enriched with olive oil and vinegar, then smashed and griddled, their natural sugar content results in a chewy, crunchy burnt crust and soft, sweet insides. Scrub the beets well with a brush, but don't peel them - they're most delicious served with the skin on.

8 equal-sized red beets, scrubbed and stems trimmed to 1 inch (reserve the greens)
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more for the pan
5 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A large handful of beet greens (reserved from above), trimmed, washed, and dried
3 cups mixed greens, arugula, or spinach
8 ounces Bûcheron or similar goat cheese
Crispy Garlic Chips (see below), made with 10 garlic cloves and 1 cup oil


Put the beets in a large saucepan with 1⁄2 cup of the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the peppercorns, bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the beets, until they are tender enough to be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain in a colander.

Beets are messy, so use paper towels to prevent stains. With the palm of your hand, gently smash the beet between the towels: you want it to yield just enough to flatten slightly but not crumble apart. Use a wide spatula to transfer the beet to a tray lined with foil (for easier cleanup). Repeat with the remaining beets. Brush the beets with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Brush a chapa or large cast-iron skillet with olive oil and heat over high heat. When it is hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle on the surface, add the smashed beets (you may need to do this in two batches) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, letting them blacken. Transfer the beets to the foil-lined tray and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To make the vinaigrette, pour the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar into a small bowl and gradually whisk in the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, toss the beet greens with the mixed greens and place a mound of greens on each plate. Place the smashed beets alongside the greens and crumble the goat cheese over them. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and scatter the garlic chips over all.

Crispy Garlic Chips

4 garlic cloves, as large as possible, peeled
1 cup olive oil


Using a small slicer or a mandoline, slice the garlic very thin.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Line a plate with two paper towels. To test the temperature of the oil, add a slice of garlic. If it sizzles, add the rest of the garlic and cook until just crisp and light golden brown, a matter of seconds. Use a flat slotted skimmer to keep the slices from sticking together as they cook, and transfer them to the paper towels to drain the moment they turn color. (The oil can be strained and used for another batch or reserved for another use.)

For more recipes, go to Page 2