Heart 'Beets' For Valentine's Day

Called a "pioneer of New American cuisine," chef Alfred Portale has headed the kitchen at New York City's Gotham Bar and Grill for more than 20 years.

Recently, he took the reins at another restaurant, Philadelphia's Striped Bass, and published his third cookbook, called "Simple Pleasures."

And on The Saturday Early Show, he is preparing a special Chef on a Shoestring Valentine's Day menu for two on a budget of $40: Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad with Feta Cheese, Balsamic-Marinated Chicken with Wilted Greens and Potato Puree, and Pain Perdu (French for "French toast") with Bananas and Caramel Sauce.

The following are his recipes:

Citrus Salad, Roast Beets, Feta and Fennel

1 large beet
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon orange juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 oranges, peeled and separated into segments
1/4 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
1 small head of fennel, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced green onions, including 1 inch of greens
1 cup French or Greek feta cheese, crumbled into large pieces
1 bunch escarole
1 bunch arugula


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Trim top off beet. In a bowl, toss the beet with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Put the beet on a roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast in the preheated oven until tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. (Beets are done when a sharp, thin-bladed knife can easily pierce through to their center.)
  4. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the beet from the pan, and set aside to cool.
  5. While the beet is roasting, make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk together the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  6. When beet is cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/2-inch dice.
  7. Put in a bowl with 1 cup of the orange segments, the fennel, the mint, and the green onions.
  8. Add half of the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently in a small bowl.
  9. Dress the escarole and arugula with the remaining vinaigrette and divide between two plates. Place beet mixture on top of greens, again dividing between two plates. Arrange the cheese and remaining orange slices on top and serve.

Marinated Chicken Breast with Wilted Greens and Potato Purée

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons aged Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
4 sage leaves, cut into thin strips
4 strips lemon zest, removed from fruit with a vegetable peeler and julienned
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 8 ounces each
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
3/4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 recipe wilted greens
1 recipe potato purée


  1. In a container large enough to hold the chicken, stir together 1 tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil, the garlic, shallots, 1/4 cup of the balsamic vinegar, the rosemary, sage, and lemon zest. Season the mixture generously with white pepper.
  2. Add the chicken breasts and turn them in the marinade, making sure they are well coated on both sides. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, turning the chicken once or twice during that time.
  3. Remove the chicken from the container and shake off any excess marinade. Season the breasts with salt.
  4. Strain the marinade through a small strainer set over a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the solids and liquid separately.
  5. Heat the remaining oil in a wide, deep sauté pan set over medium-low heat.
  6. Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook slowly, turning often, until nicely browned, about 12 minutes. Remove the breasts from pan and cover them loosely with foil to keep them warm.
  7. Add the reserved solids from the marinade to the pan and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes.
  8. Add the marinade liquid and the remaining 3 tablespoons of vinegar, stirring to loosen any food on the bottom of the pan, and cook until liquid evaporates.
  9. Add the stock, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and reduce liquid until it becomes richly flavored and lightly thickened to a sauce consistency, 3 to 4 minutes.
  10. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter.
  12. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and discard the solids.
  13. Arrange the chicken breasts, wilted greens and potato puree on a large platter and serve.

Wilted Greens

4 cups tightly packed mixed lettuces (arugula, mustard greens, escarole, etc.)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground white pepper


  1. Set a large pot over high heat. Add approximately 1 inch of water and season with salt and pepper.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, add the greens, stirring constantly until wilted (about 2 minutes).
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer greens to a wire rack, spreading the greens out in an even layer to cool quickly.
  4. When cool enough to handle, place the greens in a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out the excess water. Set aside.
  5. Place the olive oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the greens. Stir and sauté for 1 minute or until heated through.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.

Potato Purée

2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup whole milk
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste


  1. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until tender (approximately 15-20 minutes).
  2. Drain well.
  3. Return the potatoes to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until the excess moisture evaporates and they begin to stick slightly to the bottom of the pan (about 3 minutes).
  4. Remove from pan and pass through a potato ricer into a large bowl.
  5. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the butter and milk.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.

Pain Perdu

1 loaf day-old Challah bread (or other coarse bread of your choice)
2 bananas, ripe
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup and 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Slice the bread into four, 1-inch-thick slices. Remove the crust, and trim the bread into rectangle shapes.
  2. Mix together in a bowl the eggs, milk, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. Place the bread slices into the liquid and flip them over after 30 seconds. Then immediately remove bread and place on a plate until all 4 slices are soaked. (Do not over-soak or you will have very soggy bread and it will not cook nicely).
  4. Heat a non-stick pan over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to warm pan; melt to coat pan.
  5. Place the soaked bread in the pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side until golden.
  6. When both sides are cooked, remove bread and place on a baking sheet.
  7. Wipe the pan clean, and place 1/2 cup sugar into the pan on a medium-high heat.
  8. Peel the bananas and cut them in half, lengthwise. (Depending on their length, you may want to cut off the ends also so the bananas are the same length as your bread to insure that they fit nicely on top of the bread.)
  9. By now your sugar should be melting and turning to a golden color.
  10. Once it has melted and caramelized, stir the 2 tablespoons of butter into the sugar.
  11. Place the bananas cut side down into the pan. Let them stay there until this side is lightly browned/caramelized, approximately 1 minute.
  12. Gently turn the bananas over so the other side cooks, about another 1-2 minutes.
  13. Once cooked, gently remove from the pan and place on top of cooked bread.
  14. Add the orange juice and a pinch of salt to the pan and stir until slightly thickened. (You are creating a sauce to pour over the bread and bananas.)
  15. Whip the cream with the 1 tbsp. of sugar and the vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.
  16. Before serving, you can choose to re-warm the bananas in a 350-degree oven until warm, about five minutes.
  17. Place bananas on top of bread slice and top with second bread slice. Drizzle with the orange caramel sauce and place whipped cream on the side.

Food Facts

Feta Cheese - While most people are no doubt familiar with this tangy cheese, many may think of Feta as dry and crumbly. If you're not on a tight $40 budget, Chef Portale recommends spending just a little bit more money on a higher-quality Feta. Good Greek or French Feta cheese is pressed into square cakes and packaged in liquid; it's creamier and less salty.

Escarole - Related to endive, this green vegetable has broad, slightly curved pale green leaves and has a milder flavor than endive.

Pain Perdu – This is French for "French toast." The literal translation is "lost bread" because it is a way of reviving bread that becomes dry after a day or two.


Deglaze - After food (typically meat) has been sauteed and the food and excess fat removed from the pan, deglazing is done by heating a small amount of liquid in the pan and stirring to loosen browned bits of food on the pan's bottom. The liquid used is most often wine or stock. The resulting mixture often becomes a base for a sauce to accompany the food cooked in the pan.