Hearty Fall Flavors, On A Shoestring

Fall is most definitely in the air, and our "Chef on a Shoestring" has a menu to match the autumn mood.

Dede Wilson is a contributing editor at Bon Appetit magazine, and on The Early Show Saturday, she accepted our challenge of making a three-course meal for four on a budget of only $40.

She chose some of her favorite recipes found in the new Bon Appetit cookbook, "Fast, Easy, Fresh," by Barbara Fairchild (Wiley), to come up with a delicious menu.

Getting dinner on the table every night is challenge enough, and putting out something the family will rave about is next to impossible. But Bon Appetit's new cookbook is filled with 1,100 recipes that are, as the title says, fast, easy and fresh - and that will have everyone begging for seconds!

To see an excerpt from the book, click here.

Wilson has worked professionally for more than 20 years as a restaurant chef, bakery owner, caterer, recipe developer, TV and radio show host, and cookbook author.

MENU

Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing
Roast Chicken with Artichokes and Gremolata Butter
Spiced Winter Squash with Fennel
Ginger Baked Apples

FOOD FACTS

Roaster Chicken: Tender, juicy flavor is the hallmark of a whole roaster chicken. Roasters have had time to develop nice, plump flesh, so the meat stays moist and juicy in the oven. Roasters are larger, about five to seven pounds. Their relatively larger size and higher fat content is just right for cooking evenly in the oven.

Gremolata: Typically, gremolata is a chopped herb condiment made of garlic, parsley, and lemon peel. Although it's a common accompaniment to veal, the citrus element in gremolata makes it a wonderful addition to seafood dishes.

Fennel: It looks like celery, it's kin to carrots, and it tastes like sweet, mild licorice. Fennel's flavor is deep, but soft. It combines particularly well with other flavors and brings out their fullness. Raw fennel is crisp but tender, and adds delicious crunch and sweetness to salads and crudités. Cooked, it's soft and subtle. Fennel's feathery fronds make a flavorful garnish.

Rome Apple: The Rome apple is rounded, all red, and very glossy, with a thick skin and firm flesh. It's primarily used for baking, as its flavor develops when cooked, and it holds its shape well. It is less desirable as an eating apple, as it is not as sweet as other varieties. It comes to market in late September and is considered a good keeper.

RECIPES

Iceberg Wedges with Warm Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing

Shedding its retro reputation, iceberg lettuce makes a delicious comeback in this classic salad. Warm, thickly sliced crisp bacon adds the crowning touch.

1½ cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese
Buttermilk (optional)
1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 large head of iceberg lettuce, cut into 6 wedges, each with some core attached
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

MIX first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add blue cheese and stir until well blended. Thin dressing with buttermilk by tablespoonfuls, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

COOK bacon in large skillet over medium heat until golden brown and beginning to crisp. Arrange lettuce on plates. Spoon dressing over. Using slotted spoon, transfer warm bacon from skillet onto salads, dividing equally. Garnish with red onion.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

Roast Chicken with Artichokes and Gremolata Butter

A seasoned butter inspired by the fragrant garnish for osso bucco adds great flavor to a simple roast chicken. Frozen artichoke hearts taste just as good as the fresh ones in many preparations, and require no prep at all. Serve the chicken with orzo, creamy polenta, or bread to soak up the juices.

5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 5-pound chicken, rinsed, patted dry
2 8-ounce packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

PREHEAT oven to 425°F. Mix first 4 ingredients in small bowl to blend; season with salt and pepper.

PLACE chicken on large rimmed baking sheet. Starting at neck end, gently slide hand under breast skin to loosen. Spread 2 tablespoons seasoned butter on meat under loosened skin and 1 tablespoon over outside of chicken; sprinkle skin all over with salt and pepper. Transfer to oven; roast 45 minutes.

ARRANGE artichokes on baking sheet around chicken; baste with drippings. Continue roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180°F, about 25 minutes longer. Spoon artichokes around edge of platter. Tilt chicken over baking sheet, allowing juices to empty onto sheet. Place chicken on platter; brush with 1 tablespoon seasoned butter. Scrape pan juices and any browned bits into sauceboat; mix in remaining seasoned butter and lemon juice. Serve with chicken and artichokes.

Spiced Winter Squash with Fennel

Any winter squash, such as acorn or kabocha, would work well in this recipe. Serve this aromatic side dish with roasted chicken and couscous with pine nuts and currants.

1 1½-pound butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, halved crosswise, then cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide wedges
1 large onion, root end left intact, then cut lengthwise into ½-inch-wide wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

POSITION rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Combine squash, fennel, and onion on heavy large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Mix all spices in small bowl to blend. Sprinkle spice mixture over vegetables and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and generous amount of pepper.

ROAST until vegetables are tender and browned, turning once, about 45 minutes. Transfer to shallow dish.

Ginger Baked Apples

These beauties are actually cooked in the microwave and browned briefly under the broiler, so you can enjoy the homey treat in minutes. Raisins or currants make an excellent addition to the ginger filling.

4 large baking apples (such as Rome Beauty)
4 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoon butter, melted
12 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whipped cream (optional)

PEEL each apple halfway down from stem end. Using small melon baller, core each apple, leaving bottom intact. Place apples in broiler proof microwave- safe casserole dish. Mix ginger and butter in small bowl. Spoon half of ginger mixture into each apple.

STIR all remaining ingredients except cream in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and syrup boils. Pour syrup over apples. Cover loosely with microwave-safe plate or glass cover. Microwave on high until apples are tender, rotating dish twice, about 6 minutes. Uncover; spoon juices over.

PREHEAT broiler. Broil apples until tops are glazed and syrup bubbles, about 2 minutes. Serve apples with whipped cream, if desired.

So, how did Dede do with our $40 budget?

1ST COURSE
mayonnaise $1.99
lemon juice .79
hot sauce .67
blue cheese $4.50
bacon $1.99
iceberg lettuce $1.99
red onion.79

2ND COURSE
parsley .69
garlic.39
roaster chicken $8.45
artichoke hearts $4.98
butternut squash $2.24
fennel $2.00
onion .52
cumin .79
chili powder .79
turmeric $1.39

3RD COURSE
Rome Apples $1.49
crystallized ginger $2.19
heavy cream $1.19

FINAL COST = $39.83