Iron Chef ... On A Shoestring?

Anyone who has ever seen Cat Cora do her thing on the Food Network series "Iron Chef America" knows she's a force to be reckoned with. It's hard enough to lead a group of sous chefs into a battle where you must highlight just one ingredient, but to do it with grit, determination, humor and an impeccable palate puts her in a class practically all her own (along with Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto).

Now Cora is leading a new charge: to find the next American Iron Chef. During the next several weeks, eight top chefs from around the country will converge upon Kitchen Stadium and be asked to face numerous challenges from the current Iron Chefs. ("The Next Iron Chef" premieres tomorrow night; check local listings.)

The Saturday Early Show came up with an even greater challenge than creating six dishes made of cabbage in 60 minutes: preparing a delicious three-course meal for four for under $40. We call it "Chef on a Shoestring." And Cora, not one to shy away from a difficult assignment, came up with a menu that has earned our respect.

When she's not plotting her next "Iron Chef" moment, Cora is the executive chef of Bon Appetit magazine. She's also a cookbook author (her latest, "Cooking From the Hip: Fast, Easy, Phenomenal Meals," came out earlier this year) and the force behind a food industry charity, Chefs For Humanity.

To find out more about Cora and her many projects, click here.

Baby Greens And Figs Stuffed With Gorgonzola Cheese
(Serves 4)

8 to 10 ripe Black Mission figs
8 tablespoons of gorgonzola cheese
4 tablespoons of your best balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt plus more for the greens
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups mixed baby greens

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Slice the figs in half. Into the fleshy center of each fig half tuck a good chunk of gorgonzola cheese, a little less than a tablespoon. Arrange the fig halves on a baking sheet, cut side up, and sprinkle them with half the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

(Don't put the figs into the oven until the greens are dressed and ready because you want to add the figs to the greens and serve while they're still warm.)

3. Toss the greens with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then arrange the lettuces on individual plates.

4. Slide the baking sheet into the hot oven and cook the figs just until the cheese has begun to melt, about 2 to 3 minutes. As soon as the figs are ready, take the baking sheet from the oven and arrange the fig halves around the edge of each salad, doling out 4 to 5 halves per person. If you like, crumble a little extra gorgonzola over the top.

Honey Roasted Chicken
(Serves 4)

The honey is brushed onto the chicken during the last 10 minutes of roasting and it gives just a hint of sweetness to the skin.

Whole chicken, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
Butter
Salt
Honey

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.

3. Melt a half of a stick of butter in a small saucepan. Drizzle the butter over the chicken a little bit at a time, rubbing and turning the chicken so it's evenly coated on every side. (Go easy on the butter because you'll use any butter that remains in the saucepan. And don't put the pan in the sink because you'll reuse it to melt the honey.) Sprinkle salt over the bird but don't use more than 1 or 2 teaspoons.

4. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, and then flip the bird and roast for another 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, pour honey into the saucepan and heat over low heat until thin enough to drizzle over the chicken. With a pastry brush, or even a clean sheet of paper towel, brush the honey over the bird. Roast for another 10 to 15 minutes. If you want to use a meat thermometer, insert it into the thigh at the widest part but don't allow the tip to touch the bone in the thigh. The bird is done when meat is 170 degrees F.

6. Pull the bird from the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Affogato
(Serves 4)

4 tablespoons espresso, brewed
4 tablespoons Amaretto or Frangelico
1 1/2-cups coffee or hazelnut ice cream
8 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped
1/2 cup chocolate ganache, warmed
4 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

In the bottom of each tall dessert glass pour espresso and Amaretto. Place 3 scoops of ice cream into each glass. Pour the warm chocolate ganache over the ice cream. Top with two heaping spoonsful of whipped cream and sprinkle with the chopped nuts. Serve immediately.