Omnivore - Putting $20 Dinners to the test

Former <i>CL</i> food intern attempts $20 Dinners at home

A couple of months ago, CL featured a $20 Dinner with Guy Wong of Miso Izakya. The interviews with the chefs are always thought-provoking and fun, but I am always hard-pressed to read like a grown-up and not skip to the recipes at the end. I'm a student, and thus pretty poor, so this seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me. I fried up some shrimps and some pea shoots and though it was good, it honestly looked nothing like the beautiful little shrimpies that graced the paper. But, I would not be put asunder. I would try again. This time I decided to tackle the Tuna Crudo and Masa Soup from Kevin Rathbun and the Shrimp Confit (in addition to the pea shoots, they are sure winners every time).

Like I said, money and I have been on strained terms for a while, hence the appeal of the making a dinner for $20. And yeah, they're great, but $20 is not entirely accurate. I'm blessed enough to live near the DeKalb Farmers Market (a sprawling expanse of fresh fish, meat, and amazing numbers of fresh fruits and bulk spices on the cheap) and have access to pretty much all of the ingredients on the various recipe lists. However, most places won't let you shave down their ingredients enough to fit the pennies-on-the-dollar appeal of the recipes.

I mean, yeah, maybe not everybody needs it to be EXACTLY $20 or under to make it a deal, but I'm just saying. The ginger in the shopping list for Wong's recipe is supposedly 14 cents, but have you seen the signs over the ginger at the DeKalb Farmers Market? They are scary! They practically promise death to anyone who may wish to have a customizable amount of ginger. My bill for the night's ingredients, excluding the things I already had (olive oil, oyster sauce, and soy sauce) was about $35 for four dishes from three different chefs.

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