Diner Deluxe and The Embarcadero

With the start of a new year, we’re all seeking a fresh start, watching our wallets, and just looking for some good old comfort after the holiday hubbub. And there’s nothing more satisfying than creating homey, hearty meals that don’t break the bank. Two Calgary chefs share their recipes and tips for classic dishes where you don’t have to skimp on taste while saving money.

Chef James Waters — Diner Deluxe

For most of us, a classic comfort food is a stick-to-your-ribs burger. But for a cost-effective and tasty option, try making your patties from scratch and freeze them. At Diner Deluxe, James Waters says the mouth-watering burger patties are made from two cuts of Alberta beef.

“We use some cheaper cuts like brisket, which is the cheapest cut for beef,” he says. “The other cut is sirloin, which is known for its big bold flavour. We use brisket for texture and sirloin for flavour.”

It’s key to keep the ratio of sirloin to brisket at 60/40, says Waters; as brisket is fattier, with too much of it, the patties will “melt” away when cooked. At home, a purely optional step is to brine the brisket first, which adds a garlicky, salty flavour to the meat.

Waters says to grind the meat, all you need is a meat grinder attachment for a mixer. Or you can ask your grocery butcher to grind it for you. “Get to know your grocery butcher so they can also direct you to cheaper flavourful cuts of meat,” adds Waters. “It won’t be much more expensive than the ground beef you buy, but a heck of a lot tastier.”

Recipe: Sirloin and Brisket Burger

Executive Chef Mike French — The Embarcadero

Pastas are simple, satisfying and affordable, which make them great comfort food dishes. But for a new spin on your usual pasta recipes, Mike French says risotto is a nice substitute for a pasta.

“Comfort food, to me, is what you grew up on, and very familiar ingredients. But it doesn’t have to be too plain all the time — you can play around.”

French says with this risotto recipe, the biggest mistake to avoid is stirring it too much, which releases the starch and makes the sauce turn pasty and thick. “A lot of people are afraid to cook risotto or cook it wrong. But there’s so much you can do with a risotto for the family, and it’s an easy process to make,” he says. “Just don’t stir it.”

The extra cooked risotto can be kept up to four days in the fridge, so French says using plain risotto is a good base to try with different sauces for other meals in the week.

Recipe: Chicken Risotto

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