Money saving tips for holiday dinners


A good cut of roast beef can cost you in the hundred dollar range for a party of eight. But you can spend a whole lot less and your guests won't know the difference. Elaine Johnson of Sunset Magazine shares five secrets for giving your roast the Julia Child treatment.

1. Stuff your roast for added flavor. Mix about a cup of pinot noir with dried figs, fresh thyme and sugar. Make about 16 cuts all around the meat about one-inch long and one-inch wide. Then stuff each slit with a piece of garlic and fig.

2. Tie the roast. That keeps it from falling apart and helps cook it more evenly. After that, season it with a mixture of olive oil, pepper, salt and some fresh thyme and slather it all over the roast.

3. Brown all four sides so it has nice color before transferring it back into a baking pan.

4. Then pour the rest of the bottle of the pinot noir into the frying pan with some garlic. Add the mixture into the baking pan and bake at 325 for about 2 and a half hours. When that's done, put in the rest of the figs into the baking pan and bake another 15-20 minutes. Then you're almost done.

5. Make the gravy. Take the sauce in the baking pan and heat it up on the stove. Use thyme to brighten the flavor.

Serve with a creamy polenta and cooked greens.

Other cuts of meat you can save with are a lamb shoulder roast and a beef cross rib roast.

We priced out the cost of fancy roasts to serve 6 to 8 at a top-end butcher shop versus inexpensive roasts bought at Safeway.

Center-cut beef tenderloin: $100
Beef cross-rib roast: $14

Rack of lamb: $170
Boneless leg of lamb: $28

Pork crown roast: $90
Pork shoulder roast: $8.75

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