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Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens Paperback – March 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Those accustomed (or resigned) to cooking in tight quarters will appreciate chef Schaertl's guide to getting the best meal out of a less-than-ideal space. Paring kitchen equipment down to its bare essentials, Schaertl shows readers how she manages to prepare mouthwatering dishes like Tahitian-Style Corn and Crab Soup, roasted poblano cole slaw, Rum-Infused Caramelized Pork Chops and Goat Cheese Souffles in her 300-square-foot Brooklyn apartment. Though her space is cramped, her style isn't; readers will be salivating over her Bread Pudding with Bourbon Crème Anglaise, Bloody Mary Relish, Moroccan Lamb Chops and smoky chicken soup, all presented with a game sense of humor. But while the equipment list is usually short, the steps and ingredients for dishes like gumbo, Seafood Risotto, and Mushroom Tamales aren't; many will require some advance planning. Rounded out with all manner of kitchen tips and ingenious shortcuts (cut a corner out of a plastic freezer bag to pipe out sweet potato gnocchi), as well as a list of space-hogging items you don't need ("CLK Saboteurs"), this is a terrific compilation of doable dishes that should resonate with cooks, whether they've got space issues or just want to streamline their process.
About the Author
Jennifer Schaertl studied culinary arts at El Centro in Dallas, where she received a technical education about cooking, food style, and preparation, as well as Old World knowledge about recipes and techniques. Jennifer's first job inside a professional Crappy Little Kitchen (CLK) was actually that of a dishwasher, where she eventually worked her way up to sous chef. Since that humble beginning Jennifer has worked as a chef in four Dallas 4-star restaurants, all the while creating and documenting her own recipes both for her restaurant menus and her family gatherings. A native of Texas, Jennifer Schaertl now lives in Dallas working as an Executive Chef at the North Central Surgical Center. She has already completed the pilot episode of the television series Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens. To view this episode and join her monthly mailing list "The Crappy Little Newsletter," visit www.crappylittlekitchens.com. From here you can also see her latest press, and get recipes, and CLK tips.
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Top customer reviews
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The first thing anyone notices in a cookbook is the photos and design. The overall design is cheap looking, the color photos were some of the most unappetizing I've ever seen in a cookbook, and the green background does not make them any more attractive. The layout is cute, with a lot of little boxes and sidebars- it is a matter of personal preference whether you like this, or prefer a more clean and utilitarian layout.
The opening section, on what is useful and what is just a waste of space in a small kitchen, is fine, but nothing groundbreaking. Same for the list of useful ingredients. This information won't be a revelation to anyone who is beyond beginner level cooking.
Then, the recipes. The ones I've tried were fine, but nothing really special, and reading through the rest I don't feel inspired to try making more of them . Recipes presented as " gourmet" should be more interesting and special than these. They're fine, just not my idea of "gourmet".
So, this could be a nice gift item for someone just out on their own who knows nothing about cooking, but there is nothing here that really makes it stand out from other beginner cookbooks, and it is too basic for a more experienced cook. The small kitchen aspect is really not a major part of the book once past the information section and into the recipes.
Overall, an okay book. Not exciting or inspiring.
A last note: I'd like to have seen photos of the author's crappy little kitchens.
As an avid collector of cookbooks, I was intrigued by the idea of a chef who has worked in four four-star restaurants in Dallas taking this unique approach to writing a cookbook. Schaertl's experiences certainly qualify her to undertake this task. She began her professional career working inside a CLK as a dishwasher. She moved up to sous chef, but the kitchen wasn't much bigger than a closet.
Her father provided early inspiration to her when he baked a pineapple upside-down cake in a Dutch oven over a fire. Knowing what could be created in the great outdoors gave her the confidence to cook whatever she wanted in her succession of CLKs, including serving lobsters to friends in a tiny apartment in a Brooklyn brownstone. In fact, she lives in an apartment today with a kitchen floor that slopes, an ancient stove, and with terrible storage and no dishwasher.
For Schaertl, the emphasis is on the food and good preparation and through the recipes in the book she shows the cook with a CLK that putting a gourmet meal on the table is very achievable. Those cooks whose kitchens may not fit the CLK category will appreciate the variety and simplicity of the recipes included in the book.
Writing clear instructions for creating a dish is not a simple task. I've tried a lot of recipes where I was puzzled by exactly what the writer intended. The recipes in this book are presented in easy-to-follow numbered steps. I can attest to this, as I found the Superlative Stuffed Chicken Breast to be easy to make and delicious to eat. Providing the internal temperature for when the chicken is done contributed to the clear instructions.
Schaertl's creativity is demonstrated in the names she gives the recipes and in the helpful information given at the beginning of each recipe. Throughout the cookbook, she also provides additional information pertinent to a specific recipe about how to swap out ingredients, or cooking techniques. Presentation of the dish is stressed and photographs of some of the dishes throughout the book help with this aspect.
Whether you are a seasoned cook or just a beginner, you will find this cookbook to be a welcome addition to your kitchen, crappy or not!
by Penny Appleby
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women