GOURMET MEALS IN CRAPPY LITTLE KITCHENS
by Jennifer Schaertl
Contact: Trina Kaye
In her debut cookbook, GOURMET MEALS IN CRAPPY LITTLE KITCHENS, Jennifer tackles the myths about gourmet cooking (you don’t need expensive cutlery and a gazillion ingredients!) and shows readers how to make delectable meals despite a lack of counter space and high-tech appliances and gadgets. She offers readers a range of dishes from appetizers and salads, to soups and one-pot wonders, to side dishes and entrees, and of course, dessert. The heart of the book tackles the frustrations of working with limited space, appliances, cookware, and ingredients all on a limited budget. Who would believe that such scrumptious, epicurean delights as Crabtastic Avocado Cakes and Superlative Stuffed Chicken Breast could come from such a crappy little kitchen?
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.
Crabtastic Avocado Cakes
No gourmet chef’s repertoire is complete without a knock-your-socks-off crab cake recipe. And this is the one. Because these crab cakes are “fried” in the oven, we only need to use our sauté pan once. Form the cakes and freeze them up to three days before your party, and they’ll be ready to pop in the oven right before your guests arrive.
3 ripe avocados, large
2 limes, juiced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, small dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, small dice
1 jalapeno, small dice with most seeds removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound lump crabmeat
1 pound select crabmeat
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 cup chipotle aioli
2 limes, thinly sliced
Cut the avocado in half by running your knife around the pit and then twisting the two halves apart. Gently tap the blade of your knife into the pit, twist, and the pit will pop right out, still attached to your blade. Set your avocado cut side up on your cutting board and, without breaking through the outer skin, slice a grid pattern into the flesh of the avocado. Scoop out the diced avocado using a large spoon and place it in a large bowl with lime juice. Repeat with the other avocado and set aside.
Put your 12-inch sauté on a medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and allow it to heat up. Sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, bell pepper, and jalapeno together until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the breadcrumbs and allow them to toast in the butter while absorbing the moisture from the vegetables. Add the cream and turn off the heat while stirring. Fold in the eggs quickly to temper them (brings the eggs slowly up to the temperature of the cream which keeps them from scrambling when the crab cakes bake in the oven.
Add the sautéed mixture to the bowl of avocado. Gently fold in the crabmeat, trying to maintain the shape of the lump crab and avocado. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using your 1/8 measuring cup (you should get approximately 50 to 60 cakes), portion out the crab mix onto a sheet tray lined with wax paper, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and put into the freezer for 30 minutes. Once frozen, you can pop them into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 days.
Preheat your oven to 500°. Using your pastry brush, spread 3 tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet and evenly space the frozen crab cakes and 1/2 inch apart. Put them in the oven to brown for 15 minutes and then rotate the pan to roast another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Arrange the lime slices on your platter or serving tray, set a warm crab cake on each slice, and add a small dot of chipotle aioli on each cake. Serve immediately.
Lump crabmeat represents the whole pieces of the white body meat, while select meat is small bits of light and dark meat from the body and claws. When it comes to crabmeat, you want to keep all the lumps intact, while removing all the shells. Use your clean hands to gently sort through the crabmeat. Don’t shred the meat while you do this, but gently squeeze the bits between your thumb and index finger to detect any small broken bits of shell and remove them.
Superlative Stuffed Chicken Breast
This recipe is quick and easy to prepare with a small list of ingredients that takes you to gourmet heaven even if you think you’re living in CLK hell!
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken breasts (with wing and skin attached)
4 ounces French goat cheese
4 slices Prosciutto, paper-thin
8 sage leaves, large
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350°. Place your 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Cut the goat cheese into fourths. Carefully lift the skin on each breast (just be careful not to remove the skin entirely. You want one side to remain attached) and insert a piece of goat cheese. Top the goat cheese with a slice of Prosciutto and two sage leaves, and press the skin back down.
Season the top and bottom of each breast with salt and pepper. Carefully lay the chicken pieces skin side down in the sauté pan. Allow the skin to brown for 3 minutes, then turn each breast.
Place the entire sauté pan into the oven and cook the chicken for about 15 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165°. Check its temperature by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, which should be near the bone that attaches to the breast. Serve immediately alongside just about anything with no disappointment, but I would recommend a tall, soft pile of whipped potatoes for the breast to lean up against with the wing high in the air and some braised purple kale tucked into the side.
This recipe may be reproduced with the following credit:
Recipe from GOURMET MEALS IN CRAPPY LITTLE KITCHENS by Jennifer Schaertl
(HCI, April 2010, $18.95/paperback)