Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens
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Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens

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by Jennifer Schaertl

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If you think gourmet meals in crappy little kitchens is an oxymoron, think again!

In her debut cookbook, Jennifer Schaertl tackles the myths about gourmet cooking (you don't need expensive cutlery and a gazillion ingredients!) and shows you how to make delectable meals despite the lack of counter space. Everything from appetizers and


If you think gourmet meals in crappy little kitchens is an oxymoron, think again!

In her debut cookbook, Jennifer Schaertl tackles the myths about gourmet cooking (you don't need expensive cutlery and a gazillion ingredients!) and shows you how to make delectable meals despite the lack of counter space. Everything from appetizers and salads to soups and one-pot wonders to side dishes and entrees, and of course, dessert is included along with Jennifer's tried-and-true advice for working with limited space, appliances, cookware, and ingredients all on a limited budget.

More than 130 Crappy Little Kitchen (CLK) recipes await you inside, plus:

  • Why a CLK can actually be an asset, not a liability
  • The must-haves for every CLK pantry
  • Crappy Kitchen Saboteurs: Pointless items that eat up small spaces
  • How to enhance the functionality of your CLK space—emphasizing the surprising attributes of working in a small kitchen, plus space-saving ideas that help expand space and utility, allowing for the creation of the most complex dishes
  • How to double or triple the function of utensils to eliminate clutter and superfluous tools (toss your ungainly meat mallet and use your sauté pan as an effective meat tenderizer)
  • Swap It Skills: Replacing hard-to-find, gourmet ingredients with everyday items without sacrificing taste
  • How to cohabitate in Crappy Little Kitchens—Jennifer tells readers how to share the tight space and avoid Crappy Little Casualties with chef-proven techniques she learned working in busy and cramped restaurant kitchens.
  • Ways to create beautiful plating presentations with secretly guarded tricks of the trade
  • Chefology: culinary terms and 'did you know this crap' facts to awe guests and increase one's culinary knowledge in fun and inspiring ways

Whether you have an apartment-size galley kitchen, dorm room, or oversized, but completely outdated kitchen, Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens takes the stuffy out of gourmet and shows you how to love the kitchen you are in.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Library Journal
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Health Communications, Incorporated
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Read an Excerpt

Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens

By Jennifer Schaertl


Copyright © 2010 Jennifer Schaertl
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780757313653

The Art of Cooking in Your Crappy Little Kitchen

I know what you're thinking . . . Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens, isn't that an oxymoron? You actually couldn't be further from the truth! Chef Francois Vatel, not only invented Chantilly cream (vanilla sweetened whipped cream) without the aid of a motorized mixer, but he also created ice sculptures for his table displays in 1671 with ice he foraged from the great outdoors. While preparing dinner for King Louis XIV, Vatel learned that the fish for the meal would not arrive on time. So distraught with embarrassment, he ran himself through with his own sword. While I'm sure your Crappy Little Kitchen has introduced many cooking conundrums and you can identify with Vatel's pain, I can assure you there is no need for desperate measures when it comes to making the most of your Crappy Little Kitchen. With my help, your Crappy Little Kitchen will become the centerpiece for delicious gourmet meals and a place you will love to call home.

Crappy Little Kitchens rock, and if you give your Crappy Little Kitchen (CLK for short) half a chance, you'll be in complete agreement. When I made lobster for my friends in what was essentially a tiny bedroom on the second floor of a Brooklyn brownstone, with a teeny sink, tiny stove, and hotel-room-size refrigerator (I tower over it at 5'7") all just shoved up against the wall, I found the experience much more inspiring!

The first restaurant where I became the sous chef wasn't much bigger than a closet. The dishwashing machine was crammed so close to the stove that I stood with my back touching the dishwasher as he worked by my side. While training a new line cook, I asked her to please juice a small bag of lemons for a fresh vinaigrette. When she asked me where my juicer was, I responded by lifting my right hand with a look on my face that said, 'You're looking at it!'

Whatever your kitchen situation—whether you have a minuscule space, ancient appliances, or a dismal appearance (or all three!)—you can still work wonders and create gourmet meals. The reason I am so confident about this fact is that growing up I witnessed my father perform what others might think is a mealtime miracle—he baked a delicious pineapple upside-down cake using a campfire. So, if Dad can do cozy comfort food in the great outdoors, there is no stopping what creations await in Crappy Little Kitchens!

Using a Dutch oven that's been in my father's family for generations, he layers brown sugar, sliced pineapple, and a little pineapple juice to make the caramel. He pours a very simple vanilla sponge cake recipe over the top and covers it with the cast iron lid. Using red hot coals he pulls from the fire we've been visiting around all evening, my father places his Dutch oven over them. He scoops more coals onto the top, and the family conjures an image of the brown sugar and juice beginning to bubble and pop into caramel around the softening pineapple, whose steam has begun to make the cake batter rise ever so evenly. In short order, my father pulls the cake from the fire to unveil it, and we are quiet for the first time since—well since the last time my dad made the cake! Look for Dad's Miraculous Campfire Cake recipe CLK style in the Desserts to Die For section of this book.

What Is Gourmet?

I created this book to bring gourmet cooking into your home and your CLK. Gourmet meals don't need to be intimidating or overly complicated, although the word gourmet tends to strike fear in some and inspire awe in others. It can be a proper noun describing a person with discriminating tastes and a well-defined palate for fine food and drink. It can also be an adjective to describe a type of restaurant, menu, or cook. The definition I prefer, which applies to Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens, is food perfectly prepared from the finest ingredients and artfully presented with love and care.

What I like to emphasize (especially when people tell me how they dread cooking for me because they shudder to think what I will think) is that the meaning of gourmet is subjective. How do you take an everyday dish like macaroni and cheese and heighten it to the level of gourmet? Truffles, an interesting blend of fine cheeses, and homemade pasta is one way. Or you can follow a basic macaroni and cheese recipe, and prepare it perfectly. Nicely seasoned, al dente, store-bought noodles and a well-executed cheddar cheese sauce can make a gourmet meal. Both dishes constitute a gourmet creation because they both comprise a blend of flavors and textures, artful presentations, and the freshest foods possible. You don't need every ingredient, just like you don't need every kitchen tool made to man to create a gourmet meal. What is essential are the best ingredients available to you, prepared with an exper­tise that comes with practice and respect for food preparation. A little experimentation thrown in doesn't hurt, either! Whether you make the most complicated salmon souffli or a delicious smoothie, all you need is practice, practice, practice! It's way more fun to practice in a Crappy Little Kitchen where you only need the basic tools of the trade and no complicated contraptions to distract you!

A Journey Through My Crappy Little Kitchens

Besides witnessing resourceful cooking firsthand from my dad, I learned the art of cooking in a Crappy Little Kitchen from, well, cooking in Crappy Little Kitchens. My first Crappy Little Kitchen was in a one-room efficiency apartment where I could flip an egg on the stove while sitting in my living room. In my next apartment, my CLK was so small I had to use my cutting board on my washing machine. Although my washing machine was inoperable (go figure!), it served a useful purpose by acting as additional counter space.

My next apartment move landed me in my very favorite CLK in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where I'm convinced 'Jennifer the Chef' was born. I've had several Crappy Little Kitchens since and live with one right now. I'm still larger than my refrigerator and my kitchen floor slopes terribly causing my ancient stove to sway back and forth. I have terrible storage and no dishwasher, well, unless you count me.

Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens offers you practical hints and tips to make the most of your CLK space and shows you exactly how to re-create the delicious gourmet meals that I've served as a chef in several five-star restaurants over the last eight years. I created and perfected all of the gourmet meals that make up this book in my own CLK, and I'll share my chef secrets with you. But what you will gain the most from me is my CLK expertise. You'll learn kitchen shortcuts, surprising factoids, space saving ideas, and frugal hints, and I'll introduce you to new and delicious foods. I'll expand your cooking repertoire with suggestions for unusual gourmet ingredients, but I'll always offer you simple alternatives without sacrificing taste. You'll discover a myriad of options for various methods of preparation and presentation. I'll also offer easy ideas for pairing recipes and ingredients for even greater variety by combining recipes included in this book. For example, serve the Fried Green Tomatoes with the Chipotle Aioli, and the Snake-Charmin' Moroccan Lamb Chops with the Kick Your Caboose Saffron Couscous. You can use your Crappy Little Kitchen to create kitchen magic. Don't fall prey to the misconception your crappy kitchen space limits your possibilities or confines your pallet. The opposite is true. My restaurant-proven experience shows fine food and cramped kitchen quarters are not mutually exclusive. So, let's take the stuffy out of gourmet. It's time to enjoy that beef tartar AND your mother's meatloaf, just perhaps not in the same sitting!

Butterscotch Crhme Brulee
I love bananas or fresh strawberries with this custard, but use whatever fruit looks freshest or that you enjoy the most.
Serves 6
1= cups whole milk
1= cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, scraped
8 egg yolks
= cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark molasses
3 tablespoons Scotch
1 pinch sea salt
1 banana, thinly sliced
Sugar in the raw, as needed

1. Preheat the oven to 3500. In your 1-quart saucepot, add the milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean. Put this over medium to low heat and wait for it to simmer.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, molasses, Scotch, and sea salt. When the milk begins to simmer and rise up the sides of the pot, slowly drizzle it into the bowl of sugar and eggs while you whisk it vigorously.
3. Carefully pour the incorporated mixture into a large measuring cup. Place 6 souffli or coffee cups in a large baking dish and add hot tap water until it reaches = way up the sides of the cups. Fill the cups > full with the brulee mixture, and place the entire baking dish into the oven.
4. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the custard has set (when jiggled gently the custard should not wiggle). Carefully use your tongs to remove the cups from the hot water, and place them in the refrigerator to chill.

After the custard has cooled (about an hour), arrange a single layer of sliced bananas over each brulee, then sprinkle on a thin layer of raw sugar. Fire up your torch, keeping the flame about 2 inches from the banana slices, and melt the sugar.

)2010. Jennifer Schaertl. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442


Excerpted from Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens by Jennifer Schaertl Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Schaertl. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet 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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Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We are a residential, full-service, design-build remodeling company. When we remodel kitchens for our clients, we always give them a copy of this book before we start the project so they can use it while they have their "mock kitchen" set up with their microwave or slow cook in a different location in their house. It works out great and clients seem to love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
I admit it - the reason I wanted to read/review this book was solely based on the title. 'Crappy Little Kitchen' describes my cooking area perfectly. Could I actually make a real, gourmet meal in my tiny, ill-equipped kitchen? With recipe titles such as 'Shuttupahyourface Bruschetta' and 'Look-Like-You-Didn't-Hurry Curry Chicken Salad,' as well as frequent references to the CLK (Crappy Little Kitchen), much of this cookbook is tongue-in-check. However, it is also a great little cookbook, with wonderful, easy-to-follow recipes that can be made in a tiny, poorly equipped kitchen. The author begins her book with an overview of CLK basics, "You no longer need a meat mallet, since whacking the meat with your saucepan will serve that purpose." (pg. 7), must have accessories, space-saving tools, and things that you can do without, things that unnecessarily clutter your kitchen. Then it's on to the fun - cooking! Chapters in this book are: appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, one-pot creations, accompaniments, sauces and desserts. Liberally mixed in among all the recipes are little boxes with tips and tidbits of cooking advice. "Did You Know This Crap?," "Chefology," and the one I found most helpful, "Swap It" with suggestions such as "For people with less discerning palates - say, a group of kids-replace the dried cherries with red, seedless grapes, and the pumpernickel with graham crackers." (pg. 32). The big questions however, have to be how was the food, and were the recipes easy to follow? The answers? Scrumptious and yup, very easy. I tested several recipes and found all the instructions very clear, many fairly quick to prepare, and all came out of my CLK smelling wonderful and tasting fabulous. Schaertl has worked as a chef in four 4-star restaurants and her great, easy-to-follow recipes are a tribute to that experience. The author also offers a monthly mailing list with CLK tips (see the book for details). Quill says: For all those stuck with a CLK, now you too, can make gourmet meals.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! Fabulous gift for Christmas, and for any new married couple! I would reccomend it to anyone! You don't have to have a fancy kitchen like on the food network to cook like you're on the food network!