Oct 1

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to review Jennifer Schaertl’s new cookbook. “Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens” I was really excited to review the book because Jennifer started her career as a food enthusiast (foodie if you will, but I’m not in love with that word).  The difference is she started cooking amazing meals for herself and friends from a 300 square foot apartment.  I complain that I don’t have enough counter space now and I think my kitchen is over 300 square feet.  After developing a love of cooking and an appreciation for fresh, seasonal ingredients on her own, Jennifer enrolled in cooking school.  She also moved to Texas ans started working her way up the restaurant ladder as a dishwasher.  She went on to become an executive chef, a career path that requires tremendous dedication.  (If you haven’t read it pop over to Michael Ruhlman’s Blog and read this post: So You Wanna Be a Chef – Bourdain.  Eye opening.)

I’ve read criticisms of the book that focused on the paper stock (cheap) photography (amateur) and graphics (kind of goofy).  But, none of those affect the heart of the cookbook.   I think it’s a great beginner cookbook that should be part of that “mom kit” that stocks every new apartment.  There’s a great intro section on stocking a pantry so you always have something to cook, Utensils, cookware and avoiding pitfalls.  I think this is invaluable to a new cook (no matter how big your kitchen or age) .  She includes recipes that represent many different cuisines and writes in a way that makes the reader/cook feel like they can do it.  She has also sprinkled tips throughout the book.   I think this book absolutely accomplishes what Jennifer set out to do; she takes some fear and mystery out of the kitchen and presents ways to make great food.

Here’s a sample of one of her recipes

Holy Moly Chicken Pasole

Makes 2.5 Quarts

A gourmet version of tortilla soup, this rustic version is actually thickened with finely diced pieces of corn tortilla that break down as the stew simmers. It’s also a great way to utilize leftover chicken, which makes it a standard on my rotation of Soupe du Jour in my restaurant. There’s always leftover chicken laying around!

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded off the bone

8 c chicken stock

1 onion, diced

6 cloves garlic

1 green bell, diced

1 rib of celery, diced

2 T chili powder

1 T ground cumin

½ c tomato puree

1 large tomato, diced

1 T oregano

5 corn tortilla finely minced

½ tsp red pepper

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

½ c cilantro, chopped

  1. In a large stock pot over a medium-high heat, bring the shredded chicken, stock, onion, garlic, bell pepper, and celery to a gentle simmer. Once simmering, add all of the other ingredients except for salt, pepper, and cilantro.
  2. Once the tortilla has begun to break down and thicken the stew (about 30 minutes), season to your tastes with salt and pepper. Garnish with the chopped cilantro.

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