Dining In

Like other chefs, Angela Schmidt enjoys spending time in the kitchen, perfectly prepping mouthwatering dinner menus. But her real goal is to provide more than a meal—she wants to provide an experience, an environment that gets people out of their chairs and into the kitchen too. She achieved that goal just over four years ago with the foundation of Chef U, a meal she prepares in a client’s home for a dinner party with—hopefully—a little help from the guests themselves. “The concept is to get a group of friends together for a dinner where all you do is set the table, and I take care of everything else, ” Angela explains. “It’s entertainment but also like having the restaurant come to you.”

A typical dinner party consists of a four-course meal that gets dinner guests in on the culinary action. “We usually have the first course prepared when guests arrive, ready for them to nibble on in the kitchen, ” Angela says. “We make sure to save the fun, interesting parts of the meal prep for when guests are there to get them to participate in the process and learn some tricks of the trade or maybe just some fundamentals of cooking.”

Angela—who originally planned to study to become an engineer— started out at Highlands Bar and Grill after serving as a stage at Chez Fonfon. Then she continued to sharpen many of the skills she shares with dinner party guests in some of the most well-known restaurants in Birmingham, including working as Ocean’s pastry chef and as sous chef at 26. “My kitchen experience has definitely been on-the-job training and just taking advantage of opportunities that came my way, ” she says. “The kitchen was a natural fit for me.”

Realizing her own culinary dream motivates Angela to inspire others to spend a little more time in the kitchen. The relaxed environment she creates typically encourages even the non-foodies to get in on the action. “That’s the real fun of it—when people get into cooking and really want to participate, ” Angela says. “It makes me so happy when I hear one person saying how amazing a particular dish is and the next person chimes in to say they can tell them what’s in it because they helped make it. That interactive sharing is the best thing about it.”

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Chef U • 205.492.0610, chefubham.com
On the Menu
Easter Egg Radish, Apple & Watercress Salad
Apple Gorgonzola Welsh Rarebits
Chorizo & Apple Stuffed Quail
Haricot Verts
Parmesan Spoon Bread
Apple & Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes
High Road Apple Tarte Tatin Ice Cream

Easter Egg Radish, Apple & Watercress Salad

1 cup greek plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1/2  teaspoon sumac, plus more for garnish
1 garlic clove, minced
juice & zest from 1 lemon
Salt and fresh ground pepper
4 cups watercress, trimmed & washed
1 bunch Easter egg radish, shaved thinly
1 Fuji or Gala apple, cut into matchsticks

To make the dressing, whisk together yogurt and next 4 ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to allow the flavors to meld. When ready, gently toss watercress, radish, apple, and dressing together. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Apple Gorgonzola Welsh Rarebits

1/2 ficelle or baguette, thinly sliced
3 teaspoons butter, melted
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces gorgonzola or quality blue cheese, crumbled
3 teaspoons crème fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dijon
1 teaspoon honey
1 Fuji or Gala apple

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Brush each slice of bread with melted butter and place on a baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 8-12 minutes until lightly toasted.
3. Meanwhile, combine gorgonzola, crème fraîche, and next three ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Turn on the broiler. Place an apple slice on each crostini and cover with 2 teaspoons of gorgonzola mixture. Place under the broiler and cook until browned. Serve on the side of salad.

Chorizo & Apple Stuffed Quail

6 semi-boneless quails
3/4 lb Mexican chorizo (4 links)
3 tablespoons sweet onion
2 tablespoons celery
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled & diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2-1 cup panko breads crumbs
Salt & freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Prepare quails by spreading them out over paper towels; pat dry thoroughly.
3. Heat a large sautè pan over medium-high heat. Remove chorizo from casing and transfer to the sautè pan. Brown sausage, and remove any excess oil with a paper towel. Add onion, celery, spices and herbs; sautè for 3-4 minutes
until the vegetables are soft. Transfer chorizo mixture to a large mixing bowl.
4. Wipe out the sautè pan; add apples and butter. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until the apples release their liquid. Remove from the heat and drain off liquid. Add cooked apples to the chorizo mixture, and add panko bread crumbs starting with 3/4 cup. Keep adding breadcrumbs until mixture holds together. Season to taste.
5. To stuff the birds, season the interior of each bird with salt and pepper. With breast side facing up, stuff 2-3 tablespoons of filling until the quail is plump. Close cavity and secure by tying the legs in a criss-cross fashion with the butchers twine. Repeat the process with remaining quails. Once quails are stuffed, season the exteriors with salt and pepper.
6. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sear the breast side (top) of each quail until golden brown.
7. Transfer to a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until a thermometer inserted into the stuffing register 100 degrees. Allow the quails to rest 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6. 

Parmesan Spoon Bread

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sweet onion, finely diced
1/4 pound slab bacon, diced
4 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups stoneground yellow cornmeal
2 eggs
3/4 cup parmesan, grated
Splash of heavy cream

Prepare a casserole dish or skillet by spraying with a nonstick pan spray. Set aside. In a medium stockpot over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the oil begins to smoke, add onion and bacon; sautè until soft. Add the water and some salt, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat; whisk in cornmeal. Be careful, as it will likely rise initially. After the initial rise, turn on heat to medium. Cook gently, whisking occasionally, until thickened. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, parmesan, and a healthy splash of heavy cream. Once the mixture has thickened, whisk in the egg mixture and remove from the heat. Pour batter into prepared dish or skillet allow to set up 1 hour before baking. When ready, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake spoon bread for 15-25 minutes until set and lightly browned on top. Serves 6.

Apple & Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes

2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter
3 firm Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons applejack or calvados
3/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare soufflè or gratin dishes by spraying pan. Set aside on a baking sheet.
3. For syrup, place 2 1/4 cups sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until sugar has dissolved.
Continue cooking until light amber. Remove from the heat.
4. Swirl in 3 tablespoons cold butter and quickly distribute evenly in prepared dishes. Set aside.
5. Peel, core, and slice apples into 1/4-inch rounds. Arrange 2-3 slices per dish, overlapping slightly.
6. Place cranberries, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and a splash of water in small saucepan. Bring to boil and cook briefly until fruit bursts; remove from heat. Scatter cranberries over apples.
7. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl, set aside.
8. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Cream until light and fluffy.
9. At medium speed, add eggs and applejack; beat until thoroughly combined. Using paddle attachment, add a third of the flour and milk alternately, beating batter on low until just mixed. Repeat process twice.
10. Divide the batter, smoothing it over fruit.
11. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until the cakes are deep gold brown.
12. Run tip of a knife around the rim of each cake, then carefully invert cakes onto individual plates. Serve with a scoop of ice cream. Serves 6. 

Written and produced by Paige Townley • Photography by Art Meripol

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