Some New Technology and a Farewell to the Culinary Mecca Charlie Trotters

The past few weeks have been insanely crazy. I have catered three successful events, held down the day job, cleared and cleaned out my old condo for visitors. In addition to all of this I signed on the become Midwest Savvy Gourmets for Verizon and culminated the week with a long-awaited reservation to Charlie Trotters. So where shall I begin? Lets start with the cool XYBOARD from Verizon I was given to test for the next six months. It’s pretty sweet. 4G speeds , loaded with apps, cool sleek , but tough exterior. Verizon selected a tight group of bloggers from the Midwest and other parts of the country. They want to see how we use the tablet for the kitchen and blogs. I need all the help I can get in keeping my catering affairs and blog ideas together. I’m having a ball playing with it and even Certain Someone got a little jealous and petulant when he saw it.

On Friday as I paid the taxi cab driver to take me to the Hard Rock Hotel to meet the group. I did a double take as I noticed Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen fame on the corner. I looked at her and she looked at me and I said ” Jaden…?” She remembered me from earlier interactions on the blogosphere. It was the equivalent of meeting a rock star in the food blog world. I appreciated her openness and honesty as she talked from the heart in how to maximize your blog, and turn into a viable brand and business. She also stressed most importantly to “Measure success in units of happiness not revenue.”  I also got to meet the cool Jessi Olsen of Cakespy, another longtime fave, who is also participating in the program.

Speaking of Measuring success in units of happiness and not revenue… This is a perfect segue into my visit to Charlie Trotters. Late last year it was announced that the famed Charlie Trotter, who was and still is a ground breaker in American Cuisine was closing his doors to his famed Lincoln Park Restaurant. Many of today’s hottest chefs have paid their dues under Trotter. As with all things sometimes the pioneers get forgotten or taken for granted.I have heard the question many times is Charlie Trotter still relevant is the food scene?I think those  that think he’s not are  too jaded. Many of the hot new modern chefs can owe their success to him directly or indirectly. Charlie Trotter knows he has nothing to prove and is closing his famed door in August to pursue other things like studying Philosophy. That’s a well-rounded healthy man who knows when to move on and change it up. I’m lucky to have a generous Certain Someone in my life who knew the importance of visiting  this institution. We dined with another couple and had a grand time.While the final bill  with the bottles of wine ,could have easily flown us to Europe, it was worth it. I loved the formality of the restaurant with the suited servers who attended to your every need. I even glimpsed Chef in the kitchen getting ready to greet another lucky girl who was blindfolded and being lead to his chefs table for a birthday surprise.Its a nice change from the grungy hipster edgy vibes you find elsewhere. The food was beautifully presented and a work of art. Small in portions, yet carefully crafted. That style of cooking is very hard to replicate and takes years of dedication passion and a cultivated eye and palate.

I tried to recreate a recipe I have from one of his cookbooks Workin’ More Kitchen Sessions With Charlie Trotters. Soft Shelled Crab with Curried Tomato Sauce and Cumin Vinaigrette.  This is my second crab post I realize, but this is the last month of the soft shell crab season. They are now available year round in frozen form as well. My favorite aspect of the recipe was the pine nut flour coating. This will be my go to breading for frying. It’s amazing. So many aspects of this recipe can be adapted to others.

Many years ago I would have been a bit intimidated to cook out this book. A revisit, and I find it approachable and inspiring. Whether Charlie Trotters doors are closed or not, the  true Master Chef  and Artist will continue to inspire , teach and influence.

Soft Shell Crabs with Curried Tomato Sauce and Cumin Vinaigrette
Recipe type: entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Adapted from Workin' More Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter
  • For the Sauce
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoon minced lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • For the Soft Shelled Crabs
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cups toasted pine nuts , grounded
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1½ grape seed oil or vegetable oil
  • 4 cleaned soft shelled crabs
  • For the Vinaigrette
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds , toasted and ground
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives chopped
  • 4 leaves Belgian endive , julienned
  • ½ Granny Smith Apple
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  1. In a saucepan with the olive oil, saute the shallots , lemon grass, garlic and ginger on low medium heat until they become translucent. This will take 5 minutes approx.
  2. Add tomatoes, curry, cilantro , vinegar, and water. Simmer for 15 minutes until tomatoes break down and ingredients are combined.
  3. In a spice grinder ground the toasted pine nuts. Add flour, salt and peppers.
  4. Dredge the crabs in the pine nut flour mixture.
  5. Fry for three minutes on each side until golden.
  6. Carefully cut each fried crab in half with kitchen shears.
  7. Adjust seasoning if necessary with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Whisk the ground cumin and vinegar.
  9. Slowly add the olive oil to form an emulsion.
  10. Gently simmer the vinaigrette until hot in a sauce pan.
  11. Add the julienned apples, endive , pinenuts, and cilantro.
  12. Plate by adding tomato curry sauce and vinaigrette to plate.
  13. Place crabs atop the sauce.
  14. Add more vinaigrette on top of the crabs.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Gourmets program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.


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5 thoughts on “Some New Technology and a Farewell to the Culinary Mecca Charlie Trotters

  1. Lori Lynn

    He is my hero. The restaurant is a jewel, now one to be shining only in our memories. His cookbooks never cease to inspire me. So glad you had the opportunity to go before they close Courtney. I sure would like to go one more time…Good luck to the Chef in his future endeavors.
    P.S. The crab and pine nut coating sound awesome, of course!

  2. Noelle (@singerinkitchen)

    Wow, you had a FULL day! I am so glad I got to sit by you during the day and missed having you at dinner. Glad you had a great evening. I too did a double take when I saw Jaden on the corner. I just ignored it and thought she looked like someone I had seen before. Ha!

  3. Chef and Steward

    We follow you on twitter but came over here to spread some more love. It’s so cool that you are just grace under pressure! Keep it up! Jaden seems pretty down to earth and cool!

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