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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyday cooking, Dec 24 2010
This review is from: Great Food At Home (Hardcover)
I was very disappointed by this cookbook. The title Great Food at Home implies that the recipes would be manageable by the home cook. Instead the ingredients are not ones that you would readily find in the typical grocery store. A specialty grocer would stock the items but at considerable cost. This is not a cookbook that most people would get much use of.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes great food, but definitely not at home, July 11 2012
This review is from: Great Food At Home (Hardcover)
Mark McEwan is a restauranteur and celebrity chef based in Toronto. He's the owner of four restaurants, a catering company, and an upscale grocery store, as well as head judge on Top Chef Canada. Suffice to say, he has had a long and successful history but has waited until the last few years to release his first cookbook, Great Food At Home.

Judging by the title, one would expect the book to be full of home style recipes, with a twist worthy of McEwan's pedigree. For someone whose entire life has been professional cooking, is it really that simple to write a cookbook for home cooking? Given the results of the book, perhaps it actually is.

Cookbooks these days are more than just a collection of recipes. The good ones tend to take you on a journey, seen through the chef's eyes, with the chef guiding you along the way. While the recipes do have headnotes, there isn't much beyond describing what's in the dish. There's no insight into McEwan's thoughts about the dish, how it came to be. The prose has no soul and makes for a less interesting read. It's also written in a strange way that is less conversational in tone, and more in a stilted, awkward manner which detracts even further any personality the prose might have had.

Great Food at Home is divided into several small sections comprising a half dozen or so recipes each: Passed Appetizers, Soups, Salads, First Courses, Sandwiches, Pasta and Risotto, Fish and Shellfish, Meat and Poultry, Vegetables and Side Dishes, and Desserts. Starting from the beginning of the book, one begins to suspect that this might not be a typical 'at home' cookbook: in the first three sections alone, one will have already come across four lobster recipes, one containing foie gras, and others containing items that are fairly expensive or less commonly available (sea scallops, oxtail). In the recipe for Lobster Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese, McEwan states that it's a play on the Cobb salad, given a new voice because there is 'almost nobody who doesn't believe that lobster is better than chicken'. Whether true or not, the fact remains that if a cookbook's main trick is to simply substitute a more luxurious ingredient, it's not going to be a very good 'at home' cookbook. The use of luxury or less common ingredients is a running theme throughout the book.

But in a way, the book is a bit bipolar. There are the recipes with luxurious ingredients, which I personally feel isn't within the scope of an 'at home' cookbook. And then there are recipes like Wilted Greens, or Grilled Green Asparagus, which are exactly what you think they are. They are so simple that their inclusion is almost comical. There are many recipes which are at one extreme or another, neither which I think are what people are looking for in a book with this title. Isn't there anything in the book that hits the sweet spot?

It turns out that there is. I obviously didn't cook every recipe, choosing about a dozen to get a feel for the recipes. The Corn Bisque with Foie Gras Crostini is quite tasty, but the crostini was an unnecessary luxury upgrade. The lentil salad recipe is a terrific recipe ' delicious, easy to prepare with a thoughtful combination of ingredients well within reach of the average home cook. Asian-Glazed Pork Belly takes some time, but is inexpensive to make and delivers a tasty result. This is the kind of thing I'm looking for ' an accomplished chef's spin on ingredients for the masses, to make great food at home.

Not everything I tried was a hit. The aforementioned Lobster Salad was very heavy, the blue cheese and dressing drowning out the delicate lobster. Chicken Noodle Soup was not a recipe worthy of McEwan's pedigree. The Rigatoni with Braised Lamb Shank took a while to prepare, and while not that bad, was one note and not worth the time and effort. In short, keeping in mind that a dozen recipes is not a very large sample, the results were hit and miss.

In the end, though I'm sure there are more tasty recipes in the cookbook beyond what I cooked, I'm left with the feeling that this just isn't a cookbook for 'great food at home'. Great food? Maybe, in some of the recipes. But given the ingredients, and in some cases, the technique, perhaps this book would be better suited marketed towards the more ambitious amateur, rather than someone looking for a weeknight dinner. As an 'at home' cookbook, Great Food At Home, as McEwan likes to say on Top Chef Canada, 'completely misses the mark.'
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother, Aug. 25 2011
This review is from: Great Food At Home (Hardcover)
The ingredients are often not easily available. Also this is an ugly book. There are no pretty food photos here.
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Great Food At Home
Great Food At Home by Mark McEwan (Hardcover - Sept. 21 2010)
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