Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Roast a Lamb: My Review

When Hatchette offered this book for review, I was intrigued by the description:
A rising star in the food world, Michael Psilakis is co-owner of a growing empire of modern Mediterranean restaurants, and one of the most exciting young chefs in America today. In How to Roast a Lamb, the self-taught chef offers recipes from his restaurants and his home in this, his much-anticipated first cookbook. Ten chapters provide colorful and heartfelt personal essays that lead into thematically related recipes. Gorgeous color photography accompanies many of the recipes throughout. Psilakis's cooking utilizes the fresh, naturally healthful ingredients of the Mediterranean augmented by techniques that define New American cuisine. Home cooks who have gravitated toward Italian cookbooks for the simple, user-friendly dishes, satisfying flavors, and comfortable, family-oriented meals, will welcome Psilakis's approach to Greek food, which is similarly healthful, affordable, and satisfying to share any night of the week.
I enjoy going out for Greek food and I thought it would be fun to make some at home.

Usually, when reviewing a cookbook, the first thing I do is look for a recipe or two to make--after all, what good is a cookbook if the recipes aren't? I'm sure a lot of the recipes are wonderful, if you have time to make them, the ingredients available and a family that will eat them. I'm looking here at a recipe for smoked octopus with fennel puree, lemon confit & pickled vegetables. Preparing it is a two day job as you have to soak the vegetables in a pickling solution overnight. You have to pickle pearl onions and chanderelles, make lemon confit, smoke the octopus (actually, first you have to sear it, then roast it and then smoke it), prepare a fennel puree and then assemble the dish. Even if my kids would eat this, I don't have two days to cook dinner, and buying 27 ingredients, most of which are not in my regular repertoire, would cost a small fortune.

There are simpler recipes than the smoked octopus. The French Fry recipe, which the author says his mother made when she was in a rush, calls only for potatoes, oil, and kosher salt, sea salt, and cracked pepper. After cutting the potatoes into the proper size, Psilakis rinses them under very slow-running water for 20 minutes. After drying them, he pre-fries them in 250 degree oil until tender, but then holds them in the refrigerator for up to four hours before deep frying them again in 375 degree oil until brown, and then seasoning them.

The photographs are gorgeous and I enjoyed the personal stories that began each chapter. I'd consider this book to be what I've heard called "kitchen porn"--fun to look at but not for real use. Actually, I'm sure that someone who cooks as a hobby--as opposed to someone who has to get dinner on the table in a short period of time for three kids every night--could have a lot of fun with this book. A lot of the recipes look like something I'd love to order in my favorite Greek restaurant.

I'd like to thank the folks at Hatchette for sending me a complimentary copy of this book for review. I happen to like kitchen porn and maybe one day when the kids are gone, I'll have time for recipes like this.


  1. What mom has time for those complicated recipes? We are obviously not the author's audience.

  2. You will not be a mom with children in the house forever. We grab those kitchen porn books for slow afternoons of cooking. We laugh as we work together to make something really incredible. Keep it- your day will came (as sad as thinking about it is...)

  3. This is awesome! Thanks for including this book in our review party.

    Stay tuned for Friday Morning's winner announcement. Next week I will be giving away another Amazon GC!



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