"As a chef," says Michael Chiarello in At Home with Michael Chiarello
, "I can either build on a classic recipe or deconstruct it and put it back together with a new identity." The Napa Valley-based TV chef and author takes his own message to heart in this collection of 135-plus recipes for imaginative entertaining. Chiarello's formulas, for the likes of Grilled Salmon and Spinach Salad with Corn Juice "Zablione," Turkey Osso Buco, and "Short Stacks" with Shredded Chicken and Balsamic BBQ Sauce, do
reflect his ceaseless invention; but unlike some other chef's recipes, these are cook-friendlier, with flavors rooted in "homier" Italian and American culinary traditions. His chapter on pasta and rice dishes, with the likes of Lasagna of Roasted Butternut Squash, and Bordetto of Shrimp-Stuffed Pasta Shells, is particularly good.
The book also provides useful advice for easier, more original party-giving in, for example, Entertaining 101, which includes counsel on choosing a dining area, scaling recipes, and wine do's and don'ts, among other topics. Readers should know that many of the attractive dishes require a kitchen workout, and that invention occasionally overruns best taste, as in, for example, a dish of fennel-flavored pork tenderloin with a dressing of molasses, sage, and balsamic vinegar. Still, the majority of formulas, which include tempting sweets like Molten Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes and Freeform Cheesecake Poured Over Fresh Fruit, should make guests very happy as well as expanding the cook's repertoire. With alluring photos, the artfully produced book should, in itself, get the entertaining-at-home urge going. -Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Chiarello's latest offers a plethora of recipes and tips that will be familiar to fans of the author's Food Network show on home entertaining and will appeal to anyone eager for fresh ideas about cooking for guests. Many dishes are well-known but have been tweaked, like the surprising Grilled Avocado and Tomato Salad, or the classic Italian melon and prosciutto appetizer that's become a creamy chilled soup served in cantaloupe shells. The book begins with a listing of flavorful pantry staples and proceeds through a wealth of items for every part of the menu, including creative drinks like Tomato Water Martini. Chiarello's tips on technique will help most cooks prepare even the difficult recipes with less frenzy; Party Method Fontina Risotto, for example, is done in two steps, but has the same delicious consistency as a risotto made in the old-fashioned (read: long) way. Each dish also has helpful notes on accompanying wines, presentation suggestions, etc., and a section at the end provides even more advice on entertaining. The inviting photos should seal the deal for anyone who doesn't already know Chiarello's warm California style from TV; this beautiful book is sure to make even cooks who are apprehensive about hosting a party keen to try. (Nov.)
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