STUDIO: MWarner Brothers Home Video
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
• DVD-ROM links

The Pitch

Martha Stewart: "Let’s create some impossible cooking tasks, show skilled professionals demonstrating those tasks, and then sit back and laugh while inept DVD critics try to emulate."

The Humans

Martha Stewart, and a host of Iron Chef America regulars (Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Nobu) plus other famous chefs, like Jasper White, Frank Pellegrino, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.

The Nutshell

Well, shit, it’s segments from Martha Stewart Living featuring famous and talented chefs. You get to watch fifteen recipes being created, three from each of five different regional cuisines: American, Mexican, French, Asian, and Italian.

The Lowdown

The disc is organized well. It’s easy to navigate, and free of distracting fluff. The individual segments themselves are dominated by the borrowed elegance that permeates everything Ms. Stewart touches. The different recipes compose a decent survey course of world cuisine, excluding cannibalism and insect fare.

What to criticize on a non-narrative, tightly-focused animal such as this? I’ll go ahead with considering Ms. Stewart herself. She has a tendency to shut her guests down, pruning digressions and pushing her way down the recipe sans any anecdotes from the chefs. This is unfortunate, because the best books about cookery involve personal stories of the cooks, not just a prescription for sustenance. Some of the chefs are more subdued, but with Bobby Flay and Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, both gregarious and talkative folks, Ms. Stewart flounders a bit trying to maintain an iron grip on her show.

If I didn’t exaggerate, damnit, there’d be nothing to write about.

Seriously, though, the disc is a great set of demonstrations of just the pure act of cooking, with some very deft hands on the knives and grills. It’s meant only partly as instructional video; the other part is to inspire envy from all of we lesser beings of the kitchen.

So, just to demonstrate how very lesser I am, I decided to print out one of the easier recipes and try my hand. (All the recipes are available on I selected Mr. Flay’s "Oven-Roasted Ribs." Here’s a picture of what the finished product should look like:

The first step to any great dish is finding great ingredients. I live in a land-locked burg in Eastern Washington, 150 miles from Spokane, more than 200 from Seattle. We don’t have any great butchers around here, despite the number of cows in the fields, and in my yard. What we do have is a Wal-Mart.

I ended up having to trim down Mr. Flay’s recipe, since there are no chipotles around here, and it’s kinda hard to find a good chili. I also didn’t feel like making the peanut relish that is advertised along with the dish. Here’s what I ended up with after a quick shopping trip:

Here are those ingredients set up next to the ones that we already had in the house, as pointed out after the trip by my lovely wife:

Making the sauce went all right, until it was time to add the two cans of tomato sauce I substituted, out of necessity, for the skinned plum tomatoes in the original recipe. In other words, I had some oil and onion in a pot, and then I did this:

Yeah. See, I stay in and watch movies a lot because I suck at sports. Couldn’t catch a pop fly on a cloudy day.

I got the sauce to simmering, and then set to preparing the meet for its first stint in the oven. Remember how this a rib dish? Here’s what I grabbed from the meat section of the store, under the false impression that they were, in fact, pork ribs:

God damn it.

The recipe calls for a little marinade-esque sauce to go on the bottom of the baking trays, in order to give the meat a bit more flavor and tenderness. I mixed up the marinade-thing before I realized I didn’t have ribs, so I only made enough for one pan, counting on the cute little ribs to huddle together enough to fit on one pan.

Here’s the two pans. One gets marinade. The other gets diddly-squat. Fuckers.

I learned something about basting. You’re supposed to do it with a basting brush. I don’t own a basting brush, and my wife stalled my attempts to use a paint brush (cleaned out! I swear!), so… Necessity is the mother of invention:

I basted too liberally, unfortunately. I was supposed to turn the meat ever ten minutes, basting each time, until the sauce made a nice, crackly, caramelized shell. I ran out of sauce after twenty minutes. I kept turning the little bastards, letting them stew in their own juices.

Voila! An End Result!

Surprisingly, it tasted all right. I have no illusions about my capabilities as a Mr. Mom, however. Good thing I don’t have children. (My father-in-law is a chef. I hope he can’t figure reach this gulag of the Internet.)

The recipes, demonstrations, and instructions on this disc are all perfectly serviceable for what they offer. It’s the sort of thing that carries an implied disclaimer: Contents of kitchen may vary depending on ignorance of amateur chef.

Well, it all looked tasty, anyway.

The Package

The disc has direct links to the recipes, but it’s a DVD-ROM feature, and only works if you have autorun enabled on your machine. And that’s a bad thing.

7 out of 10