With chef Lynn Crawford’s Pitchin’ In, Penguin Canada continues to produce splendid cookbooks by Canadian chefs. The sixth title in a new program that Penguin launched in fall 2010, Pitchin’ In is born of the Food Network television series of the same name, which sees Crawford visiting farmers, growers, fishers, ranchers, and other food producers to learn first-hand where raw ingredients come from.
While the book shares that series’ title, it thankfully does not come off as a brochure for the TV show. Indeed, the show serves as a source for many of the “candid” photographs in the book, and Crawford offers very brief notes about some of the people and places she visited to make the series, but the book focuses on Crawford’s recipes more than anything else.
This is a good thing. Crawford has had a long, illustrious career in professional cooking. Co-owner of the highly rated Toronto restaurant Ruby Watchco, she previously spent some 13 years with the Four Seasons hotel chain, doing stints as executive chef at their Vancouver, Toronto, and Manhattan locales. Crawford knows how to cook, and a collection of her recipes is long overdue.
The book is divided into chapters such as “On the Boat,” for seafood recipes; “In the Orchard,” for fruit; “In the Field, Forest and Bog,” for the likes of potatoes, mushrooms, and wild berries; and “In the Pasture,” for dairy and livestock. Crawford’s recipes veer toward homey bistro fare, such as vanilla rice pudding with candied oranges, scallops with carrot purée, or mac ’n’ cheese with wild boar. A few – such as goat-ricotta gnocchi, shallot crème brûlée with smoked trout, or bacon-wrapped duck with cranberries – may prove challenging for unskilled cooks, but most are quite approachable, and all are informed by a fidelity to ingredients and the sort of measured creativity that results from decades of experience.
Unlike so many other celebrity-chef cookbooks, there is nothing vain, competitive, or showy about Pitchin’ In. It does what it does extremely well, with an unassuming confidence that can only be admired.