For baseball fans, autumn means the World Series, The Fall Classic, when the year’s top teams battle it out and the best in the game strut onto the playing field, ready to knock it out of the park. And though the World Series just wrapped up a few weeks ago, in the cookbook world, fall is also the season when the Big Guns come to play, bringing with them their best offerings of the year, anticipating a grand slam of their own.
Today we look at just-released cookbooks by three of the most valuable players in the game; Jamie Oliver, world renowned chef and arguably one of the most important and influential food activists in the world, and Canadian food icons Michael Smith and Lynn Crawford. Each of these chefs has a rich publishing history; between the three of them they have produced close to twenty -five books. Let’s say, conservatively, to keep the math simple, that each book has batting average of 100 recipes; that’s two thousand five hundred recipes. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that in all these books it’s the old fashioned values that are being promoted; “Real home cooking”, “Family and friends” “Shop smart, cook clever, waste less” “Simple Classic Recipes” are catchphrases used on the covers of all three books, and are qualities that will appeal to the average household cook.
First up to bat, Michael Smith’s Back to Basics-100 Simple Classic Recipes wjth a Twist.
This is a great book for anyone that wants a solid go-to cookbook for classic, time honoured home-style favourites. From Simple Roasted Chicken to Apple Cinnamon Fritters, Bacon Mac & Cheese to Olive Feta Crusted Chicken, the “twist” this nicely photographed book provides is that each of these recipes comes with suggestions on how to make it “your own”. For his Green Apple Salad, Chef Smith suggests “Try thinly slicing some prosciutto and gently crisping it in hot olive oil for a savory garnish…” Chef Smith also provides tips on how to make cooking simpler, safer and more reliable, for example, instructions on how to properly calibrate and use use a meat thermometer. In this book, Chef Smith provides solid, basic instruction but encourages the home cook to experiment and venture somewhere new.
Verdict: It’s a hit.
Second at home plate we have At Home with Lynn Crawford–200 of My Favourite Easy Recipes.Touted as “a true celebration of home cooking,” these recipes were chosen because they represent two principles that are important to Chef Crawford; they are crowd-pleasing and fun. “Food and cooking should be a fun and enjoyable occasion,” says Lynn, and this book is full of recipes that follow that mantra; “simple, real home cooking that’s full of great flavour.” There are restaurant worthy dishes in here that you’ll be excited to try at home – Sirloin Steaks with Oysters Rockefeller Butter, Sweetbreads with Capers, Lemon and Brown Butter, Veal Chops with Rosemary Cream and Duck à l’Orange, are a few that leap from the pages. There are also staples -Breakfast Smoothies, Buttermilk Pancakes, and hearty supper dishes like Stout-Braised Beef Stew and Texas Style Chili. All these recipes are roof that making delicious food at home is at least as fun and easy as making reservations (unless of course you’re making reservations at Chef Crawford’s restaurant, Ruby Watchco).
Verdict: extra bases
Finally in strides everyone’s favourite clean-up hitter; the mighty Jamie Oliver comes to bat with a copy of Save with Jamie-Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less.
It’s really hard to argue with a title like that. We all want to save, to be clever, to be less wasteful. And to eat really well. Being thrifty is not appealing if the food is no good, and of course, we’re talking Jamie Oliver here, so you know the food is going to be spot on. This is a great book with great recipes, but I think, even more importantly, Chef Oliver opens the book with some solid lessons in “Home Economics, ” covering topics like when and where to shop, how to pick up bargains and embrace seasonal produce, how to buy quality/inexpensive cuts of meat, using local markets and fishmongers, stocking your pantry with the essential cooking tools, as well as illustrated step by step guides to boning a chicken. He even instructs you on what to do with leftover wine, organizing your refrigerator, freezer and pantry to be models of efficiency, the how and why of fruits and veg, the fresh herbs you need in your life…
And then there are the recipes! They are not ascetic or boring, but tantalizing, contemporary, fun and beautiful to look at. Incredible Lamb Biryani, BBQ Pulled Pork with Waffles & Slaw, Puffy Pea & Potato Pie, Cajun Salmon & Shrimp Fishcakes, Sloppy Brisket Po’ Boy. And so on.
Verdict: home run.