10 cookbooks worth gifting for the holidays
by Esther Sung, Epicurious
This was the year for cookbooks dedicated to specific topics such as ice cream, whole grains, and Middle Eastern cuisine. The number of first-time authors who are either chef-contestants or food bloggers went up. Trying to choose the crème de la crème of the year's cookbooks might seem like a fool's errand, but we're up to the task. Below, you'll find our ten picks. These books reflect a diverse array of cuisines, specialties, and personalities, but the shared characteristics of all the titles--clear, precise instructions for the home cook, authoritative without being pedantic, lush food porn--make them all worthy of gifting (or requesting) this holiday season.
First on the list is our own debut cookbook, The Epicurious Cookbook: More Than 250 of Our Best-Loved Four-Fork Recipes for Weeknights, Weekends & Special Occasions by Tanya Steel & the Editors of Epicurious (Clarkson Potter). In our first venture from digital to classic cookbook format, you'll find the same gold standard in recipe reliability that our Web site and app are known for. To prepare the book, we handpicked only the best of the best recipes from the Epicurious database, guided by the invaluable reviews and comments of our members. In fact, more than 60 first-rate member recipes are included in the book. Recipes are arranged seasonally, along with all-new recipe tips, menu ideas, and lush full-color photographs of 100 recipes. We hope this will become your treasured, much-thumbed, floury kitchen bible for years to come.
Recipe to try: Chicken and Fall Vegetable Pot Pie
Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sébastien Rouxel (Artisan)
That one of Thomas Keller's most lasting food memories is about French bread seems a bit too pedestrian. After all, he's a culinary god known for being a perfectionist, with some of the world's best restaurants. And yet, what sustained him while training in Paris has blossomed into Bouchon Bakery, Keller's homage to boulangeries, patisseries, and viennoiseries. Keller and Executive Pastry Chef Sébastien Rouxel share with the dedicated home baker recipes that Bouchon Bakery is best known for: macarons, pain au chocolat, baguettes. Baking has always required precision, but add the Keller factor, and it's transformed into something otherworldly.
Recipe to try: Pecan Sandies for My Mom
Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila (Clarkson Potter)
Blogger Alana Chernila is a sincere champion of the DIY food movement, and her book will easily make a convert out of anyone. In Homemade Pantry, Chernila infuses the philosophy of making one's own staples, such as cream cheese, hot sauce, and toaster pastries, with such joy and pleasure that the spirit is contagious. Aspirational? Yes. A little time-consuming? Perhaps. But once you've tasted the fruits of your labor, you'll know that self-sufficiency and pride are priceless.
Recipe to try: Vanilla Extract
See more: Top 12 Fall Soups
Roots by Diane Morgan (Chronicle)
Diane Morgan demonstrates that looks aren't everything, especially when it comes to root vegetables. From burdock and crosne to salsify and yuca, Morgan's recipes curry favor with taste buds that are open to culinary adventures. Her dedication frees the way for a deeper appreciation of some of the most underappreciated ingredients we know. Thankfully, many of the starring vegetables can be found at the farmers' market, local grocery store, or ethnic markets.
Recipe to try: Jerusalem Artichoke and Artichoke Heart Linguine
Salads by Mindy Fox (Kyle Books)
Colorful, plentiful, and wholesome are how Mindy Fox's salads both look and taste. Gone are salads with limp ingredients and heavy dressings. Fox has managed to reinvent them, making them the center of attention--and rightfully so. By raising the bar with new takes on classics--check out her Pastrami and Rye Panzanella--and offering playful flavor variations that delight the taste buds, Fox may (re)ignite your own passion for salads. You'll be buying fresh produce, fragrant herbs, and spices, and making use of your salad spinner like never before.
Recipe to try: Green Melon, Cubanelle Peppers and Ricotta Salata
Seamus Mullen's Hero Food by Seamus Mullen (Andrews McMeel)
It's not every day that a well-known chef writes a cookbook with a focus beyond taste. Chef Seamus Mullen, diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, tackles food from not only a flavor perspective but from a health one, too. This isn't a medical tome, so it shouldn't override what your health practitioner advises, but from a purely culinary standpoint, the fact that 18 "hero foods" that taste exceptionally good can help you feel better gives this book bonus points.
Recipe to try: Flageolets with Autumn Greens and Fresh Bacon
Secrets of the Best Chefs by Adam Roberts (Artisan)
Epi-Log contributor Adam Roberts is the man behind the popular food blog The Amateur Gourmet. We've long been fans of his winsome adventures in cooking and dining out. His humor and everyman qualities have made him a success on the Web, and they come alive in the pages of his newest book. Roberts has spent time with some of America's top chefs, and he distills the professionals' skills and knowledge into something digestible that any of us could attempt at home with more than a modicum of success.
Recipe to try: Sweet-and-Sour Balsamic-Glazed Spareribs
See more: My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken Recipe
Souvenirs by Hubert Keller (Andrews McMeel)
Writing a food memoir can be tricky: Trying to intertwine two disparate but interrelated components can often result in a muddled story. That's not the case with chef/restaurateur Hubert Keller's third book. He could have focused his story on just the restaurants and accolades, but instead, he pays homage to his French heritage and the people who have helped him get to where he is today. The recipes provide a sensory understanding of Keller's evolution from baker's son to award-winning chef, and remind you of just how evocative and meaningful food can be.
Recipe to try: Black Forest Cake
Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan (Ten Speed)
We've been waiting with bated breath for chef Charles Phan's first cookbook. As a chef and restaurateur, he's found success with San Francisco's the Slanted Door and other restaurant ventures. At heart, though, he still considers himself a "glorified home cook," and it's precisely home cooking that Phan teaches on these pages. Vietnamese cuisine may not be as popular as other Asian cuisines yet, but thanks to Phan's care and passion for the food, it's sure to catch on with more home cooks, glorified or not.
Recipe to try: Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger, Scallions, and Soy
Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson (Ten Speed)
Cakes, like so many foods, have a high nostalgia factor. But memories are often better-tasting than reality. Thankfully, Julie Richardson of Portland, Oregon's Baker & Spice takes some of our favorite cake recipes from the past and brings them up to speed. With a deft touch, Richardson stays true to the spirit of the cake and pays homage while also modernizing the recipe. Adjustments to fit modern-day tastes and a focus on higher-quality, more natural ingredients give these vintage cakes a new twist.
Recipe to try: Jam Cake with Caramel Chocolate Ganache
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25 Sandwich Makeovers
Healthy Comfort Recipes for Any Day
10 cookbooks worth gifting for the holidays