Foodies For Thought

Recipes for under the tree

Though no one seems to be able to agree on the final count, it’s safe to say that over 10,000 cookbooks are published every year. There are always standouts that make those year-end “best-of” lists, but there are also a great many that don’t get love or shelf space. Here are a few of this year’s notable cookbooks worth checking out this holiday season, for yourself or the foodie on your list. Two that will likely (and rightfully) be on many a shortlist are Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, and Harold Magee’s Keys to Good Cooking. Greenspan is a terrific instructor and her latest is no exception. A patient teacher, her books are great resources for those intimidated by a cuisine or theme, and this guide to 300 French dishes will have you cranking out Beef Daube with the best of them. As for Magee, he literally wrote the book on food science. His On Food and Cooking, last updated in 2004, is a classic reference that every self-respecting fan of Alton Brown and “Good Eats” should own. Keys offers more of the same for those interested in the hows and whys of cooking. If you have an ambitious cook on your list who isn’t into reading, consider Louis Eguaras’ 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School, an illustrated, easy-to-skim guide of useful trivia and tips on everything from how to get the most out of a whole chicken and perhaps most importantly, how to put out a grease fire. You’ll be cooking like an Iron Chef (or at the very least, Sandra Lee) in no time. Those who have a fear of the kitchen will appreciate Jane Hornby’s What to Cook and How to Cook It, a colossal collection of everyday dishes all with step-by-step photos to guide you through preparing omelets, stuffed potato skins, beef stew and 97 other standards. There are plenty of beginner cookbooks out there, but Hornby’s execution makes this one of the best confidence-builders this year. Another must-have that hasn’t gotten its due in the press is Tammy Algood’s outstanding Complete Southern Cookbook. It lives up to its name, with over 800 recipes and multiple suggestions for mac and cheese and fried chicken as well as the highly charged topic of barbecue (she wisely skirts the issue by covering all the major styles). Adventurous carnivores will want to check out Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers, a two-fisted take on meat. Author Marissa Guggiana traveled the country to meet with 50 of America’s most talented butchers to get their thoughts on the profession and the product. Whether you want to attempt chef Chris Cosentino’s Grilled Beef Heart with Roasted Golden Beets or just get the best possible ground beef for a burger, Guggiana’s profiles of the people behind the counter and their favorite meals will give you a greater appreciation of the profession. What good is eating if you don’t have anything to wash it down? Jason Wilson’s Boozehound offers a refreshing take on the state of cocktails, enabling you to be a better-informed imbiber. Yes, he’s opinionated (don’t get him started on flavored vodkas), but he’s refreshingly down-to-earth about what is often a loaded subject, no pun intended. You’ll develop an appreciation for the time and care that goes into ingredients that for your martinis and margaritas, not to mention suggestions for plenty of new drinks. Jordan Kaye and Marshall Altier’s irreverent How to Booze, a sarcastic guide to the art of drinking, makes a perfect accompaniment to Boozehound. In addition to liquor lore and recipes, the authors offer suggestions for pairing the appropriate cocktail for occasions such as threesomes (a Negroni), drinking alone (a Manhattan) and stalking your ex (a Pisco Sour). Those who prefer to go straight for dessert will want to add David Lebovitz’ Ready For Dessert: My Best Recipes to their bookshelf, preferably alongside his 2007 book The Perfect Scoop, the definitive work on ice cream. Dessert expands his after-dinner offerings with plate-licking dishes like Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts and Irish Coffee cupcakes. Even if you’re new to baking, you’re sure to find something within your skill set, whether it’s the no-cook Peaches in Red Wine or the idiot-proof Chocolate Orbit Cake that calls for just four ingredients. No matter how specific your interest, there’s a book tailored to your tastes. Take the time to flip through the contenders and you’re sure to find a new favorite.

posted at 06:30 pm
on Wednesday, December 08th, 2010

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