This 400-page guide to meat may be focused on sustainability and local eating, but that doesn't make it any less comprehensive. Krasner goes deep on all the basics of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and more, offering anatomy charts, buying tips, basics on animal husbandry, and, of course, plenty of recipes.
Kenji says that On Food and Cooking is, has been, and will probably always be the most important, most referenced, and and most cherished book in his library.
Kentucky-based writer Ronni Lundy is an expert on the foods and foodways of the Mountain South. In her book Sorghum's Savor, she explores the history and folklore, and the many uses, of the region's staple sweetener. Recipes range from fried chicken to sorbet.
This is, arguably, the book that set the United States straight: Those burritos you've been calling Mexican food? Not so much. Kennedy was one of the first English-language authors to call out Mexican cooking as distinct from the Tex-Mex and SoCal versions that many had come to assume was the real deal. In this seminal book, she covers regional variations, ingredients, techniques, and more.
Even if you've never heard of Joyce Chen, even if you never pick up a copy of her outdated, out-of-print cookbook, even if you aren't a big fan of Northern Chinese cuisine, we can flat out guarantee that Joyce Chen has changed the way you eat or cook. Maybe you own a company that sells chafing dishes, or perhaps you're the landlord of a suburban strip mall. Well, Joyce Chen invented the Chinese lunch buffets that are the bread and butter of your business. Perhaps you're one of those unfortunate souls who doesn't have a wok range at home and instead resorts to stir-frying in a flat-bottomed wok. Guess what? Joyce Chen is the original patent-owner for that flat-bottomed wok.
This cookbook is a great guide to learning how to use a donabe cooker. It offers a wide range of recipes to help give you an idea of just how many one-pot dishes can be made using a donabe, plus background on the history and variety of donabe cookers.
Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese is the perfect gift for anyone who loves cheese. Written by the husband-and-wife duo of Bronwen and Francis Percival, it offers a fascinating look into how industrialization has transformed cheese production, and some insight into positive aspects of the cheesemaking process that may have gotten lost along the way. If you haven't already, do take a look at our interview with the Percivals to get an idea of what the book contains.
This guide is equal parts science and poetry, exploring the curious and complicated relationships that underlie flavor pairings both classic and new. If you know someone who's always searching for the perfect bottle of bitters, or just the right type of cinnamon, this book will soon become a treasured favorite of theirs.
The Complete Nose to Tail combines Fergus Henderson's seminal The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating with its sequel, Beyond Nose to Tail. Don't let the name mislead you: It does shine a light on offal, but its primary focus is Henderson's unfussy, straightforward cooking, the most famous example of which is his signature dish of roasted bone marrow and parsley salad. While that dish may have spawned a thousand imitators, both here and across the Atlantic, cooks the world over would do well to crib from some of the other recipes in the book. The recipe for duck legs with carrots alone makes it worth the price, and "trotter gear"—chicken stock fortified with wobbly bits of pigs' feet—is a pantry staple that everyone needs in their life.
What we find really great about both books in this series is their episodic, casual nature. Have a few spare minutes? Just flip to a page and find out what bones contribute to a good stock (collagen, baby!), or what freezer burn actually is (and find out that airtight plastic wrap isn't actually so airtight after all).
The books are set up in a question-and-answer format that really appeals to us. Best of all, these are questions that people really ask. "Does blowing on hot food cool it?" "When I cook with wine or beer, does all the alcohol burn off, or does some remain?" "I know that a calorie is a unit of heat, but why does eating heat make me fat? What if I only ate cold foods?" And so on. Each question is answered in a manner that's personable and relatable, but also authoritative.
To those who are already devotees of Deborah Madison's classic volumes on vegetarian cooking, parts of her new book, In My Kitchen, will seem familiar. The recipes published here, as Madison explains in the introduction, have all made their way into her regular routine, and they include tweaked and tinkered-with versions of dishes that have appeared in past books. And yet nothing in this cookbook seems repetitive or dated. In step with vegetarian food generally, Madison's cooking has evolved over the years, becoming lighter, brighter, and often simpler. "We change as our culture changes," she writes, "and I found I have been cooking in a more straightforward, less complicated fashion."
Shizuo Tsuji's masterwork on Japanese cooking is as useful today as it was when it was first published more than two decades ago. He takes you through essential equipment, cooking techniques, ingredients, recipes, and the philosophy that underlies it all. Reading this book doesn't just help you learn to cook Japanese food, it helps you to understand and appreciate it far more, too.
Michael Solomonov's Israeli cookbook has changed the way we cook. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone worth the price of admission. We've loved the Yemenite beef soup (and the accompanying hot sauce), his wide focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, and a host of homemade condiments that will elevate almost any meal, even if you don't follow full recipes from the book.
Despite its fast pace, self-deprecating style of humor, and easy readability, there's an insane amount of usable information packed into every paragraph of The Man Who Ate Everything, and what's more, you find yourself actually remembering the stuff. Not everything he writes about is immediately useful in the kitchen, but you are guaranteed to be successful at cocktail parties and Jeopardy! tournaments alike.
In this book, Peterson not only explains the most important cooking methods for various kinds of fish and shellfish, but also provides an abundance of recipes to try them out, along with very useful step-by-step color photographs of how to prep, clean, and fillet just about anything you can imagine, including eel.
This hefty volume ranges from regional Mexican cooking down through the complex cuisine of Peru, over to Argentina's famed grilling tradition, and much, much more. If you want to understand how an empanada or arepa differs from one country to the next, this is the book to grab.
What's important to new cooks? Making dishes that compound in flavor as they cook, require minimal effort, and little in the way of special equipment. That means braising, and All About Braising is one of the best treatments on the subject. Author Molly Stevens breaks down every stage of the braising process for cooks of all skill levels—taking out the mystery of what's going on under the lid. We think that's one of the best ways to learn: master a technique rather than cook from a catch-all encyclopedia. From pages of notes on braising vessels to detailed breakdowns of how it all comes together, she takes delicious-yet-intimidating-sounding recipes like sausages and plums with red wine and makes you shout, yeah, I can do this! Oh, and the vegetable recipes are some of the best.
If you know someone who has a taste for a well-made cocktail, but lives far from the heart of the Brooklyn drinking scene, this book is the perfect gift. It features 300 innovative and classic drink recipes from the best bars of the borough; every cocktail we've tried from it so far has been killer. The drinks Carey Jones has selected aren't dumbed down at all, but, for the most part, you're not looking at mile-long ingredient lists, either.
Vegetarian cookbooks are easy to come by these days. Some are subtly so—between all of the recipes highlighting kale, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower, it's hard to fit in the meat—while others, like Sarah Copeland's recently released cookbook, Feast, embrace the title and its implied wholesomeness. But Feast is far from a dour health food cookbook. Meals are abundant and colorful—they just happen to lack meat.
Madhur Jaffrey has become one of the foremost authorities on Indian cooking since she published An Invitation to Indian Cooking in 1973. It and her subsequent books helped introduce American cooks to a cuisine that, at the time, was hardly known here at all.
On Vegetables, a new book that's generated a lot of buzz among chefs, is organized alphabetically by ingredient, although recipes for "larder" items, like dressings, sauces, pickles, breads, and garnishes, are separated into an appendix. The author, California chef Jeremy Fox, has a reverence for vegetables, leading him to similarly include some recipes so simple they barely warrant the name—like broccoli di cicco dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic and served with burrata.
In this book, Meathead Goldwyn, the founder of AmazingRibs.com, distills decades of research on the art and science of barbecue and grilling into a single volume that shows not just the best ways to take food to live fire, but why the techniques work. Far more than a recipe book alone (though there are tons of bulletproof recipes), this text will teach your favorite barbecue lover the hard-tested fundamentals of outdoor cooking, giving them the confidence to cook anything, even without a recipe. The myth-busting and equipment tips alone were enough to get us hooked.
For anyone new to vegetarianism, or even just new to cooking in general, the vegetarian volume of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything series should be considered essential. If what you want most is a cookbook that will teach you how to cook, this is it: Bittman excels at laying out the basics and showing you how to riff on them, becoming a self-sufficient cook in the process.
If her first two books are any indication, Nancy Singleton Hachisu is poised to become the Julia Child of traditional Japanese home cooking. In her second book, she tackles the deeply fascinating world of Japanese preserving. From easy pickles made by packing foods in miso (kabocha squash! eggs! apple pears!) to homemade miso, salt-rubbed vegetables, and air-dried fish, this should be the next frontier in all your home preservation undertakings.
Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef is not one of those inflated coffee-table chef books. Instead it helps you think of cooking in broad stroke techniques: Roasting. Braising. Blanching. Stock-making. Sauces. Sure, you'll make dinner by following a recipe, but, as Colicchio tells us, cooking isn't about learning to follow recipes to the letter, just like real art isn't created by following a paint-by-numbers coloring book. Get bogged down in the minutiae of a recipe, and you lose sight of what really matters: the food that results.
This book is, and possibly always will be, the go-to English-language source on regional Italian cooking, and for good reason: Hazan was deeply knowledgable, exacting, and opinionated, as all good Italian cooks should be.
In this book, the writer, a food critic turned stay-at-home dad and a serious lover of dad jokes and dry humor, talks about his experiences raising his young daughter Iris, and how he dealt with her ever-changing tastes in food. The book is an easy, fun, and hilarious read, even for folks who don't have children.
Another encyclopedic essential for the vegetarian kitchen, Deborah Madison's The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is one of the most beloved vegetable cookbooks out there. It's thorough and approachable, combining coverage of the fundamentals with a reverence for produce that feels distinctly Northern Californian. Madison has lived in Santa Fe for a long time now, but she got her start cooking in and around San Francisco, including at Chez Panisse, and it shows. This is not a new book—the original Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone came out in 1997; this update was published in 2014—but that California sensibility has given it an enduring vitality that some other older vegetarian cookbooks lack. Like the newer generation of vegetable-forward chefs, Madison champions placing fresh, local ingredients at the center of the plate.
No pasta machine? No problem. This book is devoted to the art of handcrafted Italian dumplings, from yeasty, spindle-shaped cecamariti to classic gnocchi to golden-brown parallelograms of deep-fried crescentine. If the adage "practice makes perfect" fills you with excitement rather than dread, this is the kind of book that will make you utterly determined to prevail.
While you certainly can make dumplings on your own, it's always better (and more fun) with company. Use this amazing compendium of dumpling recipes to throw a good old-fashioned dumpling party.
Who should read this book? Folks who are in the Venn diagram intersection of "loves cooking," "loves survival horror," and "loves rockumentaries."
Parsons's book doesn't try to be everything to everyone, and it doesn't pretend to be an encyclopedia of food science. Instead, it's a well-curated package of only the most useful and interesting scientific tidbits, with a straightforward, "just the facts, ma'am" approach. Each of the six chapters is about a single basic concept of food science: how frying works, how vegetables ripen, how beans and pasta soften, how meat reacts to heat, how eggs are the most useful culinary tool on the planet, and how fat, flour, and water come together to form pastries and cookies.
Tackling all the food in China is no easy task, which is why we tend to gravitate more quickly to works that keep a more limited focus on specific regions and cooking styles. Still, a single book that provides a good overview is still extremely helpful when trying to get one's bearings. This book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo does a laudable job at that, starting you out in the market with an introduction to shopping and ingredients, and then proceeding into the kitchen to cover basic techniques and classic recipes.
For decades, Spain stood in the gastronomic shadows of France and Italy, not receiving nearly enough attention for its own amazing ways with food. Then the country's restaurant scene exploded with chefs like Ferran Adrià, and suddenly the rest of the food world was racing to catch up. To understand those chefs requires understanding the traditional Spanish foods that formed the basis upon which they experimented so wildly, and Penelope Casas's book is one of the best starting points to do so. Flip through its pages, and it won't take long to see that Spain has always deserved a more prominent place in the the eyes of the hungry world.
Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. But in this book, Serious Eater Denise D'silva Sankhé breaks Indian cooking down into simple techniques that any home cook can master to produce amazingly flavorful dishes with minimal effort. Over the course of more than 100 recipes, Denise introduces us to simple cooking from every region of India, focusing on home-style dishes that move well beyond the world of curries. We're also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.
Larousse is the serious food encyclopedia for the serious cook. Its focus is mostly on French preparations, though more recent editions have attempted to remedy that with some more international entries. Arranged alphabetically, Larousse offers up historical context, recipes and cooking instruction, and definitions galore.
After a year of more to protest than what feels like ever, Julia Turshen compiled her favorite meals to feed a hungry crowd coming back from a long day of resisting. Whether you're hosting fellow organizers after a march or feeding friends as a form of emotional support in trying times, these large-format recipes satisfy.
Laurie Colwin is the best friend you never knew you had. Her tales of cooking, both successfully and disastrously, are charming, honest, and hilarious. While the book reads like a memoir (that you won't be able to put down), its recipes are accessible and sound so delicious that you'll want to make them right away. That is, after you've finished the book.
Fuchsia is a scholar of the highest order, and her recipes are packed with interesting cultural and historical lessons and observations. She's also a technician, which means that you're going to be getting a lesson in the 23 distinct flavors of Sichuan cuisine (no, it's not all ma and la), as well as the 56 (56!) different cooking methods employed by Sichuan chefs. On top of that, her recipes truly work.
The food you'll make out of this book is undeniably healthy. It's full of vegetables, whole grains, pickles, miso and other fermented foods, and lean protein. Much of it is also the kind of food that works equally well served hot, at room temperature, or straight out of the fridge the next day. It's convenient when you're cooking out of a book primarily for flavor, but health and easy-to-use leftovers tag along for the ride as well.
Another master of nut cheese is Bryant Terry. His brilliant new cookbook, Afro-Vegan, is a love letter to the food of the African diaspora. In it, he remixes the traditional dishes of his ancestors by replacing animal products with fresh, flavorful produce. There are no apologies or tricks to cover up the flavor of the substitutions; if there's cashew cream in a dish, Terry highlights its silky nuttiness instead of hiding it behind a few tablespoons of maple syrup. But the best part of Afro-Vegan has nothing to do with its dietary requirements. Each recipe strikes a balance between tradition and creativity, encouraging us to always put ginger in our collards or Creole blackening seasoning on our cauliflower.
Having The Cocktail Chronicles at your side is like having a friend who always knows a good drink recipe for whatever you've got on hand. It doesn't talk your ear off or suggest something with a dozen ingredients. Instead, it shares classics, recent spins on classics, and drinks you've never heard of but can easily mix up and enjoy, and the introductions are never preachy or boring.
What makes it worth reading? Turns out that the usefulness is hidden in its prose. It's Hugh's geeky but down-to-earth fascination with raising and foraging your own food that will either fascinate or bore you. Each of the four chapters—Garden, Livestock, Fish, and Hedgerow—starts with a lengthy study of not just how to grow and harvest vegetables, livestock, seafood, and wild plants, but also what has the best flavor when, and the environmental impacts of the various choices you can make.
One of the best cookbook gateways into Middle Eastern cuisine—an obsessive and personalized exploration of the many cultures and traditions that make up Jerusalem's culinary world. What will you find here? A recipe for the best hummus of your life, for starters; messy-beautiful dips and salads; and the delicately spiced soups, grains, and vegetables Yotam Ottolenghi has become famous for.
Eight-hundred recipes. Yes, you read that right. Really, it shouldn't be surprising, given that this definitive work by Claudia Roden encapsulates so much of the Middle East, a region with such diverse cooking styles that each one could inspire a thousand books. Persian food? Check. North African food? Check. Turkish cooking? Check. Everything else? Check, check, check.
Jacques Pépin has more than 20 cookbooks to his name, but this one might be the most universally useful to home cooks. Clear photos and descriptions walk newbies thought holding a knife properly, then using it to slice and dice an onion and debone a chicken. But there are also an endless number of little tricks, like why your salad greens should be bone dry before dressing them, that will up your kitchen IQ.
If we had to pick one person to cook for us forever, it might well be Yotam Ottolenghi. (Oh god, how we hope we're never in that position—cough, cough, wink, wink.) We think we could eat at his table for the rest of our life and never get bored. His previous three cookbooks (Ottolenghi, Jerusalem, and Plenty) inspired a global epidemic of fevered fandom. A follow-up to Plenty (which, with it's creative, largely Middle-Eastern bent on vegetarian cooking, was pretty much the best PR vegetables ever got), Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi expands his already bursting universe of plant-based cooking.
Cookbooks based on popular restaurant dishes are easy to notice. But the better ones speak to the time, skill, and equipment home cooks have. In Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking, Mario Batali and Mark Ladner have done that with recipes pulled from Otto, Batali's pizzeria and wine-focused West Village restaurant. Manageable dishes split into sections without protein-heavy mains keeps most of the focus on simplicity with vegetables and some smart technique like the par-cooked pizza crust on a griddle or cast iron skillet.
Insightful (and very well-written) memoir by the elder statesman of food and cooking in the United States. From his early memories of picking salad for his mother to his recollection of eating raw clams on a Connecticut pier, the book shows how food is not just a passion or a career; food, for Jacques Pépin, is life.
Unlike so many chef cookbooks, this one features simple, honest recipes for classic regional French dishes. No crazy flourishes or flights of fancy, just solid French country cooking from a master.
Dave Arnold (you might know of his bar, Booker and Dax in NYC) won't just accept the common assumptions about cocktail technique—his mission in this excellent book is to dig into the science of how the very best drinks are made. This is a must-read for inquisitive types who like to host cocktail hour at home.
Race relations, religion, the New South versus the Old: These are just a smattering of the heavy issues Rien Fertel writes about through the lens of—well—smoked meat, in this new book. And, while you might be thinking, "Oh, man, another book about barbecue?", this one stands out from the crowd thanks to Fertel's superb writing and storytelling skills. In a book that's part culinary history, part personal narrative, and part tale of an American road trip, Fertel travels throughout the South, documenting the men who have long stood behind the fires practicing the time-consuming pursuit of whole hog barbecue—the ones who have been keeping alive the embers of what once seemed like a dying art, and the ones who are inspiring a new generation of pitmasters today.
Orwell's accounts of working as a plongeur—a dishwasher—under an abusive chef in a bug-infested basement in Paris are a remarkable look at what restaurants were like in the early 20th century. It's Kitchen Confidential before Kitchen Confidential and, unlike that great work, contains very little in the way of BS. This book is short, easy to read, and packed with firsthand insight. Required reading for anyone who wants to know what being truly destitute means.
Ruhlman and Polcyn do a great job of demystifying one of the more abstruse cooking arts, and, while charcuterie may seem daunting, it can be gratifyingly easy. Start simple, with the pancetta, confit, rillettes, and duck prosciutto, and you'll find yourself with a mold-inoculated curing chamber in no time.
Peterson has long been the master of writing comprehensive works on major subjects. In Sauces, he breaks down sauce-making in all its intricacies, starting with stocks and leading you through the classics of French and Italian cuisines and beyond.
If you're looking for one definitive primer on pasta-making in its myriad forms, this is it: Superlative step-by-step photographs take the guesswork out of potentially intimidating fundamentals, like mixing and kneading dough, as well as more intricate tasks, like pleating teardrops of corn- and cheese-stuffed culurgiònes. Better yet, author Marc Vetri arms you with the tools and knowledge that allow for controlled, intelligent experimentation and exploration before sending you into the fray.
By the time you're done reading BraveTart, you'll not only know how to make Stella's favorite brownies (or Little Debbie's favorite Oatmeal Creme Pies), you'll have been sufficiently schooled in the underlying science and technique to be able to make your own favorite brownies, whether you like them fudgy or cakey (and, because of Stella's infectious infatuation with history, you'll note that the cake-fudge paradigm shift occurred sometime in 1929). Where Willy Wonka relied on magic to bring his creations to life, Stella relies on science, history, and fanatical testing and devotion to her craft. This is good news for us. You have to be born with magic, but science, history, and technique are lessons we can all learn.
Warning: Reading this book might lead to the purchase of some very expensive plane tickets. The Roads & Kingdoms crew will get you hungry for a journey to Japan, for onigiri basted with chicken fat, juicy one-bite gyoza, milky-white tonkotsu ramen broth, and briny sea urchin.
Mark Kurlansky's Cod is part history, part biography (fishy biography, that is), part ecological allegory, part cookbook, and all-around great storytelling. It opens with the tale of a waning fishing village in Newfoundland in 1992, at what Kurlansky refers to as "the wrong end of a 1,000 fishing spree." Over the next 200 pages or so, he tells the fascinating story of how a single fish shaped the course of history.
Plenty More highlights the versatility of vegetables with 120 inventive plant-based recipes. It takes a degree of commitment to cook through this book—many, though not all, of Ottolenghi's recipes require extra time spent sourcing unusual ingredients or toiling in the kitchen—but the reward is food that is enigmatic and downright dazzling. The ideal gift for anyone who thinks vegetables are boring, and for those who know they're not.
A staple of American kitchens for close to a century, Joy of Cooking continues to be a valued resource for all the basics, from pancakes and waffles to casseroles, stews, and roasts.
We don't know if there's a book about cooking that we've thought about more than this one by Tamar Adler, a former Chez Panisse cook who was once an editor at Harper's Magazine. It's about cooking simply, and enjoying the simple meals that naturally follow from thinking about your ingredients in cycles. We forget, sometimes, that the leftover stems from blanched broccoli are wonderful cooked with olive oil and piled on toast; that their cooking liquid could be the base of a soup; that the stems of greens like Swiss chard and kale make a lovely pesto. She reminds us that stale bread can make something delicious and that yesterday's bean broth could be the start of a pasta dish today. This book sends the valuable message that dinner doesn't always need to be a big deal.
This isn't just a chili cookbook. Author Robb Walsh digs deep into the beloved dish's ancestry, tracing threads through Mexico City, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Hungary, Greece, and the Canary Islands. Walsh is one of food writing's best storytellers, so the book is a satisfying read best enjoyed with a big bowl of chile con carne.
There are so many classics cookbooks out there but for a beginner James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Color step-by-step photos walk you through basics like roasting a chicken, prepping vegetables, making sauces to next level techniques like butchering a fish.
What is there to say that hasn't already been said? This is the original work that exposed countless Americans to classic French cooking, forever changing the course of this country's cuisine. Never mind if some of the recipes are a bit labyrinthine. You should own it. Both volumes. Period.
A New York Times best-seller! The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt, is his column by the same name on this very website, blown up to 900-plus pages (and seven-plus pounds) of concentrated culinary science. Gorgeous color photos, detailed how-tos, and elaborate explainers cover ingredients, technique, gear, and the secrets of the universe underneath it all. May include puns.
Elizabeth David On Vegetables will teach you how a bag of grocery store onions can be transformed into an unforgettable roasted side dish, and how some fresh shelled peas can yield the most vibrant soup you've ever tasted. Filled with recipes that are simple, straightforward, yet often revelatory, this book also features a few of David's best essays, as well as gorgeous photography.
Bayless's skills as a recipe writer are exemplary. As is true of any good recipe writer, his recipes are meticulously tested and designed with the constraints and knowledge of the home cook in mind. There are only a few photographs, interleaved on glossy inserts, but the printed pages of the book are sprinkled with clear illustrations that demonstrate unfamiliar techniques, such as how to tuck banana leaves around chicken for pollo pibil (the original pit barbecue from the Yucatán) or how to fillet whole fish for pescado a la veracruzana (poached fish topped with tomatoes, capers, and olives).
There are countless great books on American regional cooking, dozens of them on the South alone. But Lewis's tribute to Southern cooking is particularly important because it goes beyond just great recipes to tell her story of growing up in Virginia in a farming community founded by freed slaves.
Jessie Kanelos Weiner's vivid and imaginative watercolors have enhanced several of our stories. Her book Edible Paradise: An Adult Coloring Book of Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables, is a great therapeutic outlet. For those who enjoy it, coloring can leave you with a profound sense of zen-like relaxation and accomplishment. Weiner's fanciful landscapes are organized by season; they're a riot of vegetation, edible plant life, and tantalizing market scenes. They'll encourage you to paint (or pencil) the town red—in any colors you like.
If you're tired of pancakes that fall flat, if you're sick of roast chicken that looks lovely on the outside but is dry and stringy inside, if you get paralyzed by choosing between the dozens of banana bread recipes a quick Google search turns up, if you've never made a meatloaf in your life and want to make sure it comes out right the very first time, The New Best Recipe is an invaluable resource that you'll turn to again and again.
Rather than focusing on the cuisine of a specific country, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid trace the connections between flavors and cultures along the Mekong river. The book starts in Southern China and follows their travels through Burma, into Laos and Thailand, and finally down into Vietnam. With gorgeous photography and compelling essays, Alford and Duguid capture a version of Southeast Asia that is at once peaceful, dynamic, and captivating. Never has a book caused us to want to book a plane ticket so quickly, though this urge was matched by an even stronger desire to jump into the kitchen.
This remarkable book, from Martin and Rebecca Cate of San Francisco's Smuggler's Cove, traces the birth and evolution of exotic drinks and tiki bars—bars that embodied an American escapist fantasy. A lively exploration of our country's drinking history (and the current tiki scene), it's essential reading for rum lovers, offering the best categorization we've encountered of the head-spinningly diverse spirit. The mai tai recipe is great, too.
If you love food in any capacity, The Art of Eating is essential. A collection of five of M.F.K. Fisher's works (including Consider the Oyster and The Gastronomical Me), this book is at once a resource for good cooking, an enthralling love story, and an insightful guide to the intersection of food and culture. PS: It's too big for most stockings.
Manhattan chef Jody Williams's Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food is as charming and inviting as the restaurant that inspired it. This is a book to get greasy and damp as you cook through its pages, and it's a nightstand read, dreamy and warm, to flip through as you wind down. Channeling a traditional French bistro, with a bit of Italy and a touch of New York thrown in, the recipes are classics, both inspirational and totally doable. Some are so simple that they hardly count as recipes at all—they're more like suggestions for how to better your day with a plate of food, from breakfast through dessert after a lingering, late-night supper. Perfect for your impossibly, effortlessly stylish friend.