Top 10 Cookbook GiftsWhether they're destined for the coffee table or the kitchen counter, there's no such thing as too many cookbooks. Here are ten cookbooks that would make perfect gifts for the foodie in your life — even if that happens to be you.
Anthony Bourdain called Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook "the ultimate in food porn." It's an apt description for this book of photographs and recipes from Keller's revered Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry — not only because the food is so stunning, but also because it's completely unattainable. Calling it a "cookbook" is both understatement and irony: understatement because it might be the most gorgeous cookbook ever published; and irony because most home cooks don't have a prayer of actually cooking anything in it. But that's not the point. It's really all about gazing. And dreaming.
Top Chef: The Cookbook presents 100 dishes prepared for the myriad quickfire and elimination challenges during the popular and endlessly entertaining show's first three seasons. And speaking of Bourdain, the book also highlights some of his most withering comments in a special "Insult-O-Meter" section. Example: "It was horrifying, unimaginable that that could be served in any customer situation. Prison, you couldn’t serve it. It was wretched." (Incidentally, I should mention that Marcel totally should've won Season Two of Top Chef. He was robbed, man.)
The sixth volume in Ina Garten's bestselling "Barefoot Contessa" franchise, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics emphasizes cooking with ingredients that are available at the typical grocery store. And let's face it, sooner or later there was bound to be some big-time backlash against the gourmet industrial complex as home cooks grew weary of scouring specialty food stores for the Andorran Yak Glaze they needed to make the salad of Roasted Chilean Glacier Figs they saw on the Food Network. If this "back to basics" thing is really a trend, it's definitely a welcome one.
Brought to you by the producers of the PBS cooking show "America's Test Kitchen" and publishers of the bimonthly cooking magazine Cook's Illustrated, The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook is a ring-bound collection of 1,200 recipes which the authors promise "will work in your home kitchen almost all the time." Provided you follow the instructions, of course. But the authors make it easy to do just that as they, too, avoid using hard-to-find and otherwise obscure ingredients. Says editor Christopher Kimball, "If you can't find it at the supermarket, we won't call for it."
The revised, 10th Anniversary edition of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything features 2,000 recipes and variations, including more than 1,400 that didn't appear in the original edition. The book also offers an array of helpful tips, like how to use a pastry bag, debone a chicken or thicken a sauce, as well as convenient charts and tables on herbs, spices, flours and more. It's a great foodie reference book to have around.
Alinea presents more than 100 dishes from Grant Achatz's Chicago restaurant of the same name, which is consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in the United States. A former sous-chef at The French Laundry, Achatz won the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef Award for 2008. A nice feature of the book is that it provides a photo of every finished dish — something more cookbooks ought to do.
Chef and sustainable seafood advocate Rick Moonen's Fish Without a Doubt is more than just a cookbook. In addition to more than 250 recipes, the book provides a wealth of information on what kinds of seafood to eat and what to avoid, along with resources for readers who want to learn more. You'll also find how-tos on cleaning squid, prepping soft-shell crabs, shucking oysters and more. Moonen is serious about the peril facing the world's fish population, but his advice to home cooks on cooking fish and seafood is reassuring: "Be less afraid."
Spanish chef Ferran Adrià's renowned restaurant elBulli boasts some impressive numbers: Open just six months a year, it gets more than 2 million reservation requests, but can grant only 8,000 of them. For those not lucky enough to enjoy Adrià's legendary 30-course tasting menu in person, A Day at elBulli is the next best thing. The book chronicles a single day at elBulli as the staff prepare and serve the 30 dishes on the menu that day. At 600 pages, packed with 1,000 sumptuous photographs, A Day at elBulli is worthy coffee-table fodder.
In Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley with photographs by Tina Rudd, the reader is treated to a celebration of seasonal entertaining, cold-weather style. Generally speaking, winter food means comfort food, and Bramley warms and comforts us with dishes like Chocolate Beef Stew with Butternut Squash, Beet Fries with Blue Cheese Sauce, Onion Rösti and Cheese Fondue, to name just a few. Even better, since the cold months correspond with the traditional festive season, the recipes are designed with holiday parties in mind.
If you prefer not to wade through dozens of cookbooks in search of the very best recipes, Best of the Best Vol. 11 is the book for you. Every year the editors of Food & Wine magazine pick the 25 best cookbooks from among that year's crop, and then set about selecting their favorite recipes from each one. This year's edition features recipes from Bobby Flay, Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver, Giada De Laurentiis, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and many others. Also included are 20 heretofore unpublished recipes from the authors featured in the book.
All photos courtesy of Pricegrabber.
All photos courtesy of Pricegrabber.