Looking for a great last-minute gift? You can’t go wrong with a cookbook.
With bookstore shelves teeming with new titles, selecting the perfect match for the at-home cook on your list can be daunting. So take recommendations from our panel of local chefs, who’ve shared their favorite new releases along with a recipe they love from each.
Whether you’re buying for a pastry buff, vegetarian or a well-traveled restaurant connoisseur, there’s a book on the list for every food lover on yours.
‘Eating With the Chefs’
By Per-Anders Jorgensen
Charles Youts, executive chef at The Classic at Roanoke, sees parallels from his tiny Roanoke-based kitchen to some of the kitchens featured in veteran Swedish photographer Per-Anders Jorgensen’s latest book, Eating With the Chefs: Family Meals From the World’s Most Creative Restaurants. With more than 200 previously unpublished photographs, the hefty tome shares stories and recipes behind the staff meals at prestigious eateries around the world, from Attica in Australia to The French Laundry in California.
“A restaurant is basically one big family-oriented group,” Youts says. “This book is geared toward what goes on before the shift starts and after the shift is over.”
Youts recommends the book for foodies who are curious about the behind-the-scenes dynamics of the restaurant business. There are more than 50 recipes from 18 venues on the book’s matte-finished pages, including one called After the Hunt from Le Chateaubriand in Paris that’s skillfully pulled together from service leftovers.
‘Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes’
By Dominique Ansel (Simon & Schuster, $35)
Before New York City baker Dominique Ansel grabbed international attention for his croissant-doughnut hybrid trademarked as the Cronut, Sarah Hooton was already one of his biggest fans.
“I competed against him in the U.S. Pastry Competition. His stuff was just beautiful,” says the cooking school manager of Central Market Fort Worth. “I went to his bakery about a month before he launched the Cronut. Then he just totally blew up.”
A make-at-home version of the Cronut is shared in Ansel’s cookbook debut, along with other impressive creations like his magic soufflé and frozen s’mores.
“The Cronut thing is really cool and popular, but he hasn’t sold out with it,” Hooton says. “Most chefs would have sold it to Starbucks for millions of dollars or something. Not only he did not do that, he kept coming up with cool things. I just think he’s extremely creative, fun and whimsical. And the pictures are gorgeous.”
‘The Vegetarian Flavor Bible’
By Karen Page (Little, Brown and Company, $40)
Chandra Riccetti says that for 20 years she watched her vegetarian mother receive not much more than plates of steamed vegetables when dining out.
“I thought, ‘No, you really can do better than that,’” says the excutive chef and owner of The Bastion Restaurant. “Everybody seems to think vegetarian food is so boring, and it really isn’t.”
That’s why she loves The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by James Beard Award-winning author Karen Page for anyone even remotely interested in preparing more vegetarian dishes at home. Formatted like a culinary dictionary with A-to-Z listings of hundreds of ingredients, the book offers flavor profiles, possible substitutes, cooking tips and techniques, and a color-coded system to aid in the selection of nutritionally dense foods.
“It reads as if you were walking into a chef’s head,” says Riccetti, who often uses chia seeds, a protein-packed ingredient, to make a tapiocalike pudding for her young son. “It’s the most comprehensive vegetarian cookbook that has been published to date, albeit in a very untraditional format.”
‘French Comfort Food’
By Hillary Davis (Gibbs Smith, $30)
Food lovers who take pleasure in stick-to-your-ribs meals like creamy veal stew, potato-bacon casserole and burgundy beef fondue will enjoy French Comfort Food by food journalist and cooking instructor Hillary Davis.
“This book embraces everything I enjoy about cooking and represents my style: rustic with French classical techniques,” says Culinary School of Fort Worth faculty chef instructor Nellda Gallagher, whose tenured culinary career includes work in recipe research and development. “I know the importance of printing accurate measurements and instructions, and this book is spot-on with both of those things.”
Her favorite dish from the easy-to-follow hardback is the classic Croque-Madame.
“It is an easy, open-face sandwich that is perfect for a quick dinner or late weekend breakfast,” Gallagher says. “In our house, the big joke is when something is good, it can be great if you just put an egg on it. It doesn’t hurt to have some very porous, day-old French bread and some nice country ham on hand.”
By Sean Brock (Artisan, $40)
Charleston chef Sean Brock’s first cookbook, Heritage, was on more than one of our chefs’ lists of favorites, but Marcus Paslay, executive chef and owner of Clay Pigeon Food and Drink, says he can closely relate to many of Brock’s techniques; specifically, preservation methods like pickling and smoking.
“It’s got a good mix of easy recipes and then some more involved recipes. It’s got a little something for everybody,” Paslay says of the vivid volume. “He also does really great work with reviving old heirloom and heritage ingredients that aren’t seen much anymore.”
The book is organized by place with chapters dedicated to the garden, the creek and the sea, and the public house, a term used to describe a drinking establishment where food is served. (The book offers nine Southern-inspired cocktail recipes, too.) Paslay recommends the book for avid home cooks looking to take their cuisine to cheflike status.
More great books for cooks
Here are more of this year’s titles for every food-and-drink lover on your list.
For the complex palate
Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, With Recipes
By Jennifer McLagan (Ten Speed Press, $30)
In a society more likely to reach for something salty or sweet, Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, With Recipes will be appreciated by those who value complexity in cuisine. Chapters are broken out in sections offering “liquid bitter,” “surprisingly bitter,” “dark, forbidden, and very bitter” and more. Chef and writer Jennifer McLagen points out that popular foods and drinks like coffee, IPA beer, dark chocolate, high-quality olive oil and arugula all share bitter qualities. “Bitter is finally getting its due,” she writes while sharing an exploration of taste and flavor along with intriguing recipes such as White Asparagus with Blood Orange Sauce and Tobacco Panna Cotta.
For the artisan home cook
By Laurence and Gilles Laurendon, Catherine Quevremont and Cathy Ytak (Lark Crafts, $22.95)
As diners and home cooks become more concerned about what’s in their food, homesteading, or cultivating scratch-made techniques in food preparation, is on the rise, as are scratch-kitchen restaurants. From Scratch: An Introduction to French Breads, Cheeses, Preserves, Pickles, Charcuterie, Condiments, Yogurts, Sweets and More provides easy recipes with beautiful photography to make French-style, homemade food preparation simple. Processed foods will be a thing of the past as the book will inspire readers to make their own pasta, cereal bars, nut milks and even chips and sausages.
For the outdoorsman
The Wild Chef
By Jonathan Miles and the editors of Field & Stream (Weldon Owen, $32.50)
For hunters, fishermen and home cooks, The Wild Chef (published in late 2013) is a compilation of Jonathan Miles’ popular “Wild Chef” columns in Field & Stream. Readers will learn how to butcher and clean their catch, forage wild sides and prepare impressive wild game and fish dinners to feed a crowd. Chapters are listed by the four seasons and recipes include everything from Cider-Braised Rabbit to Elk and Toasted Chile Stew. Guest chefs contribute recipes to the book, too, including Grilled Venison Backstrap with Deer Rub from Fort Worth chef Tim Love.
For the country music fan
Southern Living Country Music’s Greatest Eats
By Tanner Latham (Oxmoor House, $24.95)
Country music fans (they’re a loyal breed) will love Country Music’s Greatest Eats, an entertaining collection of favorite recipes from stars like Miranda Lambert, Alan Jackson, Wynonna Judd and the guys of Florida Georgia Line. The book is a collaboration between Southern Living and CMT and features short stories about memorable meals from more than 30 artists along with dishes such as Hank Williams Jr.’s Cajun Rice Casserole and Casey James’ Barbecue Salmon. And with AT&T Stadium hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards in April, the book would make a great pairing with an IOU for tickets. (Go to www.acmcountry.com for information.)
For the whisky drinker
The World Atlas of Whisky, 2nd Edition
By Dave Broom (Octopus Books, $40)
Considered the most up-to-date, in-depth illustration on the subject of whisky, The World Atlas of Whisky, 2nd Edition by award-winning spirits communicator Dave Broom covers distilleries around the world, from Scandinavia and Scotland to Japan and even Texas. (Firestone & Robertson gets a shout-out on a U.S. craft distillery map.) The coffee table-worthy tome journeys through whisky history, the distilling process, vocabulary and tasting notes and offers 28 detailed maps. Package with a favorite bottle and mark the whisky drinker off your list.
For the vegetarian or heart-healthy cook
Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi
By Yotam Ottolenghi (Ten Speed Press, $35)
Championing vegetables, grains and legumes in his luxurious, meatless cookbook, London restaurateur Yotom Ottolenghi follows up his New York Times bestselling book Plenty with Plenty More. There are more than 150 vegetable-centric dishes created using a wide range of culinary techniques including grilling, baking, braising, tossing and frying. Standout, inventive dishes include Pea and Mint Croquettes, and Ricotta Fritters with Orange and Honey.
For the well-traveled diner or restaurant chef
A New Napa Cuisine
By Christopher Kostow (Ten Speed Press, $50)
Authored by The Restaurant at Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow, a philosophy major with no formal culinary training, A New Napa Cuisine follows Kostow’s evolution from line cook to highly acclaimed chef. Throughout the title’s matte-finished pages, Kostow shares 100 artfully constructed dishes along with stories of Napa Valley’s artisans, growers and wild ingredients that have inspired his food. The book is an eclectic collection of visually stunning dish presentations paired with philosophical thoughts from Kostow about creating them.
After the Hunt
For the pork:
4 1/2 pounds pork shoulder roast
5 potatoes, large, peeled and cut into wedges
5 turnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 red onions, cut into wedges
4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
For the salad:
1 small romaine or cos lettuce
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Score the skin of the pork for crackling, then sprinkle with salt. Place in a roasting pan skin side up. Roast for 30 minutes, then turn down the heat to 250 degrees and cook for the roasting time calculated.
3. One hour before the meat is expected to be done, add the vegetables and oregano to the roasting pan. Sprinkle over the sherry vinegar and dot with the butter.
4. Let the roast rest for 45 minutes before carving.
5. In the meantime, make the salad. Wash, dry, and chop the lettuce.
6. Make a dressing with the olive oil, lemon, salt, and black pepper and pour over the salad.
7. Serve the pork with the vegetables and salad.
— from Eating With the Chefs by Per-Anders Jorgensen
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 whole eggs (large), at room temperature
Grated lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
Grated orange zest from 1/2 orange
Nonstick cooking spray, as needed
Confectioners’ sugar (for serving), as needed
1. Melt the butter, brown sugar and honey in a medium pot over low heat. Stir gently with a heatproof spatula to ensure that nothing burns. Keep the mixture warm over very low heat, or reheat if necessary.
2. Combine the granulated sugar, salt, flour and baking powder in a large bowl and mix well with a whisk. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs one by one, whisking to incorporate each before adding the next.
3. When the eggs are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth, slowly whisk in the butter mixture. Whisk in the lemon and orange zests. The batter will still be runny and similar in consistency to cake batter. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to rest.
The day of:
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees for conventional or 350 degrees convection.
2. Using a rubber spatula, place 2 large scoops of batter in a piping bag so that it is one-third full. Push the batter down toward the tip of the bag.
3. Cut an opening about 1/2 inch straight across the tip of the bag.
4. Hold the nonstick cooking spray about 4 inches away from a nonstick mini madeleine pan and spray evenly in all the cavities.
5. Holding the piping bag at a 90-degree angle about 1/2 inch above the pan, pipe the madeleine batter into the cavities so that it fills each about three-quarters of the way to the top.
6. Bake the madeleines for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on the center rack. When you see the batter puff up in the center, rotate the pan 180 degrees. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, until the sides of the madeleines are golden blond and the center has set.
7. Unmold immediately. Bang the corner or sides of the madeleine pan against your work surface so that the fresh madeleines drop out.
— from Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes
Toasted Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Fried Egg (Croque-Madame)
Makes 4 sandwiches
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 dashes ground nutmeg
8 slices white sandwich bread
4 thin slices ham
3 cups grated Gruyère cheese, divided
4 large eggs, room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour, and whisk well. Slowly whisk in milk and cook until thickened. Whisk in mustard and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. Lightly toast the bread in the toaster. Place 4 slices on the baking sheet. Spread a little sauce on the slices and top with a piece of ham. Place 1/2 cup cheese on each slice of ham then top with the remaining slices of bread.
4. Evenly divide the rest of the sauce over the top of the sandwiches, add the remaining cheese and bake for 5 minutes. While the sandwiches are baking, fry the eggs in the skillet.
5. Turn off the oven and preheat the broiler. Run the sandwiches under the broiler until they are bubbly and slightly browned. Top each with a fried egg and serve hot. Side the sandwiches with a simple green salad for a light lunch or dinner. Optional additions to bechamel sauce: finely chopped onion, fresh tarragon, or parsley.
— from French Comfort Food by Hillary Davis
Roasted Cauliflower with Meyer Lemon and Brown Butter, Watercress and Pink Peppercorns
1 large head cauliflower with a 1-inch stem (about 2 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup canola oil
About 3 cups Vegetable Stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground white pepper
Brown Butter Sauce
8 ounces goat butter (if not available, substitute an Irish butter or Plugrá)
Juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 Pickled Ramps, chopped (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch watercress, washed, patted dry, and tough stems removed, for garnish
Grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Remove the green leaves from the cauliflower but leave the stem intact. Press a small ring mold or round cookie cutter into the bottom of the stem so that the head of cauliflower will stand upright. Generously sprinkle the cauliflower with salt. Heat the butter and oil in a large, deep ovenproof skillet over medium heat and stand the cauliflower up in the skillet. Cook, occasionally spooning the hot butter and oil mixture over the cauliflower, for about 20 minutes, or until the outside of the cauliflower is golden brown.
3. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the cauliflower for about 10 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door to cool it down.
4. Meanwhile, for the Brown Butter Sauce: Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until it is golden brown and starts to smell slightly nutty, about 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the lemon juice, and stir to emulsify.
5. Return the skillet to the heat and reduce the heat to low. Add the turmeric, ramps and parsley and cook for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Keep the sauce warm at the back of the stove; if necessary, reheat gently over low heat before serving.
6. Grease a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the cauliflower from the ring mold. Remove the stem from the cauliflower and peel away the outside of it, reserving the peel, then slice the stem into the thinnest circles possible; set aside. Cut the cauliflower crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Reserve the 6 center slices for serving. Chop the remaining slices and any scraps and reserve. Lay the cauliflower slices on the prepared baking sheet and place it in the still-warm oven (with the door closed) while you finish the dish.
7. Put the peelings from the stem and the reserved scraps in a small saucepan, add enough vegetable stock to cover and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high to a very smooth puree, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper.
8. To complete: Make a pool of cauliflower puree in the center of each of six warm plates. Place a cauliflower slice on top of the puree on each plate and top with a small mound of watercress. Garnish with the slices of stem. Spoon the sauce on the cauliflower and sprinkle with the lemon zest and pink peppercorns.
Makes 3 quarts
2 1/2 pounds ramps, cleaned and leaves and hairy root ends removed
1/4 cup 1/2-inch-thick slices jalapeño peppers, seeds included
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups rice wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 1/2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 green cardamom pod, cracked
1 fresh bay leaf
1. Sterilize three quart canning jars, along with the rings and lids. Here’s how: Fill a large canning pot with a rack three-quarters full of water. Place canning jars and rings in the pot and place it on the stove over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, set a timer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the lids in a saucepan of hot water to 180 degrees. Never boil the lids, because the sealant material may get damaged and won’t produce a safe seal. Once the jars and rings have boiled for 5 minutes and the water in the pan of lids has reached 180 degrees, remove the pot and pan from the stove and cover them. Have a clean kitchen towel ready. When you are ready to fill the jars, using canning tongs, remove them from the pot and invert them onto the kitchen towel. Leave them there for 1 minute before you turn them over and fill them. You want the jars to be hot when you put the food into them. Use tongs to remove the lids and rings and shake off any water before putting them on the jars.
2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large stainless-steel pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat.
3. Divide the ramp mixture among the canning jars. Wipe the rims and threads clean. Place the lids and rings on the jars and tighten the rings. Cool the jars on a clean dish towel or a rack, not directly on the countertop.
4. Refrigerate for 1 week before eating to allow the ramps to cure. Unopened, the ramps will keep for up to 4 months in the refrigerator. Once opened, they will keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
— from Heritage by Sean Brock
Flavor: notes of nuts and/or poppy seeds, with the texture of tapioca pearls (when soaked)
Nutritional profile: 53 percent fat/36 percent carbs/11 percent protein
Calories: 140 per 1-ounce serving
Protein: 4 grams
Tips: Sprinkle ground chia seeds over breakfast cereals. Use to thicken soups, as the seeds become gelatinous in liquids.
Stir 1/2 cup chia seeds into 2/3 cup water, and then refrigerate for 10 minutes to achieve a puddinglike consistency.
Factoid: Chia seeds can hold 12 times their weight in water.
Botanical relatives: mint, sage, apples
— from The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page