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Your 10 Favorite Cookbooks


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Can anyone name their top 10 choice of cooking / recipe books?

If you can't name 10 that does not matter - jsut name however many you have.

My current must have is Rick Stein's Seafood but, so soon after Christmas expenditure, at £25 will have to go on the wish list.

It really is the business in terms of everything to do with seafood from  buying through preparation to cooking and beautifully illustrated so you cannot fail to know what is going on.

With this book one could become great!

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In our house we use 5 cookbooks far more than any others. They are;

Bistro Cooking - Patricia Well's

The Art of Mediteranean Cooking -Joyce Goldstein

The Square One Cookbook - Joyce Goldstein

Thrill of the Grill - Schlesinger & Willoughby

Vegetables in the French Style - Roger Verge

We use others regularly like Paula Wolfert's SW French, and Simple Cuisine by Patricia Wells and Joel Robuchon, or Maguey Le Coze's Le Bernadin cookbook. But not anywhere as often as the first  five I listed first.

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OK - these may not be the greatest cookbooks ever, but they're some of my favorite and most interesting:

"Eat This...It'll Make You Feel Better!" by Dom Deluise - really, it's great, I've made a lot of recipes from it!

"The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book" by Peg Bracken - I don't actually hate to cook, but this book is funny and has some really good basic recipes - great for a beginner. Another that is great for beginners is either Cooking for Idiots or Cooking for Dummies. These books have a lot of humor, but generally do get down to the basics of how to do a lot of things that, for example, a newly on their own single person might not know how to do.

"The Joy of Cooking" not the bright shiny new updated version - I've got one from 1964 that I got at a thrift store. I love looking up how things used to be done. The section on entertaining is quite funny. A lot of good basic recipes from which to build. It is interesting to see which ones don't work anymore because the ingredients have changed (I don't know why the pancake recipe doesn't work, but they're too thin, like crepes (it's not just that it needs more flour, I've tried that).

"The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum - My aunt just gave this to me (she thinning her huge collection), so I've yet to make anything from it, but great stories and pictures. I love the pistachio wedding cake.

Now for a really serious choice, "Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Really excellent. Jason and I cook a lot of asian food and this book has so many recipes that really work and taste like in a restaurant. I also love the travelogue of their journey through southeast asia with their kids.

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The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz

The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller



Essentials of Cooking by James Peterson

Jacque Pepin's Complete Techniques

Any one of Trotter's books except the dessert book

Professional Cooking, 5th edition by Wayne Gisslen (Cordon Bleu textbook)

Southwest the Beautiful, Cookbook

Any of Julia Child's books

I have several dozen other favourites out of 700 or so books. I've never tried a recipe from any of them but of course have applied the techniques.

Oh. Trotter's Gourmet Cooking for Dummies is quite a bit of fun.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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At the moment, my kitchen shelf is groaning with the weight of my cookbook collection. A few past favs have included How to Eat (much loved, food stained and dog-eared), Marcella Hazan's Italian Cooking, The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Bernanbaum, Rick Stein's Seafood, Madhur Jaffey's Introduction to Indian Cookery, Das Sreedharan's Keralan Fresh Flavours of India and Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food.

However, the hands-down winner has to be Sichuan Cookery by Fushcia Dunlop. In the foreword, it explains how Dunlop (then a Chinese Studies student from the UK) went to Sichuan University during her degree and ended up taking a few cooking courses at Sichuan's premier cooking school. When she came to the end of her degree, the cooking school was so impressed by her obvious love for the cuisine that they asked her to join the professional course, and in so doing allowed her to become the first foreigner ever to study there.

Basically, I've never found such a comprehensive book on Chinese regional cookery. Dunlop explains everything from cutting techniques (very, very, very important, and often overlooked in Western cookery books), ingredients and acceptable substitutes, cooking techniques and flavour/texture combinations. There's cold dishes, stir-fries, street food, dumplings, drinks and sweets. Nothing is 'softened' for the Western palette, although Dunlop gives instructions on how to do so. The recipes range from straightforward and seemingly familiar (Gung Pao Chicken and Mae Po Dofu make an appearance, although they really show up the pitiful versions available Western takeaways) to the undeniably exotic. Personally, I can't wait to make the "Fire-Exploded Kidney Flowers," if for no other reason but that they look great.  :-)

Apparently, there are only three definitive texts on Sichuan cookery in the world, and Dunlop's is the only one in English - now that's a recommendation!

Miss J

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Quote: from RPerlow on 8:53 am on Jan. 29, 2002

"The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book" by Peg Bracken

Agreed.  (And if you haven't read her other, non-cooking books, especially her collections, 'I Wouldn't Have Missed It For the World' and 'Window Over the Sink', do keep an eye out for them.)  But in the primer category, the best I ever came across is Craig Claiborne's 'Kitchen Primer'.  

"The Joy of Cooking" not the bright shiny new updated version - I've got one from 1964 that I got at a thrift store.

I have the same one!  Mine is horribly beaten up.  It lived under the driver's seat of my old 1967 Plymouth Valiant for several months (unbeknownst to me; I went through serious mourning when I thought it was lost forever).  When I found it, the back cover had disintegrated into mush and the index pages were all over the place.  To this day, the index is stapled together as a separate sub-document, and T through V are missing altogether.  Can I hit you up if I need something from that part?  Does yours still have those neat red grosgrain ribbons for marking your place?  Mine have faded to a washed-out pink.

You're right, it's a wonderful browser.  I especially love the quotes that she cunningly concealed here and there for the reader to stumble upon, i.e., "The lust of the goat is the bounty of God."  :)

Try her coffee ring filled with Rose's Lime Jelly sometime.

"The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum - My aunt just gave this to me (she thinning her huge collection), so I've yet to make anything from it, but great stories and pictures. I love the pistachio wedding cake.

Yes-yes-yes!  I even named my KitchenAid mixer, Rosie, in her honor.  (What.  Doesn't everybody name their appliances?)  And wonderfully explained technique.  (What can you expect from a woman who wrote her master's thesis on sifting?  I've always wondered how she did that.  I mean, beyond a certain point, what is there to *say* about it?)  I especially like that her technique section is someplace else, so you don't have to wade through it to prepare the recipe unless you want to.

Once you've done her Cordon Rose Cheesecake, you'll never go back.

As for the faves on my shelves ... I am woefully un-au courant.  In addition to Joy and the Cake Bible, I am fond of my Paul Prudhomme's 'Louisiana Kitchen', and Giuliano Bugialli's 'Bugialli on Pasta'.  I also love the twinset by Bert Greene: 'Grains Cookbook' and 'Greene on Grains'.  And a often-browsed-but-seldom-cooked-from 'Modern French Culinary Art' by Henri-Paul Pellaprat.  His Boeuf Bourgignon is THE bomb.  

Wish list:  The Marcella Hazan Italian book, Pepin's book on technique ... and I really really really really want Julia's 'The Way To Cook'.  


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It looks like top ten turned into top five, and since dinner will be ready soon, I'll go with five.  This will probably change tomorrow:

1. Cucina Simpatica

2. Hot Sour Salty Sweet

3. The Italian Country Table

4. Complete set of Cook's Illustrated (cheating, probably)

5. Serious Pig

These are the ones that come off the shelf more than any others.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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In no real order:

Anything by Elizabeth Laurd

French Provincial Cooking, Elizabeth David

The Cooking of Northern Italy, Anna del Conte

Catalan Cuisine (or is it cooking?), Colman Andrews

SW France, Paula Wolfert

The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May

Anything to do with pigs or fish written by Jane Grigson

Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden

Many, many others.

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Right now the only cookbook my wife uses is a three-ring binder with recipes she grabs off the Food Network site. All are written by Mario. It keeps us eating well when we're not eating out. It's also cheap. Other than that, it's the classic Julia.

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The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Yamuna Devi

Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition, Anna Maria Cornetto

English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David

Flatbreads and Flavors, Alford and Duguid

Celebrating Italy and The Italian Baker, Carol Field

Simple Cooking, Outlaw Cook and Serious Pig, John Thorne

World of Food, Paula Wolfert

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Some already mentioned:



The Cake Bible (especially the chocolate oblivion truffl torte & neo-classic buttercream)

Thrill of the Grill

Back to Square One, Kitchen Conversations

Serious Pig, Pot on the Fire                      


Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone/Madison

Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book

Maida Heatter’s dessert cookbooks (all of them!)

The Complete Meat Cookbook/Aidells & Kelly

Smoke & Spice/Jamisons

Simple French Food, Lulu’s Provencal Table/Olney

Simple to Spectacular/Jean-Georges (love the pork with citrus & caramel )

Today’s Gourmet I & II/Pepin - slim paperbacks, full of good/quick ideas

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  • 2 weeks later...

My main concern on cookbooks is just quality: Do the authors really know what

they are writing about? Is the information provided of high quality? Are

the descriptions careful and complete? Does the information have claimed

'cultural' authenticity? Are there some good broader lessons and principles

presented well there? Can I really learn some solid lessons there? If I cook from

the information provided, will the results actually be good?

So, if the book says to cook the mixture for five minutes to the softball stage,

and I cook for 75 minutes and am still 15 F short of the softball temperature, then

I question the quality of the information provided.

If the recipe says to make a beef stew of cubes of bottom round roast and does not

explain sufficient means for getting a good stew from bottom round roast, then I

question that the authors ever got good results from what they wrote.

It is easy to suspect that most of the recipes in cookbooks, the authors never

used and that nearly all cookbooks are sold based on the covers, pictures,

travelogues, issues of style, fads, or personalities and not on the quality.

Bluntly put, they are getting paid for the books, not for the food.

I have concluded that nearly all recipes are just invitations to waste time, money,

and effort and feed the bugs in the septic tank. Literally.

Unless there are some really strong reasons to believe otherwise, most

cookbooks fill much needed gaps on bookshelves and would be illuminating if ignited.

I would like a good cookbook for Chinese cooking, but so far I have not found one I

am willing to list. In particular I would like one that, just as a start, would be

very clear on how to duplicate what is in the many inexpensive US Chinese food

carryout restaurants -- have not found such a book. Somehow, Chinese cooking

'does not translate well' into the traditions of detailed documentation of Western Civilization.

The books I have found useful and give some significant trust to, essentially in order, are:

(1) A. Escoffier, 'Le Guide Culinaire: The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery', Translated by H. L. Cracknell and R. J. Kaufmann, ISBN 0-8317-5478-8, Mayflower, New York, 1982. Escoffier is the lion, and you can recognize him just by his paw. This guy is SERIOUS. He did NOT write this to provide "fast, easy, economical recipes to perk up the lagging appetites of your whole family" for busy soccer moms.

(2) Louis Diat, 'Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook: Techniques of French Cuisine', Gourmet, New York, 1961. Good, but compared to Escoffier, a kitty cat. Not NEARLY as serious.

(3) 'Foods of the World: The Cooking of Vienna's Empire', Time-Life Books, New York, 1968.

Adding in some experimentation, the 'Sachertorte' can be good.

(4) 'Foods of the World: The Cooking of Provincial France', Time-Life Books, New York, 1968.

(5) 'Foods of the World: Russian Cooking', Time-Life Books, New York, 1969. Quite good and novel Strogonoff.

(6) 'Foods of the World: Classic French Cooking', Time-Life Books, New York, 1970. Franey had some good influences.

(7) 'Foods of the World: The Cooking of Germany', Time-Life Books, New York, 1969. Adding in some experimentation, the Black Forest Cherry cake there can be quite special.

(8) Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, 'Joy of Cooking, Main Course Dishes, Volume 1', The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1964.

(9) Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, 'Joy of Cooking, Appetizers, Desserts & Baked Goods, Volume 2', The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1964.

(10) Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking', Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967.

I recently sat for an evening in the cookbook section of Barnes and Noble. Looked though stacks of books. Often thought: "You don't know, do you? Tried that, then flushed it. Later, found out

how to do it, and there's no hint here that you know." Got some real laughs. Walked out with nothing.

For my next cookbook, I want among the authors Ph.D.s in chemistry and biochemistry. I want to see discussions of pH, solubility, esters, amino acids,etc.

My main work is in some topics in applied mathematics; the quality of work and exposition in that field is quite high; and in all of cooking I have found only one author with comparable quality --


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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I don't have a list but one book changed my life.In the late 70's I was living alone and on junk foods and take aways.After being poisoned by a dodgy kebab I decided I ought to learn to cook for myself.I went out and bought several cookbooks,more or less at random.One of them was "An Invitation to Indian Cooking" by Madhur Jaffrey.This book is actually an idiot's introduction,but is never patronising or arrogant.Whereas Child et al's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" terrified me even to read it, Jaffrey's book was just what I needed.

I invested modestly in a spice grinder and blender and all the fresh whole spices and lo-my life was transformed as I cooked my way through this book,filling my grotty flat with the wonderful aroma of roasting spices and producing gorgeous,exotic food for myself and my (suddenly growing number of )friends.The recipes were simple to follow,non technical and produced enough to last to the next day,when it would be even better.

This book is still available and I still sometimes use it.It never fails to take me back to that time and the recipes are still delicious.

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Okay, I'll bite.  I have far fewer cookbooks than general books about food, but these are some I use regularly:

"French Family Cooking" by Philomene (long out of print, I'm sure; based on old French newspaper columns).

"Larousse" US edition.

"European Peasant Cookery" by Elisabeth Luard.

"French Haute Cuisine" by Joseph Druot (not 100% sure on title there, or come to think of it spelling of author's name).

"Sauces" by Michel Roux.

"The Food of France" by Waverley Root (more descriptions than recipes).

"Nose to Tail Cooking" by Fergus Henderson (of St John's in London).

I also consult Elizabeth David frequently, but don't find her recipes that great.

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Let's hear it for Waverly Root and The Food of Italy and The Food of France.  :biggrin:  :biggrin:  :biggrin:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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wingding: Thanks for your

You want amino acids?  Check out 'On Food and Cooking',by Harold Mcgee, and 'Cookwise', by Shirley Corrihers.

Actually, my original purpose in going to Barnes and Noble that evening was to look at McGee's book. But, they were out of stock on it. I did read about it on Amazon, and I was discouraged that McGee seems to be just a 'general writer' with a lot of curious and entertaining filler (according to one Amazon reviewer) and not a chemist or biochemist. Will have to look at Corrihers.

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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I know I've brought it up earlier in this thread, but I REALLY have to recommend Fuschia Dunlop's Sichuan Cookery book again. She goes into great detail about cutting & pounding techniques, cleaver skills, marinades and meat cuts. Really, she's revolutionised my efforts at Chinese cooking.

Miss J

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Thank you Miss J--a reply like that is the reason why I tried to get project to name names, to list the dozen Chinese cooking books he hasn't had success with and found wanting for his needs.  The value in threads like this is that a community can weigh in with recommendations rather than paint negatively with a broad brush.  Since most of project's favored books seem to be dated, I wondered immediately if he cooked from Craig Claiborne & Virginia Lee's now-out-of-print Chinese cookbook or the 1966 "Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook" by Gloria Bley Miller or the 1982 "Modern Art of Chinese Cooking" by Barbara Tropp yet--let alone other sources.

And thank you for the tip on Dunlop.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo


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At one time I was interested in cooking Chinese food at home and had success with Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking.    It, too, is old -- 1980 and may be out of print. The first section of the book breaks down techniques.  The seond part contains many recipes, some of them unusual.

Kuo talks about a technique she calls, "velveting," which describes a method of coating an ingredient like chicken with a mixture of egg white, cornstarch and oil, allowed to sit, refrigerated for half an hour and then either fried or poached before bein cooked in a recipe.  This apparently, is a very common technique in Chinese cooking that seems to be sloughed over in most Chinese cookbooks.  

I eventually gave up the Chinese cooking because I couldn't bring my self to use the amount of salt required.  In a restaurant, my attitude is, what I don't know won't hurt me.

I don't know if this book is still in print, but it may be worth your while to look for it used.  The Sichuan Cookery book also sounds terrific.  Good luck.

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