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Your 10 Favorite Cookbooks


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I use all 300-some of them, some more actively than others. Marcella Hazan, with her first book, taught me how to make a killer Bolgnese. Elizabeth David taught me how to make a mushroon omelet (duxelles with flour thickened cream.)

I owe all of them enormously, but Hazan and Kennedy made me feel so Not Worthy, with my inability to procure the freshest and finest and most obscure and authentic. There are many fine sources for Italian cooking these days, but for Mexican, for me, Rick Bayless is the upside of Kennedy: he is encouraging and practical. Go Chicago boy.

But, back to the question: for. Christmas, Delia Smith. For pancakes and popovers, "Joy." Scott Peacock's "Taste of Southerm Cooking" for everynight meals. The Time-Life "China" volume got used twice this week, as any volume in the series might on any given night. "Potsticker Chronicles" by Stuart Chang Berman for American Chinese. Julia for Jalousies. Martha for cool cupcakes...

I guess I'm going back to my lede sentence: one way or another I use 90% of them, for guidance, inspiration, or -- Lor' lumme! -- something to make for dinner.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I have various categories for my books.

Workhorse: these are not the best presented or most exciting book, but have a good range and recipes are reliable; always the first place to look up a recipe when I’m in a hurry, e.g. Petit Larousse de la Cuisine

Reference: not books that you would sit down and go through from cover to cover, but definitely a book to look at when researching a subject; generally these books have a broad range and are likely to contain answers on ingredients, techniques or specific recipes, e.g. Larousse Gastronomique, Harold Magee

Inspirational: these are books that draw you in and make you plan a meal around it; sometimes I find it's not be the recipe itself that I want to try, but it sparks an idea about something I haven’t tried in a while or suggests a different presentation; a good design can lift good content into this category, e.g. elBulli

Gap fillers: these are books that get used for only one (or just a few) recipes, e.g. the recipe for steak & oyster pudding by Nigella ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’; some of these books fill in gaps because they take a different slant, such as a style of cooking and present recipes in a way that helps to understand the overall approach, e.g. weekday French-style Depardieu ‘My Cookbook’. These are good to have on the shelf, but I don’t use them all that often

Readable books: I use these most often used as background books for their approach rather than their recipes

Boring: a category reserved for books that are poorly written, badly organised or just present the same material in an uninteresting way; like yet another book on pasta! I can make a list if anyone is really interested.

I would be interested to hear which books are used as the best for typical home cooking.

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I would be interested to hear which books are used as the best for typical home cooking.

It seems to me almost of the essence of "typical home cooking" that it does not use a book. I cook most days. Over the course of a week, I suppose I cook probably 6 or 7 meals. It would be an unusual week when I actually opened a book more than once.

But that does not mean that the books are not there in the background. The recipes came from somewhere, to start with, and that was often a book.

To take an example, this past week:

Last Saturday: Meatballs and pasta. No book used. In the background: recipe for meatballs from Marcella Hazan. (But I sometimes make meatballs using a recipe I learned from my mother, which is quite different.)

Sunday: Carbonnade. No book used. In the background: recipe from Anne Wilan's French Provincial Cooking.

Monday: Pasta vodka. No book used. Recipe taught to me by some Italian friends about 15 years ago. Greek(ish) salad, just sort of constructed from eating it.

Tuesday: Risotto, with red wine and sausages. No book used. Recipe owes its origins to a sort of amalgamation of Jamie Oliver and Marcella Hazan.

Wednesday: My boyfriend cooked a pasta sauce with bacon and olives, which I think he half invented himself and half got from a Jamie Oliver recipe on the internet. (Wherever it came from it was good.)

Thursday: Ate out.

Friday: Soft tacos for the kids. No book, just sort of invented on the hoof. Chocolate fondue (demanded by the kids) ditto.

Today: Macaroni and cheese. No book. Basic recipe my mother's, but varied in that I use gruyere as well as cheddar, and much more mustard and cayenne than she does. Loosely based on the best macaroni and cheese I ever ate (at Soho Grand hotel in New York, years ago).

So in a whole week of what I at least regard as typical home cooking (i.e., quick, unfancy, mixture of dishes from all sorts of places originally, all probably rather "nativised"), not a single book actually opened, but several there in the background.

Two things I would add: (1) I've generally (with a few exceptions) found "restaurant" based books pretty useless for ordinary home cooking; they assume a different programme of preparation than the home cook wants. (2) There are a huge number of "typical" dishes home cooks, at least in the UK, actually cook that you won't really find in any book at all!

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I use my Batali cookbook-I just made four things from it last night, I use all four of my Emeril books, I use my Jean Georges book, I use my Bradley Ogden's Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner most often because it's so diverse and wonderful.

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I would be interested to hear which books are used as the best for typical home cooking.

It seems to me almost of the essence of "typical home cooking" that it does not use a book. I cook most days. Over the course of a week, I suppose I cook probably 6 or 7 meals. It would be an unusual week when I actually opened a book more than once.

But that does not mean that the books are not there in the background. The recipes came from somewhere, to start with, and that was often a book.

To take an example, this past week:

Last Saturday: Meatballs and pasta. No book used. In the background: recipe for meatballs from Marcella Hazan. (But I sometimes make meatballs using a recipe I learned from my mother, which is quite different.)

Sunday: Carbonnade. No book used. In the background: recipe from Anne Wilan's French Provincial Cooking.

Monday: Pasta vodka. No book used. Recipe taught to me by some Italian friends about 15 years ago. Greek(ish) salad, just sort of constructed from eating it.

Tuesday: Risotto, with red wine and sausages. No book used. Recipe owes its origins to a sort of amalgamation of Jamie Oliver and Marcella Hazan.

Wednesday: My boyfriend cooked a pasta sauce with bacon and olives, which I think he half invented himself and half got from a Jamie Oliver recipe on the internet. (Wherever it came from it was good.)

Thursday: Ate out.

Friday: Soft tacos for the kids. No book, just sort of invented on the hoof. Chocolate fondue (demanded by the kids) ditto.

Today: Macaroni and cheese. No book. Basic recipe my mother's, but varied in that I use gruyere as well as cheddar, and much more mustard and cayenne than she does. Loosely based on the best macaroni and cheese I ever ate (at Soho Grand hotel in New York, years ago).

So in a whole week of what I at least regard as typical home cooking (i.e., quick, unfancy, mixture of dishes from all sorts of places originally, all probably rather "nativised"), not a single book actually opened, but several there in the background.

Two things I would add: (1) I've generally (with a few exceptions) found "restaurant" based books pretty useless for ordinary home cooking; they assume a different programme of preparation than the home cook wants. (2) There are a huge number of "typical" dishes home cooks, at least in the UK, actually cook that you won't really find in any book at all!

Ditto.

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You hit it on the nose Paul. It’s clear for me that most of my own cooking (particularly on workdays) is defined by what dishes I know from habit and what’s left in the fridge.

But I thought it was great that you also acknowledged that there is a source for those dishes. So I suppose my question was rather too general. If I were to poll home cooks in the UK, my guess is that a number of cook books would be seen as foundation books – books you might give to your kids when they leave to set up home. More recent authors would probably include:-

Jamie Oliver

Nigel Slater

Nigella Lawson (but mainly for baking)

Delia Smith etc

With Mrs Beeton and others representing the old school. In Italy, would Silver Spoon be in the same category?

If I rephrase my question more specifically to ask about foundation ‘101’ books that capture US home cooking. I have seen books like Betty Crocker, but was trying to get a better feeling for current favourites.

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Not sure you can find it anymore but Smith and Hawken:The Gardner's Community Cokbook , by Victoria Wise. I really like it alot. Two percent of the sales went to Second Harvest which I thought was really neat too. This cookbook was the first time I saw the name Thomas Keller and the first time I had even heard of The French Laundry. :biggrin:

Edited by kristin_71 (log)
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I'll echo those who said it depends on how one uses "use".....

I have about 30 cookbooks and I "use" most of them either as research (I, too, review multiple recipes for the same dish when making something new or using a new technique) or just to remind me of a variation of something I hadn't thought of in a while.

Also, as others have pointed out, many of the things I cook without a recipe were inspired/started/influenced by someone else's original recipe. At what point have I "stopped" using the cookbook in that case.

This applies double for things like MaGee and Corriher where I seldom read them for a specific recipe but more for guidance when in unfamiliar territory. You could honestly say I use these books every time I cook even though I don't think I've ever followed an exact recipe from either of them.

I can say that of the 30 I own, at least 25 or so are well stained, dog eared, etc and that's enough for me :)

I also like to use cookbooks when I'm playing in the kitchen; I'll not only read the recipes for a given dish in 5 or 6 books, I'll make them all (over the course of a month, say) then compare, combine, etc.

I do have a special place in my heart for Hazen's "Essentials", the Les Halles cookbook and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art...." but thats just me.

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When I was really starting to cook, I used Julia's The Way To Cook a lot. Now I will pick a recipe occasionally from the 2 Batali books I have and some others, including all the Frugal Gourmet books. I have too many according to my wife...as if that's possible! :biggrin:

But I am always just grabbing different books off the shelf to browse even when I'm not cooking. I think cookbooks have helped me cook without them if that makes any sense.

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When I was really starting to cook, I used Julia's The Way To Cook a lot.  Now I will pick a recipe occasionally from the 2 Batali books I have and some others, including all the Frugal Gourmet books.  I have too many according to my wife...as if that's possible!  :biggrin:

But I am always just grabbing different books off the shelf to browse even when I'm not cooking.  I think cookbooks have helped me cook without them if that makes any sense.

I know exactly what you mean about them helping you cook without them.

The more cookbooks I read, and I do read them all, the more familiar I become with what aspects of a recipe can be changed and what aspects are never changed. After seeing a recipe for say, pan fried fish with a lemon sauce, in five different cookbooks, I can then close all the cookbooks and have a good understanding of the basics of the recipe. If I understand the basics of the recipe, it helps me feel more confidnet in experimenting.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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Perhaps because I am always trying to learn new technique and its unique result, I do use books, and articles from the San Francisco Chronicle (the best food section in the country hands down), but what I cook is not something I've tried before. I cook "alone" when I do something that is a staple home meal with which I don't have to stay to the original recipe. My own feeling is too many cooks tamper with ingredients before they know a recipe in its presented format. I am sometimes shocked by some cooks who say they've done it with an ingredient or technique than the recipe without knowing how it should be first.

I like the idea of learning the "classic" version of a dish, and I think that's because I learned to cook straight from Julia Child's MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING. I had many sets of her 2 volume set, usually from wear, loan, or needing them when I don't have them at hand. I moved to the Bay area in 1969 to go to graduate school but I couldn't even boil water. I spent weekends and other days cooking through Vol I.

Ten years later, I had my own restaurant. I never stopped referring to those volumes when stuck with a problem. Today I rely on JOY OF COOKING, Deborah Madison's VEGETARIAN COOKING FOR EVERYONE and her many other books, Marcella Hazan's various Italian cookbooks, and the newly re-released LA BONNE CUISINE DE MADAME SAINT-ANGE, the French version of JOY OF COOKING.

Edited by pangloss (log)
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I am pretty new at posting, even though I joined last year. I am cookbook addicted. I learned chocolate mousse from the original "Mastering The Art..." with my mom helping. I inherited some of my grandmother's books, and the interesting scrall that I had known as a young person taught me how to make pepper jelly. I now have a small jam company that makes 12 different flavors of pepper jellies based on this original. Her old "Better Homes..." and the "Ball Bluebook" have terrific combinations with real ingredients and a rich taste. I even found a recipe for a mustard plaster! Some of the Jr. League books from across the country have some solid, consistent winners, often based on local bounty, which we love to do here in the PNW. One of my favorites is "Joy of Cooking", but not the recent one, the one my mom has, it has changed alot! The old Fanny Farmer (circo early 1900s) and menu listings for guests at dinner found when I went through my other grandmother's things were absolute fodder for robust discussions about holidays and special dinners we remembered as kids. But, as many have stated, I generally refer to several books, listing common and uncommon ingredients and then determine what I'm going to do, unless it is a baking thing, and then just minor tweaking. I seem to tear alot from magazines too, (not the ones I keep) and so have about 10 binders divided by subject or main ingredient. Plus, I am always on the lookout for recipes that use jam in any manner as we review, modify for our flavors, test, print and include them with all jam purchases. The latest books were from the Cornell Univ. bookstore about plating, and a true southern cookbook from Aiken, SC (a gift) that includes lots of information about local historical sites and recipes that make you want to sit on the porch all day. And last, most reliable and never beaten, the best pound cake recipe ever, and easiest, from Aunt Marge, and who knows where it came from, I have been eating it most of my life. (caveat, it may not be the best for the pros out there, but it has been my most requested recipe ever, with garlic cream cheese ham stack just behind, and yes, I know that sounds Bohemian, but they are good). Thanks to all eGer's for the fun reading and information. Cheers.

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New Professional Chef at least twice a week, for inspiration or to refresh my memory on... a point of procedure, Madame Chair....

Patterson, Fish and Shellfish, ditto.

Escoffier, daily at least. I have two copies. One lives in the kitchen, one lives in the bathroom. Auguste gets it at both ends.

The James Beard Cookbook 1-2x weekly. Who can ignore the G.K. Chesterton of the American culinary scene?

Childs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I've glove-boned probably two hundred birds by now. I have no idea if it can be done without her book open on the counter. I've never tried it, you see.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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  • 2 months later...
The other nine, pray tell?

Counsellor....

Looking foward to eating with you in NY this summer.

Back to the books.....

I picked that book because it was probably the best ever in explaining that concept of how authentic Southeast asian flavors are composed....

I am sure everyone has thier faves but the criteria for me is the contribution or inspiration to the interest in cooking and substantive content. There are so many books out there but there are few that are done really well.

It would be really hard to sublimate down to 10 definitive books but there are a few books that capture your attention every now and then.

With that said...in no particular order of importance.

1. White Heat Marco Pierre White.

The book that got so many serious cooks interested in food in the first place.

http://www.vonl.com/chips/whiteht.htm

2. Recipes from Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons. Raymond Blanc.

out of print.

3.Jean Louis, Cooking with the Seasons. Jean Louis Palladin.

http://www.amazon.ca/Jean-Louis-Cooking-Se...n/dp/0934738491

One of the greates chefs in America of all time.

The food in this book still stands up to today's culinary shenanigans depite the fact it was published in 1989.

Sadly his death was largely ignored in the news because in happened in very close time proximity to the 9-11 attacks in 2001.

4.Kaiseki Yoshihiro Murata

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/477...ractiveda495-20

5.La Base and La Produit Filip Verheyden

http://www.amazon.fr/base-Filip-Verheyden/dp/9077695028

Unfortunately in french, unless you speak french, works for me.

Beautifully done.

6.La Livre de Michel Bras. Michel Bras.

Out of print but choc full of soooo much information and inspiration.

It makes you just want to go out and start planting a garden.

7.El Bulli 2003 2004 Ferran Adria

http://www.amazon.com/El-Bulli-2003-2004-F...76587868&sr=8-1

Just Amazing.

Redefines Cookbook Composition.

8.Le Grand Livre de Cuisine Alain Ducasse.

http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Livre-cuisine-...76587949&sr=1-1

Tooooooooooons of inspiration and a window into the master.

9.Professional Charcuterie Marcel Cottenceau, Jean-Francois Deport, Jean- Pierre Odeau

http://www.chipsbooks.com/prochar.htm

Best book ever on Charcuterie, Salumi, Sausage, Pate, Foie Gras fabrication.

If you were to allow one more I would say the French Laundry Cookbook.

These are obviously highly specialized books but I would add that anyone who aspires to cook anything at some point should buy books by..

Paula Wolfert especially the cooking of Southwest France.

Marcela Hazan

Alice Waters

The Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated.

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)
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Outstanding. Thanks. The Keller addition is certainly allowed since it's the only one on the list that I own. :wink: Thanks in particular for including #9 since I've had this:

http://www.amazon.com/Charcuterie-Craft-Sa...76590405&sr=8-1

on my shopping list for quite a while. I'll go with your rec instead.

Okay, one more request if you would: Top ten (or however many, at your preference; hell, if you want to, add the next ten cookbooks, if you care to) non-cookbook culinary books. For example, I'd imagine McGee is a must-have? What else, short of Upton Sinclair?

Thanks...

"I've been served a parsley mojito. Shit happens." - philadining

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Ditto on the these two:

Recipes from Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons. Raymond Blanc.

Jean Louis, Cooking with the Seasons. Jean Louis Palladin.

Both of them are years ahead of their time. The Palladin book is getting rarer. It's first (run) printing was only 3,000. At that time the publisher thought he would be stuck with extra copies according to Palladin. Grab it while you can. It's getting harder to find than early issues of Art Culiniaire and it's that damn good. Another sleeper in my collection is:

In Madelines Kitchen by Madeline Kamman.

Jim

Edited by marinade (log)

Jim Tarantino

Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, & Glazes

Ten Speed Press

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Technical books I would add to a list next to Harold McGee:

Cookwise by Shirley Corriher

What Einsten Told His Cook by Robert Wolke

Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This

I also think that the Aliza Green book "Starting with Ingredients" while hefty is useful, as is the Elizabeth Schneider "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini". And Julias "The Way To Cook" has very helpful pix and techniques.

www.RabelaisBooks.com

Thought for Food

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If you like real Italian food: the standard reference "The Silver Spoon" has now been published in an English edition.It's wonderful.

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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If you like real Italian food: the standard reference "The Silver Spoon" has now been published in an English edition.It's wonderful.

I have mixed feelings about The Silver Spoon: as an encyclopedia of Italian recipes, it's got fantastic breadth and solid depth. However as a reference to Italian cooking, I wish it went more into techniques and background material: e.g., important principles in making risotto, how to pick various Italian ingredients, etc. I find the cookbooks I like best strike a good balance between specific recipes and general advice (the French Laundry book, the Zuni Cafe cookbook, Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichuan cookbook, etc.)

-al

---

al wang

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1. The French Laundry Cookbook (Keller/Ruhlman)

2. A Return To Cooking (Ripert / Ruhlman)

3. The Babbo Cookbook (Mario Batali)

4. All Donna Hay books

5. Tapas: A Taste Of Spain In America (Jose Andres)

6. Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures (Alfred Portale)

7. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

8. Boulevard: The Cookbook (Nancy Oakes / Pamela Mazzola)

9. Happy In The Kitchen (Michel Richard)

10. Aquavit Cookbook (Marcus Samuelsson)

Honorable Mentions:

Simply Ming (Ming Tsai)

The Minimalist Cooks Dinner (Mark Bittman)

Jamie's Kitchen (Jamie Oliver)

Bouchon Cookbook (Keller/Ruhlman)

Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington

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2. Recipes from Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons.      Raymond Blanc.

out of print.

Anyone who wants to get a copy of this should be able to track it down if you get in touch with any Borders bookshop in Australia (well, most of their Melbourne stores seem to have copies).

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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As for my top 10.....and in no particular order:

The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander

Nose To Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson

The Food I Love by Neil Perry

Heart And Soul by Kylie Kwong

Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

Spice by Christine Manfield

Thai Food by David Thompson

Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Ezard by Teage Ezard

French by Damien Pignolet

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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  • 4 weeks later...

Cookbook preferences are in many ways idiosyncratic. While we may own many fine cookbooks, each of us typically has a few "go-to", "take to the desert island" volumes. Below are some of my very top picks. I'd appreciate some suggestions of other books from folks who might share my tastes. I'm particularly interested in Indian (other than Jaffrey, Sahni, Paniz, Devi) and Italian (other than Hazan, Field, Tornabene, Caggiano, Wells) but if your choices match mine, any others would be appreciated!

Paul Wolfert, Mediterranean Cooking, Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Mediterranean Grains and Greens

Coleman Andrews Catalan Cuisine

Gerald Hirigoyen, Bistro: The Best of Casual French Cooking

Claudia Roden, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Patricia Quintana, The Taste of Mexico, Mexico's Feasts of Life

Hiroko Shimbo, The Japanese Kitchen: 250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit

Ed Farrey and Nancy O'Hara, 3 Bowls

Moosewood Collective, Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

Jiggs Kalra, Prashad

Rick Bayless, Authentic Mexican

I suspect other's might want to post their lists seeking suggestions.

Thanks!

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