This year I’ve been a relative bookworm reading through a number of cookbooks. Not necessarily cooking through them but at least mentally eating the authors’ words and understand their perspective and what makes them different than previously published books. Here’s my top 9 books of 2011. There are other books I’ve read through that I thought were good and are honorable mentions as seen on my slideshow at the end of this post.
Cooking Without Borders by Anita Lo of annisa (publisher Stewart, Tabori & Chang) is a thoughtful, introspective book from Chef Lo, and beautifully photographed by Lucy Schaeffer. Her creative recipes are simple by how clearly they’re explained. I like the interesting flavor profiles of her dishes and most lean toward Asian. Some home cooks would be challenged by finding certain Asian ingredients like fresh shiso leaf and game meats and they probably don’t have the patience to cook a multi-step composed dish like a restaurant chef does (this will apply to any chef-authored book I’m mentioning here).
The Family Meal by Ferran Adrià (published by Phaidon Press) is different than most restaurant cookbooks because it’s a collection of simple, no nonsense recipes that Chef Adrià and his team (of the internationally acclaimed forward-thinking Spanish restaurant elBulli that closed on July 30, 2011) would eat before service. This book is approachable for every kind of cook. For some novice cooks, he/she could appreciate the step-by-step photos of the ingredients and instructions. For the people who have very little time to create a menu, this book has 31 planned meals or you can create your own.
Bluestem by Colby Garrelts, Megan Garrelts & Bonjwing Lee (publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing) is something like Eleven Madison Park and Anita Lo’s cookbook; they’re chef/restaurant cookbooks that are filled with recipes that are generally more suited for the more advanced (or more patient) home cooks. But what this particular book filled the void of Midwestern regional cooking and the recipes are broken down by seasons. (If you didn’t really know, Bluestem is out in Kansas City, Missouri.)
Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara (published by Little Brown & Co.) – Is there anything left to say about this book? It’s exhaustively covered around many food blogs and national publications. I adore this book and restaurant. I even cooked and baked a few recipes during Thanksgiving. I appreciate the fact this is a beautifully written and photographed artifact of Humm’s Eleven Madison Park and created for the restaurant’s fans.
VOLT ink. by Bryan and Michael Voltaggio (published by Weldon Owen) is very ingredient and flavor driven book. The brothers has different cooking styles (as they’ve admitted in person when I saw and met them in person at a publicity event a few months ago) but cohesive in terms of making the reader think “outside the box” about pairing certain ingredients’ for its flavors and textures. There’s lots of sous vide recipes in this book so, if you got a really nice PolyScience thermal immersion circulator or a consumer-friendly (especially in price tag) version with SousVide Supreme‘s water oven, it’s pretty difficult to cook a number of their recipes.
Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes by Jean-Georges Vongerichten (published by Clarkson Potter) is what Chef Vongerichten would like to eat at home (if he ever is, since he has to control his international restaurant empire). The recipes are approachable and doable for any home cook. Simple food with little interesting twists.
For the cocktail nerds, The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan (published by Sterling Epicure) is one of the most noteworthy books published this year. The New York Times wrote a great article about this book and what great lengths (monetary, distance and otherwise) would go to make one perfect drink at home.
Heading into my particular forte, baking.
Macarons by Pierre Hermé (Publisher: Grub Street UK) is for any die-hard Pierre Hermé macaron fiend (like myself). I’ve known for a couple of years, this particular book was only in French but this year, after meeting Chef Hermé at StarChefs, I realized there he printed an English translation of that book. Hence, my need to acquire that book.
I am enamored with Hermé’s unusual flavor pairings like Délicieux, a macaron that is filled with candied grapefruit peel and a white chocolate-wasabi ganache (I made it for Christmas Eve) or his legendary foie gras macaron (my batch). (Yes, there’s normal flavors of raspberry, pistachio, caramel, vanilla and chocolate (his version is a more intense and flavorful of the latter two).) If you have the gumption, patience, and obsession to bake macarons, this is the book to have.
Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques edited by Frederic Bau of L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona (publisher: Flammarion/Rizzoli) is a great book teaching baking novices (and give refreshers to the experienced) with techniques (such as lining a tart dish, make certain chocolate decorations, tempering chocolate, etc.) and recipes from internationally acclaimed pastry chefs like Gilles Marchal, La Maison du Chocolat‘s Creative Director and former pastry chef of Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, Jean-Paul Hévin, and many others. The recipes found in here do indicate if a certain recipe is easy to advanced and there are a plethora of gorgeous pastry (and chocolate beverage) photos by Clay McLachlan.
All the books mentioned above and honorable mentions are on this slideshow below or on this Flickr photoset: