Henri selects his favorite holiday gift books
While cookware and assorted kitchen gadgets make fine holiday gifts for the cook in your life, there’s nothing quite like a good cookbook or kitchen reference guide. Here is just a sampling of the dozens of excellent choices available, all guaranteed to keep on giving.
Lourousse Gastronomique, The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia, Prosper Montagne (Clarkson Potter), 1,360 pages, $85. The ultimate culinary reference book, this classic encyclopedia of all things related to food and cooking and eating was first published in 1938. The current edition, revised in 2001, has been expanded from its original focus on continental cuisine to include American cooking as well as food and cooks and techniques from other parts of the world. Sample entries: a recipe for lamprey à la bordelaise; short biographies of Louis Pasteur, with emphasis on his work in fermentation, and on Dom Pierre Perignon, who is credited with developing the cork for bottling champagne; and a long look at saffron, with history and recipes, including one for saffron ice cream with rose water.
The New Best Recipe, editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine (America’s Test Kitchen), 1,000 pages, $35. By the editors of Henri’s favorite cooking magazine, this book includes a thousand recipes, all of which have been tested and tasted, frequently dozens of times as the chefs look for just the right combinations of ingredients and cooking times. Naturally, the book is illustrated with classy line drawings that complement the 22 chapters of precise step-by-step instructions for preparing everything from appetizers to side dishes, main courses to desserts.
The Best Kitchen Quick Tips: 534 tricks, techniques, and shortcuts for the curious cook, editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine (America’s Test Kitchen), 400 pages, $19.95. What are the best tools for creating that wavy look on cake frosting? For drying wine glasses? For removing cork pieces from wine bottles? Answers: Chopsticks, a hair dryer and a drinking straw. You’ll also find more conventional suggestions for everything from how to peel garlic to how to tie butcher’s twine on a roast.
One Dish Meals, Culinary Institute of America (Febhar Friedman Books), 224 pages, $35. This handsome collection of mostly easy-to-prepare one-dish meals from the country’s leading cooking school includes recipes for chicken-and-prawns ragout and bacon-and-gruyère quiche, as well as barbecued-chicken pizza and a bacon-and-avocado focaccia sandwich, in addition to lots of pastas, sautés and stir fries.
Happy in the Kitchen: The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating, Michel Richard (Artisan), 350 pages, $45. Richard’s motto, “In cooking as in love, you have to try new things to keep it interesting,” manifests itself not only in ingredient substitutions but in innovative ways to use kitchen equipment, including in his recipe for making sorbet in a food processor. The book’s large color photos illustrate the 150 recipes beautifully.
The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, John Scharffenberger, Robert Steinberg (Hyperion), 385 pages, $35. This brand new (November) book is the first by the founders of Scharffen Berger Chocolate and is as thorough a look at the sweet as you’re likely to find, including not only recipes for a wide range of cakes and mousses and biscotti, but also for unlikely main courses, such as chocolate tortilla soup and chocolate-and-chile-marinated flank steak. There is also lots of chocolate lore and trivia as well as technical discussions of details such as cocoa content.
My Life in France, Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme (Knopf), 335 pages, $25.95. This lovely memoir by the iconoclastic chef and television star is pure delight, as it recalls not only cooking and dining and entertaining experiences from another era but also Child’s voice itself, which sings out joyfully from every page. The book’s finishing touches were completed by Prud’homme, Child’s grandnephew, in the year after her death in 2004 at the age of 91.
In addition to books, subscriptions to food and cooking magazines make excellent gifts. Henri’s favorites: Cook’s Illustrated, Bon Appetit, Gourmet and Sunset.