The season's best cookbooks

Every year scores of glossy new cookbooks are released like holiday blockbusters. The best of them aren't just collections of recipes---they tell a story, too. We've leafed through this year's crop to pick out the ten most transporting tomes for the gluttons on your gift list.

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  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Mission Street Food

    Mission Street Food

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Mission Street Food

    Mission Street Food

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Eleven Madison Parl The Cook Book

    Eleven Madison Park, the Cookbook

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Eleven Madison Parl The Cook Book

    Eleven Madison Park, the Cookbook

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    American Flavor

    American Flavor

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    American Flavor

    American Flavor

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    The art of living according to Joe Beef

    The Art of Living According to Joe Beef

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    The art of living according to Joe Beef

    The Art of Living According to Joe Beef

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Made in America

    Made in America

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Made in America

    Made in America

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    The Mozza Cookbook

    The Mozza Cookbook

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    The Mozza Cookbook

    The Mozza Cookbook

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Heston Blumenthal at Home

    Heston Blumenthal at Home

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Heston Blumenthal at Home

    Heston Blumenthal at Home

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Home Cooking with Jean-Gorges

    Home Cooking with Jean-Georges

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Home Cooking with Jean-Gorges

    Home Cooking with Jean-Georges

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Edible Brooklyn

    Edible Brooklyn, the Cookbook

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Edible Brooklyn

    Edible Brooklyn, the Cookbook

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Cooking Without Borders

    Cooking Without Borders

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Cooking Without Borders

    Cooking Without Borders

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Mission Street Food

Mission Street Food

Mission Street Food (223 pages; McSweeney's, $30)
The first food book from cult publisher McSweeney's (which issues the food journal Lucky Peach) isn't a cookbook as much as a cultural artifact, chronicling the rise of San Francisco's most interesting restaurant from its seat-of-the-pants beginnings inside of the Antojitos San Miguel taco cart. The story of what would eventually become Mission Chinese—a creative restaurant hidden inside an old Chinese dive called Lung Shan—is told in comic strips, essays, photos and recipes that capture the DIY spirit of the whole wacky enterprise.
Cook this:
Duck confit and oven-crisped duck skin (Peking duck you can make at home); rib-eye tostada with caper aioli; buttery griddled flatbread.

Eleven Madison Park, the Cookbook (384 pages; Little, Brown; $50)
This stunning tome falls into a rarefied category of cookbooks: those more suited to ogling than practical use. There is modernist eye candy here—gorgeous food imagery and complex recipes that together help tell the story of the evolution of a beloved New York restaurant. This is a collaborative tale of a young team building a restaurant together. Real obsessives will enjoy the backstory of Swiss chef Daniel Humm's improvisational menu (it was inspired by Miles Davis's experimental album Bitches Brew). But mostly, you'll want to get lost in those pictures.
Cook this: Many of these recipes require special equipment, but ambitious readers can try their hand at strawberry gazpacho with strawberry confit, roasted-beet salad with goat cheese mousse, or skate wing with curry sauce and seaweed.

American Flavor (323 pages; Ecco, $34.99)
Andrew Carmellini, whose earliest food memories include eating "rest-stop fry-ups" during road trips with his dad, had an eclectic rise up the New York food chain, conquering French, then Italian, then all-American cooking. Follow the chef on his way up, in stories and recipes, from his first big break at Caf Boulud to the cross-country jaunt—including stops at gumbo shacks and taco dives—that preceded the opening of his most personal restaurant, new Soho hot spot the Dutch.
Cook this: White-boy Asian ribs with hoisin and five-spice; buttermilk-fried chicken and Cleveland-style collards; Grandma Carmellini's sour-orange pie.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef (292 pages; Ten Speed, $40)
Joe Beef is a Montreal restaurant worthy of a special trip north, as David Chang attests in his foreword to this "cookbook of sorts." The free-form tome embodies the delicious chaos of the place, and the eccentric interests and oversize appetites of the men behind it—chefs and co-owners Frdric Morin and David McMillan. There's history here, including the tale of Joe Beef himself, the 19th-century Irish immigrant, Canadian tavern owner and "friend of the working man" for whom the restaurant is named. In addition to recipes, there are chapters on the history of Montreal eating (spotlighting the casse-croute tradition of ramshackle snack shacks) and on trains—old-school rail travel being one of Morin's enduring obsessions.
Cook this: Spaghetti homard-lobster in bacon-brandy cream; stuffed dining-car calf liver in Parmesan-mustard crust; Joe Beef foie gras and cheddar cheese "Double Down."

Made in America (320 pages; Welcome Books, $45)
It wasn't a stretch to get even the most high-end toques to contribute to this timely compendium of reinvented comfort foods—it seems everyone's going back to basics these days. The book features top chefs from around the country sharing the backstory on dishes that make them feel good. To wit: Accompanying a recipe for Eric Ripert's lobster croque-monsieur is a moving morsel from the Le Bernardin chef—"it always reminds me of my grandmother."
Cook this: Tom Colicchio's chicken soup; Jonathan Benno's eggplant Parmesan; Dave Pasternack's Long Island--style fish-and-chips.

The Mozza Cookbook (350 pages; Knopf, $35)
Los Angeles chef Nancy Silverton built a nationwide reputation on her artisanal La Brea Bakery breads. A few years back she branched into pizza, launching Mozza out west with Mario Batali. In this book you'll learn the roots of her doughy obsession—her remarkable pizzas were inspired by the pies at Il Pellicano, near her summer home in Umbria. Her master recipe, rejiggered for the home cook, yields perfect, pliant specimens every time. In addition to the pies, there are osteria recipes inspired by Silverton's travels through Italy.
Cook this: Pizza with squash blossoms and burrata; cider-glazed pork ribs; linguine with clams and pancetta.

Heston Blumenthal at Home (408 pages; Bloomsbury, $60)
Brit Heston Blumenthal is one of the world's most inventive chefs (among his achievements: re-creating Willy Wonka's flavored wallpaper from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Get insight into how his brain works with this dense volume on high-concept home cooking. We're not talking quick casseroles—even his roasted chicken cooks for four hours. Blumenthal imagines a world in which every home kitchen comes equipped with an immersion circulator and a stash of dry-ice pellets. He'll tell you where to buy them, and get your inner food geek further fired up with long treatises on the science behind making emulsions, brining meat and cooking food slowly in a hot-water bath.
Cook this: Properly equipped, you might be able to pull off the garden salad on Grape-Nuts soil, fish pie with soy lecithin sea foam, and bacon-and-egg ice cream.

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges (256 pages; Clarkson Potter, $40)
What does a superchef like Jean-Georges Vongerichten serve to family and friends on his day off? He cooks the sort of simple, vibrant food you'll find on the menu at his celebrated restaurant ABC Kitchen, and homey dishes from his native Alsace, France. There might be Korean barbecue on the table, too, inspired by his wife, Marja. This handsome book also recounts some of the chef's childhood food memories, including waking to the "smells of choucroute" and earning his nickname, "Palate."
Cook this: ABC Kitchen's cumin-roasted carrot and avocado salad; bulgogi-marinated flank steak; Grandma Vongerichten's choucroute garnie.

Edible Brooklyn, the Cookbook (157 pages; Sterling Epicure, $18.95)
No one's kept tabs on the Brooklyn food movement quite like the writers and editors at quarterly mag Edible Brooklyn. Their debut cookbook tells the story of how the diverse borough's food-mad citizens cook and eat. There are old-timers represented here—like Christine Wheeler of the legendary Sahadi's, who shares her family recipe for pickled turnips with lebany—and relative newcomers like Tom Mylan of the Meat Hook, who offers the sort of California-style burrito beans he grew up with in Orange Country.
Cook this: Stinky Bklyn's mac and cheese (washed-rind edition); the Good Fork's kimchi rice with bacon and eggs; Franny's cucumbers with ricotta, basil and mint.

Cooking without Borders (239 pages; Stewart, Tabori, & Chang; $35)
Even at the highest level, the best food is often the most personal, as you'll come to understand perusing Anita Lo's debut cookbook. The story here, in essays and recipes, explains why the fusion fare works so well at her West Village restaurant, Annisa. Lo is a product of the world, a seasoned traveler who was raised outside Detroit by a Malaysian mom and German stepdad, with the help, for a while, of a Hungarian nun. The book offers a taste of her polyglot perspective, and smart ideas for translating it to a home kitchen.
Cook this: New England--style fritters filled with Chinese salted eggs and unagi; Vietnamese-French beef pot-au-feu; Sister Elizabeth Angel's chicken papriks.

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