Cookbooks for every food lover
Our chief restaurant critic picks the year’s best culinary tomes.
Tue Dec 10 2013
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
(Ten Speed Press, $50)
The story: A locavore paean to New York State’s bounty, from the dynamos behind Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Humm and Will Guidara. The book is organized alphabetically by ingredient—from apples to walnuts—with portraits of local producers and nearly 150 home-kitchen recipes, like swiss-chard roulade and refreshing tomato soda.
Point of interest: Not afraid to dirty his chef’s whites, Humm spent weeks crisscrossing the state to meet the farmers and taste the ingredients featured in this book.
Dish to make: Humm’s renowned foie-stuffed bird at the NoMad has made him a roasted-chicken rock star; his version here gets apple-and-chestnut stuffing piped under the skin, before being cast-iron roasted until golden and crisp.
Dish to inspire: Maple-smoked sturgeon uses seemingly every part of the tree except the syrup; the fish is cured with maple sugar, laid on a maple plank and smoked over maple-wood chips.
The story: Alex Atala is to Brazilian cuisine what René Redzepi is to New Nordic. With 65 recipes from his acclaimed São Paulo restaurant, D.O.M. (Domino Optimo Maximus), and profiles of beloved indigenous ingredients, Atala’s book captures a cuisine and a chef as compelling as any we know.
Point of interest: Atala isn’t just using Brazilian foods, he’s cultivating them. For 15 years he has collaborated with scientists to seek out new crops from the Amazon and develop viable production methods for rare native produce.
Dishes to make: The recipes are involved, but some are more easily doable—like cod with bone marrow and kale—and don’t necessitate trekking into the jungle for native produce.
Dish to inspire: Oddly enough, the simplest recipe in the book is perhaps the one you’re least likely to make: “Place a piece of pineapple on top of a serving dish and top with an ant.”
The story: With 70 restaurant recipes more suited to ogling than attempting, Coi is, at its heart, an intimate portrait of the same-named San Francisco fine-dining institution. The introspective, witty narrative is penned by a pioneer of modern California cuisine, self-taught chef Daniel Patterson.
Point of interest: Patterson’s infectious reverence for seasonal produce will have you eager to cruise your local farmers’ market.
Dish to make: Popcorn grits: Inspired by a “cross between grits and a movie theater,” this recipe simmers popcorn, instead of the traditional cornmeal, with water and butter.
Dish to inspire: As Patterson readily admits, most of these dishes are not meant for the home cook. To wit, his recipe for lichen-encrusted beef begins: “If, for some crazy reason, you decide to make this dish, then we’ll need to have a talk about the lichen powder. It’s not that much fun to make.”
The story: In this dazzling tome, a chef known for his futuristic food dives deep into the past. Unpacking the culinary and social histories of 30 captivating British dishes (starting in the medieval period), Heston Blumenthal unearths the wildly creative and iconic recipes of ye olde England and reinterprets them in his cutting-edge kitchen.
Point of interest: Blumenthal’s innovative cooking is the stuff of legend, but it can’t compare to this: The 15th-century manuscript that inspired him to write this book includes a recipe for a sleeping chicken that looks as if it was roasted, but wakes up and runs down the table when guests try to carve it.
Dishes to make: Unless you have a science lab of a kitchen and preposterous amounts of free time, it’s best to leave the cooking to Blumenthal.
Dish to inspire: There’s culinary sorcery at every turn, but none more striking than Blumenthal’s “meat fruit,” a take on a 14th-century dish in which he encases a sphere of meat paste in mandarin jelly, making it a dead ringer for an orange.
(Ten Speed Press, $50)
The story: Chef David Kinch’s modern transformations of hyperseasonal ingredients—he has an exclusive partnership with a farm down the road in Santa Clara, California—have earned Manresa two Michelin stars every year for five years running. His lushly photographed debut book chronicles the conceptual, food-as-art dishes—like “a winter tidal pool”—that brought the restaurant to the forefront of California cuisine.
Point of interest: If not for a chance meeting with Thomas Keller when Kinch forgot his bag after dinner at the French Laundry, Manresa may have never existed. Ready to rent a bigger restaurant space, Kinch changed course based on Keller’s advice to commit himself to a piece of land and buy his own place. He did, and Manresa was born.
Dish to make: Occasionally, Kinch sets his studious mind on the simplest of dishes, like an old-fashioned omelette infused with black truffle. The trick: Not salting the eggs guarantees a custardlike texture.
Dish to inspire: In a dish called “shellfish in seawater,” Kinch uses tomatoes and three kinds of seaweed to make edible ocean water that he pours tableside.