Running late on holiday shopping? You still have time to pop into a bookstore and grab one of these books, among my favorites of 2016.
Cooking School: Mastering Classic and Modern French Cuisine ($35) by Alain Ducasse
Alain Ducasse is a French chef with more than a dozen restaurants in France, plus more in Monaco, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Doha, London and New York. He also has a cooking school in Paris, and that’s where this book comes in. Originally published in French in 2011, the language has been translated into English—if not the taste buds. So much foie gras! So many charlottes (molded cakes made with ladyfingers). But the directions are clear and thorough and there are photos to guide nearly every step. This is a great gift for an ambitious home cook who loves fancy French food and wants to learn to make it at home.
Eataly: Contemporary Italian Cooking ($40)
This is a huge compendium of recipes from the Italian food emporiums of the same name in New York, Chicago, Boston and soon, Los Angeles. These are recipes for dishes you’d be excited to see on a menu in Santa Fe: Fried polenta with lardo and truffle; pappardelle with cheese, pancetta and fava beans; sausage and cranberry bean risotto; five-spice beef with onion, orange and fennel sauce. The food is fun, contemporary and mostly leans toward the healthy rather than the cheesy. It’ll make you want to cook and invite people over!
Acorns & Cattails: A Modern Foraging Cookbook of Forest, Farm & Field ($35) by Rob Connoley
When Connoley had his restaurant in Silver City, the Curious Kumquat, he was known for using ingredients he had foraged himself. The restaurant is now closed, but this beautifully photographed book expands on his repertoire of adventurous fare. Know a paleo eater with a restless palate? A committed forager with far-reaching tastes? This is for them. Imagine goat mole, Korean elk and braised javelina; cattail hummus with stinging nettle sauce, acorn croquettes and wild grass risotto. The pleasant surprise of the book is how many elegantly exotic desserts there are.
Alton Brown: EveryDayCook ($35) by Alton Brown
I love Alton Brown’s enthusiasm, nerdiness and practicality. In this new book he emphasizes the practicality but still dorks out over science in a contagious way. He shares tons of advice about his favorite tools, ingredients and techniques. The recipes are arranged by time of day, which is weird but whatever. The recipes are great. Breakfast carbonara made with sausage? Salisbury steak? Cider house fondue, cocoa nib vinaigrette and “The General’s Fried Chicken?” Yes, please! Porn for food nerds.
The Essential Oyster: A Salty Appreciation of Taste and Temptation ($35) by Rowan Jacobsen
With gorgeous close-ups of glistening bivalves, this encyclopedia of oysters is a feast for the eyes. The book profiles more than 100 different types of American oysters, including tasting notes and engrossing stories about them and the people who raise, harvest and eat them. You might think: “Who needs recipes? I eat em right outta the shell!” But what about iced rosé mignonette? Eh? Gotcha there, huh? An elegant and unexpected gift for an oyster lover.
But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine ($29.99) by David White, John Trinidad and Ray Isle
The first five chapters of this book provide a good history but the sixth is where it gets good: “The Grower Revolution.” Champagne has always been unusual among wine in that most of it was made by firms that bought grapes from many people and then made bubbly under their own label. The goal for most was to have one bottle taste reliably like the next, year after year. But the most exciting thing happening in sparkles right now is the stuff made by the people who grow the grapes on small estates. Funky, unique, full of terroir and surprises, grower Champagnes are where it’s at and they are given their due here. For the novice student of bubbly as well as the drinker who thinks she knows everything.
Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas ($26) by Brad Thomas Parsons
Got a thirsty friend with an overcrowded bar? Know a wannabe hipster mixologist? Or just someone who loves the weird, bitter herbal liqueurs you hate? Show them you get them with this loving appreciation of bittersweet amaro, from Campari and Aperol to Cynar and Fernet Branca—then way, way past that into exotic, exciting things you’ve never heard of. With more than 100 cocktail recipes, plus directions for making your own and tips on using amaro in cooking.