Looking for great gifts for the cooks, chefs and just plain foodies in your life? Here are a baker’s dozen of new books to tempt the palate and the mind.
For the gourmet
▪ “Institut Paul Bocuse Gastronomique.” This book bills itself as “the definitive step-by-step guide to culinary excellence” and lives up to its subtitle, with more than 1,800 photos explaining techniques, ingredients and recipes key to the French cuisine with which chef Bocuse made his name. This is a serious book that will impress any serious eater or would-be chef but its design is simple and easy to follow with straightforward photos. Octopus Books, $75.
▪ “Cook’s Science, How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients.” Cooking is an art but it’s also a science, and nobody has mined this more thoroughly it seems than America’s Test Kitchen. This book explores ingredients from the humble (green beans) to the sublime (bittersweet chocolate) and is stuffed full of fascinating information as well as recipes. America’s Test Kitchen, $40.
▪ “What Good Cooks Know, 20 Years of Test Kitchen Expertise in One Essential Handbook.” Yes, another from ATK. Perfect for wanna-be chefs who need to start with the basics from how to outfit your kitchen to stocking your pantry. It’s kind of a cross between a how-to and a buying guide, including the winners of tasting tests. This the kind of cookbook that leaves nothing to chance, assumes you need all the help you can get and makes everything you cook taste better. America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95.
For the Southern foodie
▪ “Chicken” by Cynthia Graubart. Another in the excellent Savor the South series, this small gem goes way beyond the typical Southern fried chicken to explore regional favorites such as “Carolina chicken bog” and the fascinating stories behind dishes such as “Ode to the Women of Gordonsville, Virginia.” She also breaks down the bird into sections, with lots of recipes for dark meat and for light. Something here for almost everyone, from pickle-brined chicken to fried chicken and waffles. University of North Carolina Press, $20.
▪ “Victuals, An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes” by Ronni Lundy. Lundy, a former restaurant reviewer for the Louisville Courier-Journal, explores the culinary complexity of the Mountain South, sharing recipes and stories of a vibrant food landscape. Lundy profiles those who are preserving this unique culture, including tomato and bean expert Bill Best.
Recipes include the kind of favorites passed down in families, such as jam cake, which she has augmented with unsweetened cocoa powder and a sorghum icing. Tradition, with a the kind of twist that makes Kentucky cooking special. Augmented with beautiful photos by Johnny Autry, this book will having you planning a garden as well as a menu. Clarkson Potter, $32.50.
▪ “Recipe Revival, Southern Classics Reinvented for Modern Cooks.” From the editors at Southern Living, who know a thing or two about what Southern cooks like to put on the table, this updates 100 vintage recipes into modern-day counterparts. This fun read covers everything from breakfast and brunch to party food.
It’s a nostalgia trip (tomato aspic and three-bean salad, anyone?) translated for today’s cooks (heirloom tomato salad, lady pea salsa, and pear and green bean salad with sorghum vinaigrette.) Even the practically-perfect-to-begin-with fried green tomatoes get an update with a quartet of dipping sauces. Oxmoor House, $27.95.
For the shortcut lover
▪ “Mad Genius Tips, Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes.” Who isn’t looking for a kitchen trick to make life easier? Justin Chapple and the editors of “Food & Wine” have a whole book of them. Such as how to make ice cream in a food processor, bake hard shell tacos using an upside down muffin tin, shred herb butter with a grater and much more. These things are so simple you wonder why you didn’t think of that. But they work. Oxmoor House, $29.95.
▪ “One-Pot Cuisine, Classic Recipes for Casseroles, Tagines & Simple One-Pot Dishes.” From the makers of the wonderful Le Creuset cast-iron cookware comes this collection of 100 tasty dishes. Meats, vegetables and desserts included. These are the kind of classics that can earn a permanent spot in your kitchen repertoire. Mitchell Beazley, $29.99.
▪ “Cooking with Mary Berry.” You know her from “The Great British Baking Show” on PBS, but Berry is much more than just a baker. This book has tips for some of her favorites, from French onion soup to her “Best-Ever Fried Fish.” And unlike her daunting challenges on the baking show, these recipes include tips for getting everything just right. No worries about soggy bottoms here. DK, $25.
For the bread lover
▪ “Bread Illustrated, A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results at Home.” This tome from America’s Test Kitchen will show you how to make just about any kind of bread you can think of, from New York-style bagels to sourdough, pita to pumpernickel. Croissants? In there. Monkey bread? Ditto. More than 1,000 photos to get your mouth watering. America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95.
▪ “Dough, Simple Contemporary Bread” by Richard Bertinet. A paperback edition of the award-winning classic first published in 2005, updated with a DVD showing techniques of making bread. Breaks down bread into five types: white, olive, brown, rye and sweet doughs. Stuffed with recipes. Kyle Books, $24.95.
For the meat lover
▪ “Bacon Freak.” By Rocco Loosbrock, Sara Lewis and Dawn Hubbard, this includes 50 savory recipes “for the ultimate enthusiast.” So if you know someone who thinks no dish is complete with bacon, even dessert, then this is the book for them. Check out the bourbon bacon pecan bars if you don’t believe me. Also includes booze pairings, information on curing your own bacon and reference section on bacon festivals. Sterling Epicure, $19.95.
For the foodie reader
▪ “Butter: A Rich History” by Elaine Khosrova. A food writer and former pastry chef, Khosrova takes readers through the fascinating story of what was once a humble food, now celebrated by chefs and home cooks alike for its ability to elevate any dish. Plenty of history and science, but she doesn’t skimp on the recipes either from homemade butter to baked goods to sauces to sweets. And two velvety butter cream frosting recipes. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $25.95.