From the culinary melting pot cuisine of Macau to the unsung traditions of Appalachia, from the science that makes your food taste good to the proper way to grill a whole chicken, this year’s collection of our favorite cookbooks will inspire countless meals.
▪ “The Adventures of Fat Rice” by Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo and Hugh Amano: The authors and chefs have created the rare cookbook destined to transcend the kitchen by playfully yet painstakingly capturing the unlikely creation of a restaurant and documenting an endangered cuisine. They travel across continents and time to detail disappearing home dishes, from simple minchi (Macanese minced meat hash) to elaborate arroz gordo (fat rice). But it’s the comic book cover illustrating the “Attack of the Chili Clam!” that best hints at the beguiling world within and beyond. — Louisa Chu
▪ “Cook’s Science” by the editors at Cook’s Illustrated: The latest tome from America’s Test Kitchen digs deep into the science behind dozens of ingredients. As dry and scholarly as it sounds, fascinating facts pop up on every page. Turns out chicken wings are made of white meat, not dark. Bacon tastes great because of “150 unique aroma compounds.” While the text is dense, the recipes are easy to follow. — Nick Kindelsperger
▪ “Dorie’s Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan: The award-winning author shares 170 recipes, sweet and surprisingly savory, some from dreams. Full-page color photos capture her dearly departed Beurre & Sel collection, the cookie boutique she opened with her son. But it’s Greenspan’s words that will guide your hands to make everything from double chocolate chunk World Peace Cookies to finicky French macarons. — L.C.
▪ “Everything I Want to Eat” by Jessica Koslow: The cookbook details the unexpected success of Sqirl, a restaurant slinging creatively topped toast and rice bowls in Los Angeles. The shots of celebrities chowing down at the restaurant can come off as overly precious. But there’s hardly a recipe that doesn’t look enticing. — N.K.
▪ “Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes From the Culinary Heart of China” by Fuchsia Dunlop: The Jiangnan region of eastern China, home to Shanghai, is the focus of this excellent book. Recipes range from simple — one calls just for bok choy, oil and salt — to such elaborate constructions as a beggar’s chicken baked in a salt pastry crust. —Bill Daley
▪ “Meathead” by Meathead Goldwyn: The Chicago-based author enlisted scientists and physicists (Greg Blonder, Ph.D., of Boston University is also credited) to test dozens of myths and “old husbands’ tales” surrounding meat and fire. Reading like a geeky textbook-meets-cookbook (complete with charts, graphs and photography), “Meathead” takes apart everything from grill marks to beer can chicken, before building it all back together with foolproof advice, myth-busting tips and actual knowledge. “Meathead” is obsessed with testing everything down to a molecular level and imparting that knowledge to fellow meatheads. — Joseph Hernandez
▪ “My Two Souths” by Asha Gomez with Martha Hall Foose: The idea of Southern food, that monolith of American culinary traditions, takes many forms. In this book, Gomez brings her particular touch to the table. Inspired by the flavors of her native Kerala, the Indian state on the southwestern tip of the subcontinent, and the foods of her home in Atlanta, Gomez injects classic dishes with pungent, vibrant spices, transforming familiar favorites like gumbo, cornbread, pork chops, and fried chicken and waffles into international affairs. — J.H.
▪ “Patisserie at Home” by Melanie Dupuis: French pastries look so pretty but can seem daunting to make. This handsome book shows the home cook how it’s done, using step-by-step photographs and illuminating illustrations. Recipes are to the point. But there’s a handy explanation of each dessert, a roster of needed equipment and, best of all, a list of “tricky aspects” you need to pay attention to for a successful outcome. — B.D.
▪ “Taste & Technique” by Naomi Pomeroy with Jamie Feldmar: Award-winning chef Pomeroy’s tome is a culinary education. She taught herself through cookbooks and, in “Taste and Technique,” she sets out to do the same for new and experienced cooks alike. Starting with sauces, she painstakingly details how to source and shop for produce, to taste and to bring professional-quality cooking to your kitchen. — J.H.
▪ “Victuals” by Ronni Lundy: Describing herself as having grown up “of the mountains,” rather than in them, Lundy terms her 10th book “an Appalachian journey, with recipes.” Part reminiscence, part living history, “Victuals” offers 80 recipes that illustrate the region’s culinary diversity, including butter-bean cassoulet with rabbit confit, venison hand pies, old-school tomato gravy and braised greens in pot likker. Interwoven with the recipes are stories of modern chefs embracing Appalachia’s unique agriculture, of heirloom-apple evangelists and of determined snout-to-tail pig farmers and butchers. — Phil Vettel