Cooking by the Book
A Look at Cookbooks, Culinary and Cocktail Reference Books
My innate baking skills are crummy. When I want to make bread, dough, or dessert from scratch, I turn to two books in the kitchen. The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook is a three-ring binder of recipes from soup to nuts. I have only referred to it for quick bread recipes. The book contains helpful photographs illustrating techniques and detailed preparation tips. The tabbed sections and overall organization make it simple to handle and easy to locate recipes. The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook doesn’t look so new stacked next to other rarely used cookbooks. By far, this cookbook is the most-used reference in the kitchen when it’s time to make zucchini bread, crepes, and cookies from scratch. Also built as a three-ring binder of recipes, this book also has sections on canning and freezing, and grilling in addition to coverage of broad food categories. Again, I only use these two books for baking purposes and ignore the remaining 99% of recipes.
Cookbooks by Local Chefs
Today's cooks, food lovers, and fans of celebrity chefs don't have to rely on cookbooks for information or entertainment. Cooking shows on television and cable, food blogs, and web sites supply ample recipes on just about any dish imaginable. Yet, cookbooks continue to be published and sold in bookstores and retain a place on counters and bookshelves at home. Here are a few cookbooks by local chefs that might be worth space on your bookshelf. Also, some suggestions of favorite cookbooks, wine and cocktail guides, and reference books from local restaurant chefs and staff.
Some cookbooks by local chefs include The Jasper’s Cookbook and Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook by Jasper Mirabile, Jr. of Jasper's Restaurant. Chef and Baron of BBQ Paul Kirk and Ardie A. Davis are both barbecue experts with numerous barbecue cookbook titles to their name including America's Best BBQ. The BBQ Queens Karen Adler and Judith Fertig have also published many titles on barbecue, grilling, and smoking including 300 Big & Bold Barbecue & Grilling Recipes by the BBQ Queens. And Stir-Well to Heaven, The Eden Alley Cafe Cookbook, from chef Sandi Corder-Clootz contains vegan and vegetarian recipes.
Recommendations from Local Culinary, Wine, and Cocktail Experts
Regarding his collection of cookbooks, Colby Garrelts, chef and co-owner of bluestem, says, "I have a ton of books and I use almost all of them, but I don't cook directly out of them. I look for technique and scan through them looking for inspiration or for ratios of stuff I already know."
Some of his favorite books include "Larousse Gastronomique, all of chef Charlie Trotter's books - just for unique combinations, James Peterson's Cooking, Michel Bras' books, all of Thomas Keller's books, James Peterson's Sauces, On the Line with Eric Reipert, and all of Nobu's books."
Jeremy Lamb, general manager and wine director at bluestem, offers suggestions with wine and cocktails in mind. "I love the Wine Lovers Companion, the Wine Bible, and for more detail, I always go to Exploring Wine. It was Megan's (Garrelts, pastry chef, co-owner of bluestem) text book from her wine class at CIA. It's the best. Imbibe is the best cocktail book."
Ryan Maybee, president of Round Table Marketing and the expert mixologist/entrepreneur behind Manifesto (in the basement of 1924), offers two suggestions for those folks more interested in concocting cocktails. "I have a handful of books that are required reading for my staff and that I use on an almost daily basis," he says. "The top two are: The Craft of The Cocktail, by Dale Degroff, and The Joy of Mixology, by Gary Regan. Dale's book is a perfect practical guide to all things bartending, from how to prepare fresh squeezed juices and cut garnishes, to how to mix the perfect Manhattan. It's a great reference guide and Dale has such a knack for presentation. It's an easy read. Gary's book is great because it goes into more depth regarding the 'philosophy' of bartending. In Gary's world, there isn't always just one correct way to do things, but there's a gray area that always leaves room for improvisation depending on the guest or the situation. There's a lot of talk about hospitality and how to deal with people, both customers and co-workers."
Chef Jasper Mirabile's list includes Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan - "Every Italian chef has this book. Marcella is a gem. I met her years ago...so knowledgeable!" he says.
• Oxford Italian Companion to Italian Food - "A must on any shelf."
• Silver Spoon (English Version) - "Great book full of accurate recipes."
• Artusi's The Art of Eating Well By Pelligrino Artusi - "Iconic in my opinion."
• The Talisman, Il Talismano by Ada Boni - "Maybe 50 years old but a classic!"
• Roberto Donna's Cooking in Piedmont - "Roberto is my best friend, teacher, and a great Italian chef in America!"
"Of course Larousse Gastronomique," concludes Mirabile. "My father gave me my first copy with a personal note that I treasure to this day. I was 12 years old when he did this...what an inspiration."
And last but not least, John McClure, chef/owner of Starker's Restaurant, says, "I am a big fan of most cookbooks. One of my favorites is the New Gourmet Cookbook. All of the recipes work and they have a lot of fun ideas in it. Thomas Keller's Bouchon might be my all-time favorite, I like bisto style much more than ultra refined!"