6 hours ago
Friday, September 4, 2009
I've finally reached that point in my cooking career where I feel comfortable going "off book" and improvising a meal without a recipe. And, I'm proud to say, that the results are delicious almost as often as they are disastrous. But I'm not the kind of person to just jump in without instruction and practice, and to get to my extremely high level of culinary expertise, it's best to start out with a little basic instruction. Sure, I took a few weeks of cooking school before dropping out, but where I really learned the craft was from some really great cookbooks (and my epicure ancestors). If you lack the latter, that just makes the former all that more important. My favorite books are the ones that not only tell you what to do, but how to do it properly, and why it should be done that way. And I love illustrations and pretty pictures (it's helps to know what the finished product should look like). But, with so many new cookbooks popping up all the time, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. Fear not. Without further ado, I present my top 8 favorite cookbooks. Any one of these will provide you with a very good foundation in the kitchen; the whole lot of them will turn you into a master, and will provide you with a lifetime's-worth of recipes. Happy cookbooking!
The Joy of Cooking. Here's a cookbook that needs no introduction. This one was the go-to reference guide in my house growing up. To this day, I look at it at least once a week.
Martha Stewart's Cooking School. A new book from the Big M. What can I say? I'm partial to her simple instruction and beautiful photography, and this one has a little bit of everything (if she's a little didactic, it's just because she wants you to do it right the first time).
The New Best Recipe, from Cook's Illustrated. I got this one as an engagement gift, and it has arguably improved the quality of my marriage (or, at least, what we eat). This one is great at explaining the reasons behind every step you take. And it's nicely and clearly illustrated.
How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. Bittman makes cooking the most complicated foods seem totally attainable with his clear, easy instructions, and provides recipes for just about anything you could want to cook.
Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. It's no secret that I am a huge Ina Garten fan. All her books are good as gold, but this one is my favorite, for it's simple, just-a-few-ingredients recipes using fresh, delicious foods.
Donna Hay: Modern Classics. This book wins the prize for most drool-worthy photography. I want to eat every page. And, because she's so clear and concise in her instruction, I actually can.
Everyday Food: Great Food Fast. Simple, delicious and quick recipes for weeknight meals. Even someone who doesn't know a sifter from a spatula could easily cook up something great using this book.
Julia Child's The Way to Cook. I couldn't leave out Julia, the heroine of all aspiring cooks. All her books are heaven, but this one gets down to basics in her humorous no-nonsense way. You could put it next to your bed and read it like a novel.