Now that the holidays are upon us, we plan to post occasional lists of things we enjoy so that you have a better idea of what to get the hard-to-shop-for foodie in your life. Part 2 of our posting series lists some of our favorite cookbooks (we have two full bookshelves at home, so we have lots of favorites). Our list here covers the waterfront from easy to challenging, but regardless of which one you choose, we promise you'll get fantastic ideas and tasty food! All can be ordered on Amazon, many can be found at Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, and some can be picked up at your local bookstore (to the extent there are any of those left).
Dorie Greenspan's "Around my French Table"--(easy): A James Beard award-winning cookbook, Around my French Table brings French provincial favorites to your table with ease. Our favorite recipe is the Armagnac Chicken--absolutely delicious!
French Laundry Cookbook--(difficult): A collaboration between acclaimed Chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, etc.) and Michael Ruhlman, this cookbook really sets the standard for fine home cooking. Let's be clear--if you've never cooked before, this probably isn't the cookbook for you. Simple it is not. But, if you can find your way around the kitchen, we highly recommend the rabbit, the lobster broth, and the truffled egg custard. They're absolutely delicious!
Under Pressure--(medium/difficult): Another collaborative effort between Chef Thomas Keller and Michael Ruhlman, this provides the home chef with master techniques to elevate your sous-vide cooking. These recipes are often from the French Laundry itself, and have not been simplified for the home cook. So, like the French Laundry Cookbook, it's probably not for a beginner cook.
My Paris Kitchen--(easy): This part cookbook, part biography, written by acclaimed blogger and chef David Lebovitz, provides 100 traditional French recipes suitable for home cooks--even those with small kitchens like he has in his Parisian apartment. It's a great walk through Paris the city, and French cooking in general. And, the recipes are meant to be delicious, rather than pretentious. A highly-recommended cookbook.
The Family Meal by Ferran Adria--(easy, surprisingly): We love this cookbook by acclaimed Chef Ferran Adria--formerly of El Bulli, a restaurant lauded as the World's Best five different times. Even though Chef Adria is known for his avant-garde cooking style, this cookbook documents the "family" meals he serves to his employees before each shift. It is set up beautifully, with 31 three-course meals pre-planned for the home cook (one meal for each day of the month). The food is delicious, with sophisticated flavor, even though easy to prepare. It also has step-by-step pictures and scaling instructions for 2 servings up to 75 servings. It's a great resource if you find yourself asking "what do I want for dinner tonight?"
Fast Food My Way--(easy): This great cookbook by legendary French Chef Jacques Pepin provides you with quick and easy versions of classic, delicious favorites. Looking for a quick cassoulet? Try this cookbook. He may cut down on the time necessary to make a dish, but he never compromises on flavor. This cookbook works equally well for entertaining as it does for a weeknight family meal.
Mastering The Art of French Cooking--(medium): This legendary two-volume tome by Julia Child walks the average American cook through almost 800 recipes of classic French cuisine. As Julia Child said herself "anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere, with the right instruction." These volumes provide the instruction. With a little time, a little patience, and Julia's guidance, you'll be able to provide classic, delicious French dishes for family and friends.
Ad Hoc at Home--(easy): For those of you who want to try your hand at cuisine created by Chef Thomas Keller, but are a little intimidated to try to make something from The French Laundry Cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home is for you. Inspired by the menu at Chef Keller's casual restaurant Ad Hoc, this cookbook provides lessons in kitchen basics, and recipes for delicious burgers, roasted chicken, biscuits, and cherry pie, among others. It provides simple, flavorful food that is short on pretension, and long on flavor. A great cookbook for weeknight meals and hot summer days.
Rise to the Occasion--(medium): From the owners of acclaimed Dallas souffle restaurant Rise No. 1 (Pres. George W. Bush's favorite restaurant) comes a fantastic french cookbook focusing on--what else--souffles of all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Our favorites are the lobster souffle and the Grand Marnier souffle. Both are delightful in every way!
Paul Bocuse: The Complete Recipes--(medium): Chef Paul Bocuse is seen by many as the father of modern French cuisine, which is lighter, and more refined than its classical cousin. He's had three Michelin stars at his restaurant L’Auberge Du Pont De Collonges (Paul Bocuse)for 51 years, and has trained thousands of world-class chefs at his Institute Paul Bocuse. This cookbook provides the reader with 500 recipes spanning Chef Bocuse's entire storied career. This truly is "the unequivocal reference tome on the full spectrum of twentieth-century French cooking."
Amuse-Bouche--(easy): From James Beard Award-winning Chef Rick Tramanto comes a great cookbook for cocktail party and appetizer fare. The little bites of heaven that Chef Tramanto teaches you to make are the perfect preview to a delicious meal. Your family and guests will definitely enjoy.
Molto Italiano--(easy): From acclaimed Italian impresario Chef Mario Batali, this cookbook provides over 300 simple and delicious Italian recipes that almost anyone can cook at home. It shows that anyone can make delicious food at home that is good enough to impress your family and guests. While nothing is guaranteed in life, if you use this cookbook, you're all but guaranteed delicious Italian food whenever you want it.
Tartine Book No. 3--(medium/difficult): For those of you wanting to bake real, artisan bread, look no further than Tartine Book No. 3. This book is the real deal. If you have the patience, it will teach you how to make some of the most beautiful-looking whole-grain and ancient-grain bread you'll find anywhere. If you can master this book's techniques, you're guaranteed to have friends and neighbors ask you to bring bread to special occasions. This book truly is "a must-have reference for the modern baker."