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PW list of Best Cookbooks of the Year

It seems like a strange list to me, and I am wondering if anyone else feels that way. Most of the titles, with the exception of Dorrie Greenspan's, are books that I never considered adding to my collection.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by...

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  1. Interesting list. I think you have to look at from a publishing point of view and not a cook's. They are all probably well edited and nice to look.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy

      In my experience, PW tends to review on content, so I'm not sure I agree with you. When there is a PW starred review, they are not giving it a star because the book looks nice or is well-edited. They are giving it a star for content.

      1. re: roxlet

        I agree with you about PWs reviews, roxlet, but in this instance I think they're giving booksellers a heads up on what they think is going to sell for the holidays. This seems to me to be more about marketing than anything else. PW, after all, knows what the advertising and promotion budgets of these books are and which ones are going to be pushed for the holidays. I don't think this article is meant for the likes of us. It's meant for those who need to have on their shelves the books that people are going to want to give as Christmas presents.

        1. re: JoanN

          Thanks JoanN; I agree. Remember, PW is a marketing tool for those in the book industry. ;)

    2. HMMMM...mixed.

      AGREE WITH:

      Dorie

      I have In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart by Alice Waters. I've only tried 2-3 things from it so far, but they've all been simple but very delicious.

      And if most of the content of the The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009 weren't available via a pdf someone posted on Chowhound, I'd probably get a copy of that, too.

      Don't know yet, but my copy of The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser is en route to me.

      DISAGREE WITH:
      I tried one recipe from the Bittman book and thought it was an abomination. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7365... Pikawicca and Gio are having good luck with it, I think, though.

      AGREE/DISAGREE:
      I have been tempted by My Sweet Mexico based on DiningDiva's reports. I checked it out of the library (but didn't have time to cook from it) and it seems pretty appealing. On the other hand, I think a few Chowhounds have reporting being disappointed with "Fiesta at Rick's"

      CURIOUS:
      I am now curious about One Big Table: 800 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Pit-Masters and Chefs by Molly O’Neill and Best book we’ll totally cook from
      In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love by Melissa Clark

      ~TDQ

      45 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        You're out of the New York Times' usual catchment area so I'm not sure if you see Clark's columns in the Wednesday NYT food sections - I do - a little too on the breezy chatty oh I had an onion and a piece of pork int eh house so I made an onion pork dish side for my taste. But I'm a nasty judgemental person at heart.

        1. re: buttertart

          You crack me up. Nah, I'm not really looking for the chatty breezy kind of random recipe. I can do THAT on my own. Thanks for the info on that.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            It seems a lot of people do like that sort of thing, but I don't see you as one of them!

            1. re: buttertart

              Harsh, buttertart, harsh. Must be that northern flintiness coming out! But I think the Essential NY Times Cookbook will be interesting nonetheless. I am looking forward to getting it, but TGC is playing games with its availability...

              1. re: roxlet

                For the longest time, the status of the copy of the Essential NY Times Cookbook I ordered in early Oct through TGC was "backordered." Prior to that, it had a ship date of early Nov. Then one day the status suddenly switched to backordered.

                Late last week, the status changed to "shipped". Today the status changed to "Shipped 11/08/10".

                They are definitely messing around with availability and it is one of the things that annoys me most about TGC.

                I have one other book on order with them that has gone through machinations, except that its status is still "backordered." Very annoying.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I want the new NYT. Of course. Even though Hesser is among the most annoying.

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Yes, I have just gotten a notice that the NYTEC has shipped. Yipee skipee. I am really looking forward to it,

                    1. re: roxlet

                      I hope you'll post a review of it once you've had a chance to look it over. I've been so conflicted about that book. I actually wrote quite a long e-mail to Amanda Hesser when she she first posted a call for people to send in some of their favorite Times recipes from past years. I was really looking forward to the book. Then I started reading all the "reconfigured" recipes she printed in the magazine and I hated them. In nearly every instance the original sounded better to me.

                      I'm still not sure just what the book is about. Is it the old recipes? the new ones? a combination of both? I'm really eager to hear what people I respect (as opposed to anonymous reviewers) have to say about it.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        I will let you know, JoanN. I guess that we have such long-term affection for NY Times cookbooks, Amanda Hessler or no, that the idea of a new NY Times book just captured me. Maybe I'll be sorry and the book will be a bust, but for $1 it's a chance I'm willing to take. And truly, I am frequently disappointed in these huge compendiums, feeling that they are unwieldy -- both literally and figuratively...

                        1. re: JoanN

                          Wasn't there an article about it in the Sunday Mag recently? People wrote in and nominated their favorites and the top x number were chosen, of whatever vintage - however I doubt anyone nominated one from the 1800's...this it?
                          http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/20...
                          (That food issue was a million times better than the previous one, they managed to come up with interesting topics. So difficult when you're dealing with food.
                          )The reconfigured recipes were a joke, I'm 100% with you on that - I also hate those let's take a high-calorie recipe and decalorize it things beloved on Cooking Light and Cook's Country. Don't eat it, eat less of it, eat as much as you want of it, just don't pretend nonfat yogurt = sour cream.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            "I also hate those let's take a high-calorie recipe and decalorize it things beloved on Cooking Light and Cook's Country. Don't eat it, eat less of it, eat as much as you want of it, just don't pretend nonfat yogurt = sour cream."

                            Amen.

                            1. re: flourgirl

                              buttertart, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to gently disagree. I really have no problem with lightening up recipes for every day cooking. I agree, nonfat does not = sour cream, but lowfat sour cream is a pretty decent substitute for the full fat version. And, yes, eating less of it is a good idea, too.

                              Thanks for linking that NYT article. I'm glad my copy of the book is on its way!

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I don't see something like substituting lowfat sour cream for the full fat version being at all the same thing as what buttertart is referring to - recipes that present a nonfat, noncalorie version of an original recipe that claims to be just as tasty as the original version. It may be healthier, but those recipes almost NEVER taste anything remotely like the original and I agree with Buttertart - at that point I can't be bothered. It's not that I don't strive for healthy in every day cooking, I do - I just don't like to cook those kinds of recipes. If I want to eat a high-calorie food, I will, just not as often and in smaller portions.

                                1. re: flourgirl

                                  I can't speak to Cook's Country (isn't that the same as Cooks Illustrated, which I like to refer as Cooking without Joy?), but most of the recipes on Cooking Light are not nonfat. They do reduced fat all the time, yes, or just reduced portions, which is basically what you are advocating. Just based on what's on their home page right now today, there's this "100 calorie toppings for baked potatoes". The very first option is brie cheese--the full fat version. The rest are for reduced fat cheeses. No yogurt, no nonfat substitute for anything. http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-sm...

                                  Also on their front page is an enlightened enchilada recipe. The only thing that is "nonfat" in the recipe are the tortillas. That's not that insane--Deborah Madison's VCFE has a tortilla recipe that calls for only masa and water.

                                  The milk is reduced fat. The cheese is full fat.

                                  Cooking spray
                                  1 1/2 cups chopped onion
                                  2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast (about 2 breasts
                                  )2 garlic cloves, minced
                                  2 (4.5-ounce) cans diced green chiles, undrained
                                  1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
                                  2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
                                  2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
                                  1/4 teaspoon salt
                                  6 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas
                                  2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese, divided

                                  I just don't think this is that horrible. True, it may not be for everyone, but I think your perception is a little off wrt to Cooking Light. The recipes are often "lighter" than the original version but not necessarily nonfat or fakey foods. I'm wondering if their approach has evolved over the years and your perceptions haven't evolved with them? (Because, for some reason, I also remember the days of fake foods with them, but I don't have any specifics to back that up.)

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                    It's just the bastardizations that get me. I cook lower-fat too, at times. I have however found often looking at the reengineered recipes that the calorie savings is not substantial enough to warrant substituting ingredients - 100 cal/serving is not worth it *to me*. I can see it being if you were on a very calorie-restricted diet.
                                    Plus, I'm testier than usual these days so my blunter side is showing itself! Whatever floats your cooking boats is fine by me.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Dining at buttertart's house (and at flourgirl's, too) is probably more delicious that dining at mine. ;-).

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Doubt it, Ralph (sorry, TDQ)!

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          No worries, but mostly because "doubt it, Ralph" flies over my head.

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            It's a childish retort meaning I doubt that very much! I'm sure your cooking is hyperdelicious.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              buttertart, you are very kind. My cooking is getting more hyperdelicious thanks to all of the incredible support I get from my fellow hounds. In the past, I haven't really considered myself much of a cook, and my mother (though I love her dearly) wasn't much of one, either. But, the last 2-3 years I have really put a lot of effort in improving my skills. I really need to work on baking, next!

                                              My biggest issues are a) impatience and b) boredom. I have this thing against trying a recipe I've already tried before. Also, I am a total stress case in the kitchen to the point where my husband occasionally asks, "Do you enjoy this at all"?

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I would never have thought that of you (the stress). Maybe make a recipe more than once to destress? ;-) Baking is easy, just get in there and do it. Baking recipes are usually so detailed (RLB, Maida prime examples) that it would be hard to produce something inedible (my paternal grandmother did that - made bread so hard the birds wouldn't eat it, my dad and his friends used as a football, and remained mostly intact when the snow went the following winter. She never used a recipe!).

                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                  I am a stress case if I'm cooking for others because I want to serve them something they'll enjoy.

                                                  Yeah, one of my goals lately has been to develop a repertoire of recipes I can knock out confidently. So, starting last weekend, I did a 5 day meal plan on EYB. I've never really done that before. Inspired by something pikawicca said in another thread (she says she cooks from one book all week), I went through one book (Italian Two Easy--I decided I should start small with this project), picked 6 recipes and "bookmarked" them as a menu "Week of Nov 8 Italian Two Easy" or something similar on EYB. Then I created a shopping list and did all of my advance shopping on Sunday (though, I did have a couple of things I wanted to pick up fresh, which I did last night).

                                                  My goal is to keep accumulating (and tweaking these meal plans) so that when I get busy and don't have time for menu planning, I can just fall back to one of the menus I've already tried. I already botched the plan this week a little, but I'll try again next week.

                                                  About baking, funny you should say that. In the intro to Ready for Dessert Leibovitz says he doesn't understand why everyone says they are so afraid of baking. He says you just have to measure precisely, but then everything should just go smoothly from there.

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    If I'm entertaining (unless for people I know really well and even them sometimes) I'm also stressed. No way round it. I always think of Peg Bracken's "doing the samba twixt sink and stove".
                                                    That's a good idea re the cookbook and meal plan. And Leibovitz is 100 pct right.

                              2. re: buttertart

                                Thanks for that, buttertart. I was out of the country the beginning of October and missed it. That actually sounds interesting. Perhaps I will get it. Maybe Costco will carry it? I had just assumed it would include all those reconfigured recipes as well and I sure wasn't gonna spend a penny for that.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  You're most welcome. Are books at Costco cheaper than at Amazon and Jessica's Biscuit?

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    Sometimes. Mainly because they usually carry recently published books that don't yet have many used copies for sale. Must say, though, I'm really not up on Jessica's Biscuit prices. They've never seemed particularly competitive. But I have to admit that at least 80% of the cookbooks I buy are considered used--although damned if I can tell the difference with most of them. I've bought perhaps a dozen cookbooks in the past couple of months and the only new one--an advance order, no less--was for Around My French Table.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      They had the new Harold McGee at Costco when I was there earlier in the week.

                                      1. re: roxlet

                                        So? Did you succumb? And if not, why not?

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          No, because I had already bought it ten days previously on Amazon for my husband for his birthday. Otherwise, yeah, I would have!

                                          1. re: roxlet

                                            I got the Kindle sample and it does look quite interesting (I read the original On Food cover to cover when it came out, science wonky me). I'm ticked that new ebooks are around $15 now, you can get most hardcovers for around that one way or another and I still prefer a book in hand. Ereaders are nice when sick in bed or commuting, however. I've often commuted with 2 books because I was afraid I'd run out of reading material mid-trip and have to face the train bookless, a fate worse than death.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              "I've often commuted with 2 books because I was afraid I'd run out of reading material mid-trip and have to face the train bookless, a fate worse than death."

                                              -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              That's my fear as well. That's where the New Yorker comes in handy. Because, what if you don't like the second book?

                                              Back on topic - all these cookbook threads on chowhound are just killing me. Envy and lack of self control are now coming full head. The whole, I have to know where the cookbook is going to go is now out the window. Trouble is a brewing.

                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                In the same boat.

                                    2. re: buttertart

                                      I buy plenty of cookbooks from both Costco and Jessica's Biscuits. Most of the time, I will find Jessica's for 40%, whereas Costco will be around 33%.
                                      However, as you know, you need to buy $25 worth of books at Jessica's to get free shipping, so one might want to pick it up at Costco when you see it, because shopping for that extra $4 worth to make up the $25 can either be a plus or minus to your pocketbook.

                                      1. re: Rella

                                        re: Jessica's Biscuit and the extra $4 to get the free shipping. I know what you mean. Most of their cookbooks are 40% off bringing your total (for one book) to $21. But, if you buy a bag of coffee, it brings you around $25. That's how I get the free shipping if I buy a solo cookbook. If you spend $40 (I think) you get a free bag of coffee of some inexpensive cookbook and if you spend $50 you get a free magazine subscription.

                                        I was shopping for cookbooks on their site and buying presents. I realized I had about $80 of cookbooks. Since I had no real interest in the free magazine subscription or in the inexpensive cookbooks, I broke the order in two. This way, I got free shipping on two batches of 4 books and two free bags of coffee.

                                        Sometimes, I have way too much time on my hands.

                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                          This (the 2 orders) is the kind of stuff I think up too. If considering a big cookbook buy I work all the angles (Amazon - I have Prime, JB, B&N - usualyy the most expensive, AbeBooks, whatnot).

                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                            Great suggestions!

                                            ~TDQ

                                  2. re: JoanN

                                    My copy just arrived and I've spent a little time with it. Haven't cooked from it yet, of course. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm most often drawn in by cookbooks with great photos , but, for some reason--maybe just because it's Friday and I'm feeling giddy and free--I'm intrigued by this book even though the photos are black & white and number few. There are a ton of recipes I want to try: a lot of appealing ones. Also, all the recipes have serving suggestions; lots of them have cooking notes; a few have readers stories; all cite the original author and date.

                                    Maybe I didn't pay enough attention, but I'm still unclear on the extent to which the recipes have been adapted. She says in the intro that she re-wrote the directions in many cases. And she talks about how cooking has evolved over the years, for instance that meats cook faster today than they used to or how egg yolks must be smaller or have reduced binding properties, but I'm still unclear if she's adapted the recipes or just made necessary updates to remain true or what. I see in many instances she'll offer clarification in the cook's notes --what kind of hot sauce she used, or that she omitted this or added that-- so, I don't know if that means she didn't adapt the recipe and this is what she recommends instead. I did see at least one of the "reconfigured" recipe, one of Maida Heatter's that she asked Leibovitz tweak for one of her columns, but I didn't get the sense that this type of recipes is a big part of the book.

                                    Like roxlet, I got a good deal on this book. But it's thick and costs $40 according to the cover, so it's a commitment. I am certainly glad I bought it, but I can see how someone would want to give it careful consideration before purchasing it. It requires a commitment of shelf space and money. Seems less unwieldy (more wieldy?) to me physically than Gourmet Today, by the way. Also, though, unlike Gourmet Today, she wasn't supported by the Gourmet test kitchen. She had lots of reader input and an assistant, but otherwise, she appears to have been the sole recipe tester.

                                    ~TDQ

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Thank you so much, TDQ. Great review. Sounds as though I'm not going to be able to dismiss it as easily as I thought I might.

                                      I've been cutting recipes out of the Times for 40+ years. If this book could replace a couple of fat binders and a real-estate-hogging file folder, it might well save me space. But I'd have to sit down and spend some time with it to see if has a good portion of the recipes I'd want to hold onto. Library reserve desk? It's Joan calling. Again.

                                      1. re: JoanN

                                        I assume that you're going to hang on to your clippings even if you do get the book? I'd be so afraid to let go of that.

                                        I noticed also that EYB has its status as "to be indexed soon", which would be pretty great, if you do get it.

                                        I will be interested to find out once you start comparing recipes how they compare to the originals. I forgot to mention that she's rewritten the headnotes, too.

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          "I assume that you're going to hang on to your clippings even if you do get the book?"

                                          I might not. I just have so many of them. And the ones I use with any regularity are browning and falling apart and have already been typed or scanned into my electronic database. Perhaps I'm just in clean-out mode these days. But I'd be happy to have an excuse to go through those files, scan what I want to keep, and toss the rest. I realize, too, that I haven't looked at either the original New York Times Cookbook or the New York Times Menu Cookbook in years. I doubt I'd miss them if they were gone.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            I'll bet that would feel very liberating. I hope this book works out for you!

                                            ~TDQ

                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        This interview with Amanda Hesser about the book has a bit of info about what went into it and her approach, though it hardly answers all your questions.

                                        http://www.epicurious.com/articlesgui...

                          2. re: buttertart

                            Totally with you on Clark. Her style makes me crazy. She always sounds so damned pleased with herself.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              Completely, and I have never once been remotely tempted to make anything she describes.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                The marinade for the chicken in her recipe for "Spicy, Garlicky Cashew Chicken" is orgasmically good. The only problem is I have NEVER been able to get it actually stay ON the chicken while it's cooking. So instead I just ended up using the marinade as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken. I LOVE that stuff. I can it eat it by the spoonful.

                        2. I have four of the books on that list, three of which are honorable mentions and all of which are baking books.

                          The SoNo Baking Company
                          Baking Explorations
                          The Gourmet Cookie
                          Cakepops (I really doubt I'll ever make these - I mostly bought the book because the pops are so cute, the book is really fun to look at, and I got it for a great price.

                          1. I have Bittman's "The Food Matters Cookbook" and love it, Greenspan's "Around My French Table", and Batali's "Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking." but haven't cooked anything from it yet. Plan to buy "The Essential New York Times Cookbook". But, the others hold no interest for me whatsoever.

                            Re the Bittman: love the concept and love the recipes after I tweak them to my/our satisfaction, but there's tremendous leeway and variation. Mostly veggies with meat the co-star.

                            1. Here are Epicurious top six, http://www.epicurious.com/articlesgui...

                              I'm very curious about the One Big Table, too.

                              ~TDQ