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Oct 8, 2013 09:23 AM

I'm a winner, baby! Cookbook recommendations...

I filled out a survey and won a $100 gift card to Amazon. The problem is that it's for and I live in .ca, so my choices are limited and first few items I tried to buy ended up being things that won't ship to Canada. But books are usually a pretty good bet, provided they're being sold by Amazon and not a third party seller, so I thought I'd take this as an opportunity to enhance my cookbook collection.

I tend to prefer books that are strong on instruction (I love reading the parts of Joy of Cooking that are things like "how to break down a rabbit" or the Cooks Illustrated "your pie sucks, here's why" explanations), rather than just being a collection of recipes. I have Joy, How to Cook Everything and several Cooks Illustrated books that cover a broad swath of this territory, so things that go deep into some specific technique or ingredient (braising? fish? braising fish?) might be good.

Introductions to a given world cuisine that cover the basics of how to set up a pantry, flavor profiles and cooking techniques for that cuisine are also generally great. I have a not great Brazilian book and would like a really good one if one exists. I was also thinking about Hot Sour Salty Sweet, since I get the impression it's a good introduction to a selection of cuisines I've never really tried to cook. I'd also be interested in a book covering some of the Mediterranean / Middle Eastern / North African cuisines -- I was thinking maybe Arabesque based on the CotM archives, but reading back it seems like a lot of people found the recipes underseasoned or boring, so is there a better choice?

I'm not particularly looking for books that cover American or general western cooking techniques and recipes, since I feel like I have that covered pretty well already, unless they're really strong instructional books. The exception might be a book on slow-cooking, since I'm trying to use my slow-cooker more. Most of those, though, are super generic '150 slow cooker recipes' -- if there's a really good instructional book on slow cooking, I'd be interested in that.

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  1. I'd buy Jerusalem. For slow cooking, I have and enjoy The Indian Slow Cooker:

    1. Congrats! You ARE a winner.

      I can't comment on HSSS, but I really recommend Dunlop's books for Chinese. Her latest, Every Grain of Rice, covers multiple regions of China and focuses on simple, "every day" cooking. She definitely focuses on setting up pantry, etc. I think Land of Plenty, her first, is even better on the intructional front, though, as it talks extensively about knife cuts, etc., but LOP is narrowly-focused on Sichuan cooking. Her second, Revolutionary Chinese, is equally as thorough, but focuses on Hunan. EGOR might be a nice toe-dip in for an authentic, but broader, "simple" overvierw.

      I also really loved our Vietnamese COTM books, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. Both would meet your requirements, I think.

      However, if you want a pan Asian kind of book, maybe check out Charmaine Solomon's book that was COTM awhile back, "The Complete Asian Cookbook". That book has a chapter on each country. She does a brief but dense discussion at the beginning of each chapter talking about special ingredients, etc. But, you may have a hard time buying that one new.

      For Middle Eastern, I'd say Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food if you want a comprehensive look. It's a giant tome and is as delightful to curl up with and read as it is to cook from. (It's not as sexy as Ottolenghi, though.)

      I'll try to come back with some links for you.

      I haven't really found a slow cooker book that is the be all and end all. Lynn Alley's books as a collection might be good. Also Michele's books, "The Italian Slow Cooker," "The French Slow Cooker," etc. Maybe you'd do well with one of the America's Test Kitchen books. They never excite me, but that's what I'd check first if you want only one slow cooker book.

      Here's a thread "cooking from slow cooker cookbooks," but I don't know how helpful it's going to be versus all of those many threads on the HC board asking for recommendations for slow cooker cookbooks.

      I know you didn't ask (oh, wait, you did mention fish), but Fish Without a Doubt is an outstanding instructional book on seafood if you are interested.

      Molly Steven's All About Braising is a really strong instructional book, and better yet, I see the word "braising" in your OP. Her latest All About Roasting is being bandied about as a possible COTM for next month, too. I expect it to be as great as "Braising," though that's just a guess.

      ETA: Andrea Nyugen also has a couple of excellent "instructional" books that may interest you: one on Dumplings (from all over the world) and another on Tofu.


      1 Reply
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Fish Without a Doubt really is an outstanding book. The recipes are great, but it's the technique info that makes it an exceptional choice.

      2. They're Western, but I've learned the most about cooking from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, and love love loved the persnickety explanations and general neuroticness of Marcella Hazan and of the Zuni cookbook.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rose water

          Can't go wrong with Hazan for Italian or Zuni for Californian. And Lucques (also Californian), which I own but have never cooked from, is often cited as an all-time favorite cookbook here on Chowhound.


        2. Jerusalem is a great book. Majority of the recipes are relatively simple, but have stunning results.

          Do you have How to Cook...Vegetarian?
          We love the book, for vegetarian mains and sides, but also for sides to meat entree

          1 Reply
          1. re: cheesecake17

            +1 for How to cook Veg- it really teaches how to cook vs how to follow a recipe and has an amazing index of every vegetable you can imagine with a few preparation suggestions.
            Great section of salad dressings as well as soups/stews

          2. You're not getting one on microwave cooking?


            2 Replies
            1. re: 512window

              Me and the microwave are taking a break until the smell of burnt honey dissipates ;)

              Hypothetically speaking, of course.

              1. re: Jacquilynne

                So you and the microwave are done professionally? And hypothetically?

                Your books sound great. Everyone who has Jerusalem raves about it, including the real chefs.