BEST COOKBOOKS for X-MAS GIFTS
Man, that's like asking " What kind of girl should I date?"
Whatever you like.
For Baking, I'd say " Baking with Julia"
I've used it literally 100s of times, in a restaurant and at home.
"On Cooking" is a great book, but around 100 bucks, so...
Go to the Cookbook Store and browse.Something will catch your eye.
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Any of the Silver Palate cookbooks. Folksy type illustrations with accumulated knowledge of two excellent caterers and dinner party-home chefs. 10 x's as many recipes as most cook books. They have some of the best soup recipes that I have ever tasted. They provide a good background of various topics including meat cut charts, leftover storage info, how to prepare as much as possible ahead of time, and presentation suggestions. A kind of "My first cookbook" for aspiring chefs.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Julia Child). The best cookbook ever. Period. Although it can be a little dry for those not obsessed with food, for an aspiring chef it is fodder for the mind (I read mine like a novel). Simply THE most extensive french culinary reference, this book is a must have. It generally comes in two volumes and can be a little pricey, but there's always next christmas or a birthday.
I guess it sort of depends on what you are looking for. Are these gifts for novices or practiced cooks? Do you want collections of recipes or a discussion of technique? I own 30 or 40 cook books. Here are some of my favorites by type.
"I'm Just Here for the Food" - Alton Brown
This is a great book of how different cooking methods work. He gives an explanation and some recipes utilizing that technique. Alton Brown describes himself as a "food mechanic" rather than a chef and I think that is an accurate description. I would recommend this book over s similar book called "Cookwise" by Shirley Corriher. Cookwise is exhaustive but more than a bit dry. Alton's book is lighter reading and at least somewhat funny. This is an excellent book for the novice as well as for the experienced cook who wants to understand how things work.
"Simple Italian Food - Recipes from my Two Villages" - Mario Batali. I know he is one of Food TV's celebrities, but his food is really good. His restaurant Babbo is very good and this recipe book is full of relatively simple and very tasty recipes. I would definitely recommend this book over the Babbo cookbook which is much more complicated.
"Think Like a Chef" - Tom Colicchio. Tom is the chef at Gramercy Tavern, my favorite restaurant in NYC. His recipes are surprisingly simple and rely on the excellent quality of ingrediants and perfect execution for their impact. This is not like some star chefs who use 200 exotic ingrediants and whose reicpe looks like a laundry list. Tom's food is so satisfying. You have to try his braised bacon recipe. Unbeliveable!
"Complete Techiniques" - Jacques Pepin. The complete opposite of a coffee table book, this is for the enthusiast who wants to learn technique from one a great instructor. It is not a "flashy" book at all, but invaluable for learning how to do things the "right" way.
If you like Italian food, any book by Marcella Hazan is great.
Someone mentioned Donna Hay's books. I own several of them and they are very pretty. They make great coffee table books. Personally, I find her recipes just only ok. She is a very successful cookbook writer although I sometimes wonder how many people actualyl cook from her books.
Hope that helps.
I like the books by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I can't attest to the recipes' success but they read more like travelogues with descriptions of local life and characters they meet as they travel the world eating and researching cuisines. Good bedtime reading. A good gift for someone who likes ethnic cuisines and travel.
I totally suggest any Donna Hay cookbook. The books are gorgeous, she has pictures of all recipes, and the food is simple and delicious. My favourite is Off the Shelf, but she has some books that outline the classics, another called Flavours, and I think that there are even a couple that I don't know about. Really great gift.