"Must Have" Cookbooks?

Discussion in 'Cookbook Reviews' started by tylerm713, Aug 10, 2010.

  1. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    I have never been a big cookbook guy. There are a few that I have that get used a lot, but they are mainly regional cookbooks, and mainly written by John Folse. Most of my experimenting is based on what I have learned from those books. Generally when cooking, I either come up with something based on what I know, or look for a specific recipe online to prepare whatever I have. However, now I'm wanting to expand my collection of cookbook, so I'm trying to find out what everyone thinks are "must have" cookbooks. I came across this list earlier, and thought it would at least be a good starting point for conversation. It looks like a very well-rounded list, which is great, but I'm slightly less interesting in cookbooks about baking - it's just not really my thing. Tell me what you think of this list, and maybe what should be on the list that isn't.

    American Cookery by James Beard (BBS Publishing Corporation, 1996)

    Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico by Rick Bayless (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2007)

    Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens, 2004)

    Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1980)

    Complete Techniques by Jacques Pépin and Léon Pererr (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2001)

    Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan (Macmillan, 1995)

    How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman (Wiley, 2006)

    The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (Scribner, 2006)

    The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook (Countryman Press, 2003)

    Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1999)

    Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 1999)

    Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961)

    The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes by Barbara Tropp (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1996)

    The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron's Educational Series, 2007)

    The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson (Oxford University Press, 2007)

    Rick Stein's Complete Seafood by Rick Stein (Ten Speed Press, 2004

    The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso (Workman Publishing Company, 2007)

    The Thrill of the Grill: Techniques, Recipes, and Down-Home Barbecue Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby

           (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2002)

    Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (Broadway, 2007)

    The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Knopf, 1993)  
     
  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I'm a bit confused about your goals. Are you looking to expand beyond Louisianna cooking? Broaden your techniques base? Be entertained? Establish a basic library?

    Most of the books on that list are primers; that is, introductions to the topic. Indeed, many of them are considered classics of their genre, the standard against which others are judged. So, while I could take exception to some of them (don't care for anything Mark Bitman has ever written, for instance) I wouldn't argue too hard about including any of them in a well-rounded cooking library.

    There's an interesting syndrome about lists like this. There's no question that Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking belongs there. But one could argue that The Silver Spoon is a better fit. The thing is, by the time you know enough about Italian cooking to argue the point, you no longer really need either of them, other than for specific recipes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2010
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    One other thing. There doesn't seem to be anything about Spanish cuisine on that list; a serious oversight IMO.
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    If I were to compile my list of must haves, the only overlap with your list would be The Joy of Cooking.
     

    Get the cookbooks that interest you for the kind of food you want to eat. It doesn't matter much what other people think you should have if those books aren't of interest to you.

    But yes, drop the Bittman.
     
  5. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    My goals kind of include all of the above. The books that I do have contain mainly French technique, but are much less technical than, say, Pepin's Complete Techniques. Essentially, I want to build a library starting from the basics.

    I know this is a very subjective topic, which is why it's posed in a forum: to get the widest range of answers so that I can look at different books to choose which ones to include. I'm not asking anyone to tell me what the all time best cookbooks are, just what some are that you think should be in a home cook's library.

     
     
  6. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    Agreed. Spanish food is a favorite of mine. I already have a cookbook dedicated to paella, and I've come up with a few paella variations of my own. Any Spanish books you would recommend?
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    1080 Recipes is to Spanish cooking what The Silver Spoon is to Italian. So it's not a bad place to begin. Nowadays it's often used as a gift for new brides, the same way we use The Joy of Cooking.

    My favorite introductory book, however, is Spain and the World Table, because it's coverage includes everything from traditional tapas to molecular gastronomy. It's depth isn't all that much, but the breadth is exceptional.

    The new The Book of Tapas (see current reviews) is about as encyclopedic as you're going to get on that subject. Keep in mind that any tapas can be expanded to full-serving portions if desired.

    Essentially, I want to build a library starting from the basics.

    When it comes to techniques and basic culinary building blocks (but not recipes), it's hard to fault the CIA's At-Home series. There currently are 5 of them, with more planned. I would include Cooking At Home and Baking At Home in any basic library. Martha's Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvre Handbook is exponentially better than Hors D'Oeuvre At Home, however, and were it me I'd get that one instead.

    I'm not qualified to judge Chocolates and Confections At Home. One of my reviewers is, however, and her review will appear in October. Artisan Bread At Home is an OK choice if you have no others. But, frankly, I'd take The Bread Baker's Apprentice or any of Dan Leaders books over it. BBA is always my top pick in that category.

    I would certainly include Paula Wolfert's Clay Pot Cooking in any basic library, not only for the clay-cookery techniques but because it's a great introduction to all the cuisines of the Mediterranean region.

    Another must-have, IMO, is James Peterson's Sauces. In the absence of any others, Bruce Aidells' The Complete Meat Cookbook is a worthwhile introductory text. Cheese deserves a bookshelf of its own. But, fwiw, my single favorite title is World Cheese Book.
     
  8. chefedb

    chefedb

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    You want basics/??? There is a book out there you should read and it will explain to you why all the authors of these other books do what they do. It's called  THE SCIENCE OF GOOD FOOD by    D Joachim and A Schloss  with A Philip Handel , PHD. These 3 gentleman have written over 70 books all toll. They know their food tech
     
  9. highlander01

    highlander01

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    I have several of  James Peterson's books and IMO they are all great the only problem especially in Sauces you practically need a dictionary to understand what he's trying to teach. I prefer the second edition more so than the third ( I have never seen the first edition).

    Another book that I really have enjoyed is "Gastronomy of Italy" by Anna Del Conte.

    This is not a book with recipes but I really enjoyed the book "What Einstein told his cook".
     
  10. ishbel

    ishbel

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    Elizabeth David

    Nick Nairn

    Delia Smith

    Rick Stein
     
  11. citizensnips

    citizensnips

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    The French Laundry Cookbook will teach you to respect your ingredients and teach you love for food.  i cannot believe it has not been mentioned.  it is a very upscale book but there is a lot to take from it.  great pictures and important insights as well as over-the-top recipes.

    other good books to have are the flavor bible, the food lovers companion, ad hoc at home, and what to drink with what you eat (for wine lovers)

    i have a lot more in my library but those i think are some great ones to start with on top of your list of current books

    hope this helps

    CS
     
  12. zane

    zane

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    Repertoire de La Cuisine, Le: A guide to fine foods should be in every kitchen.
     
  13. the-boy-nurse

    the-boy-nurse

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    We don't use a lot of cookbooks, but we own a lot. Many of them are those awful pampered chef things. My mother used to sell it and she would get them for free, and give them to me. (Did that just rhyme, too much Dr Seuss) One thing I hate in a cookbook is anytime it calls for the use of a specific brand of mass marketed spice. I have a Emeril Lagasse Cookbook I was given as a gift. Every recipe it seems calls for 1tbsp"Emeril's Italian blend" or "Emeril's Essence" (which just sounds wrong BTW). Just tell me what seasonings are in your little mix and I am certain I can make it Myself! It's a cookbook version of the telemarketer. I'm not sure how I got on that tirade.

       One can tell how much we like a cookbook based on its condition. The more stained pages and bent bindings, the better the book. Our home favorites:

    Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking- Which I think is pretty much an update of her mother, Joyce Chen's book.

    Stephen Raichlin's The Barbecue Bible- I love the large sample of world cuisine, and on the grill no less.

    Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail- Great info on Indian spices and techniques, plus an interesting historical/anthropological read
     
  14. grapeape

    grapeape

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    Williams and Sonoma tools and techniques is a great book.
     
  15. zane

    zane

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    White heat.
     
  16. missyjean

    missyjean

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    I think Rose Levy Beranbaum's books, The Cake Bible, The Bread Bible, The Pie And Pastry Bible and  Rose's Heavenly Cakes are a must have to anyone interested in baking something right from the very first try.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  17. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not fan of the Cake Bible nor the Bread Bible. I own them, but never refer to them. Too obtuse.
     
  18. missyjean

    missyjean

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     I'm a beginner and get results described as "phenomenal"  on everything I make from Rose's books.
     
  19. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    My go to baking book is Baking Illustrated from Cooks Illustrated.
     
  20. missyjean

    missyjean

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    I bought that for my daughter and one for my daughter in law.  I wanted them to get a good foundation.

    I don't understand why you don't like Rose's books.