Sunday, November 25, 2012

My trusted, most used, and most dependable cookbooks

Continuing in the spirit of Moe's current cookbook extravaganza, I offer the following contribution. Please note that your purchase of cookbooks of $35 or more in value from Moe's broad selection will award you with a bag of restaurant/food coupons and a sample of excellent chocolates. Also visit our events section on this website to get the details on the cookbook discussion series that will kickoff Wednesday, May 25th with a presentation of favorite cookbooks by Chef Suzanne Drexhagen.

This is my shortlist, books that I truly turn to again and again, which is supplemented by a few other cookbooks that I consult with confidence on occasion.

Jasper White, Lobster at Home. I don't often eat lobster at home, but when I do, I consult this book.

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, New Cantonese Cooking. I do cook Chinese food often, and this book is a treasure.

Ellen Schrecker, Mrs. Chang's Szechwan Cookbook. Ditto.

Bill Neal, Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie. The gold standard for baking books, at least for the type of baking I do most often. With astute historical and technical commentary, Neal was a national treasure and this book is a prize.

Paula Wolfert, The Cooking of Southwest France. A technical book with complicated, precise recipes, and a book that taught me more about French cooking, truly taught me through carefully following the suburb instructions, than any other book on the subject. There is much that is wonderful in this book.

Okay, that's the short list.

I will add here an addendum to the shortlist.

For foie gras, best book is Andre Daguin, Foir Gras, Magret and Other Good Food from Gascony.

For pesto, Fred Plotkin, Foods from Paradise. Excellent - always use a mortar and pestle. Same author's Authentic Pasta Book is also a first go to.

Raymond Sokolov, The Saucier's Apprentice. No great cooking without a knowledge of stocks and sauces. This is the bible.

Now, lastly, I will mention a few of my regular reference works. These are books that I don't use frequently but do consult when faced with cooking dishes I rarely cook or may never have cooked.

Jacque Pepin, La Methode, and La Technique (or a revised edition of these two seminal books, The Art of Cooking, 2 volumes). They will instruct you how to do things well.

Bruce Cost, Asian Ingredients. Need to know how to deal with dried fish bladder, or Luffa, or lily buds? Look no further. A knowledgeable and talented chef.
James Beard, American Cookery. Rather than Joy of Cooking, this is where I go when I need to know.

Hong Kong & China Gas, Chinese Cookbook, 1978 edition. Great book, but you need to be familiar with Chinese cooking, ingredients and technique to use it with confidence.

This is clearly a very personal list, but there it is for what it's worth. Bon appetite! Happy cooking!

I'll present a shot list of favorite “food literature” next time.

Ken Eastman

(Reprinted from 5/20/2011)

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