The beauty of cookbooks: there is truly something for everyone. Whether you've got a boss who has a thing for handmade pasta, a friend who thinks they're Gordon Ramsay (but doesn't own a pepper mill), or a cousin who's obsessed with every Michelin-starred chef, you can find a cookbook to suit their dinner needs.
And yet a cookbook that you bequest upon another needs to have that added something, be it a handy weeknight reference guide that will outlive the current cake pop baking trend or a gorgeous book that serves as weekend creative inspiration. And there are always those everyday street food sorts of gems. Get our picks for the 5 Best New Gift-Worthy Cookbooks after the jump.
5. Hugo Ortega's Street Food Of Mexico by Hugo and Ruben Ortega:
Why: The stories about the street vendors that accompany the recipes by the Ortega brothers, Houston chefs by way of Mexico City, like tortas de luchador (over-stuffed sandwiches with achiote-marinated pork). That recipe, we are told, was inspired by one from a "masked wrestler... named Super Astro." Add in the photographs by Penny De Los Santos promising coctel de pulpo (octopus "cocktail") and tamales de dulce (sweet tamales with rum raisins), and this is one of the best chef-inspired cookbooks dedicated to Mexican street food that we've seen in some time.
For: The food truck fiend on the hunt for tacos de tránsito de lujo ("luxury pig's feet"); the enthusiast of traditional Mexican cooking seeking updated takes on traditional quesadillas de flor de calabaza (squash blossom).
Chapters: Antojitos (small-bite masa snacks like chileatole , a spicy corn porridge, and chalupitas, mini tortillas drenched in salsa), Tacos, Salsas, Tortas, Ceviches, Dulces, Bebidas.
Why: The sausage king has penned eleven cookbooks, but none is as comprehensive as this 600+ page manual for deciphering the difference between meat cuts and types of meat on the market (heritage, organic, grass-fed). And once you get it home, what to do with those bison short ribs (brine them in a coffee-salt solution, braise, and serve with a coffee-chili sauce). From staples like standing rib roast and Cuban-style pork to khao soi (Thai goat and noodle soup), you'll be flipping past months-worth of tempting dishes.
For: Aidells' fans, meat fans, fans of interesting recipes and expert tips. There's something for everyone here.
Chapters: Beyond the Introduction,which explains everything you could ever want to know about any cut of meat, chapters are divided by meat type. Beef and Bison, Pork, Sausages/Pates/Potted Meats/Cured Meats, Lamb and Goat, and Veal.
3. Modern Sauces: More than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day by Martha Holmberg:
Why: A one-stop manual for sauces savory to sweet, from classic French beurre blanc to caramel sauces in a half dozen forms (salted, ginger, coconut-rum, chocolate, honey-orange, molasses).
For: The seasoned home cook who wants to brush up on classic techniques and learn new butter sauce variations like apple cider-chile (p. 110, served on roasted Brussels sprouts); The novice cook keen on developing a greater sabayon understanding. This is a reference guide you'll still have in 10 years.
Chapters: Vinaigrettes, Herb Sauces, Tomato Sauces, Vegetable/Chile/Nut Sauces, Butter Sauces, Cream Sauces, Mayonnaise Sauces, Hollandaise Sauces, Gravy/Just/Pan Sauces, Sabayon Sauces, Custard Sauces, Fruit Sauces, Caramel Sauces, Chocolate Sauces.
Turn the page for two more gift-worthy cookbooks.
2. Fundamental Techniques of Classic Italian Cuisine from The International Culinary Center (with Cesare Casella and Stephanie Lyness):
Why: After you flip through the vast recipe section, the lesson plans offer step-by-step guidelines on trussing a chicken, flavoring risotto, and just about anything else you might every want to know about making traditional, everyday Italian cuisine. It's a massive book with a hefty price tag ($80/ $50 on Amazon), but a bargain compared to taking classes at The International Culinary Center's School of Italian Studies.
For: Italo-philes, anyone considering culinary school (cook through this book first, then decide), handmade pasta, pizza and risotto lovers (Who isn't?).
Chapters: Part 1, Recipes (too numerous to list; covers classic stocks and sauces, pasta/gnocchi, risotto, egg and meat dishes, fish/shellfish, vegetables, tarts, desserts). Part 2: Lesson plans, such as how to shape gnocchi and working with Italian creams and custards.
1. SPQR: Modern Italian Food & Wine by Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino with Kate Leahy:
Why: If you've missed chef Matt Accarrino's cooking since he left Craft in L.A for SPQR in San Francisco, where he has won countless accolades and most recently a Michelin star, you can now makes his braised oxtail in cabbage leaves with cranberry beans (p. 29) during marathon entertaining weekends at home.
For: The adventurous Italian-centric weekend cook looking for creative restaurant inspiration from a talented chef with a contagious enthusiasm. Squid Ink fans (p. 127: handmade squid ink linguini with braised squid, sea urchin, broccoli crema and pan-toasted breadcrumbs).
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Chapters: They are divided by Italian wine region with introductions on grapes and wine styles (Lindgren is co-owner and wine director of the restaurant). Accarrino's recipes follow in chapters on Lazio/Rome (spiced ricotta fritters with smoked maple syrup), Le Marche (fried surf clams with agrodolce and onion, fennel and cherry pepper salad), Umbria (fava bean agnolotti with mashed black truffle), Emilia-Romagna/Lombardia (veal and mortadella tortellini en consommé) and such. The "Resources" chapter includes items like xanthan gum (for making emulsified vinaigrettes with "an ideal creamy texture) but also many of Accarrino's own handy pantry recipes including his basic seasoning/cure for meats and fish.
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