Check out every essential new cookbook to snap up in 2016.
Mario Batali Big American Cookbook: 250 Recipes From Across the usa
Grand Central, October 2016
Batali aims to produce the truest and most distilled form of American regional dishes — the versions being served at the church picnic and the local mom and pop restaurant.
At a time when many cookbook authors look for inspiration in the hyper-regional and specific, celebrity chef and restaurateur Mario Batali delivers a mass-market compendium that covers all of America. In this country's vast culinary landscape, comprising so many varied cooking traditions, influences, and cuisines, it is almost impossible to find a common thread. How does one define the cuisine of a nation built by wave upon wave of immigrants? What connects the cooking of the Pacific Northwest and the Florida Keys and the Southwest?
The answer is... not all that much. And yet, Batali's Big American Cookbook does have a compelling thesis and point of view. To Batali, what connects all American regions and cooking traditions is the commingling of immigrant influences and local ingredients. The food may be completely different in Northern California than it is in South Carolina, but the recipes all evolved based on the climate, residents' origins, and accessibility of ingredients.
With each of his 250 recipes, Batali aims to produce the truest and most distilled form of American regional dishes — the versions being served at the church picnic and the local mom and pop restaurant. Nothing is gourmet or chef-ified. No ingredient is hard to find. He does not offer the Batali take on deviled eggs or stromboli or chicken paprikash (though sometimes he notes how he would tweak a traditional recipe with a dash of this or a spoonful of that). The recipes are, by design, unchallenging and (from what I tested) successful and delicious.
The risk inherent in a generalist cookbook is superficiality. Batali covers American barbecue in all its permutations, but can only devote a page or two to the subject. In that way, advanced cooks, food snobs, and devotees of specific regions may want to look elsewhere. If you want the most simple and straightforward smoked trout salad (as I did), this is a great place to look; if you want to smoke your own trout, this is not for you.
Meanwhile, the immigrant contributions covered in his compendium are predominantly European. The book includes the African influences inherent in Southern cuisine and Mexican pozole, tamales, and chiles rellenos to represent the West, but it would have benefited from including better representation of America's myriad food cultures, both of longstanding traditions like Chinese-American cuisine and newer waves of immigrant communities shaping our dining today.
But what the collection lacks in depth, it makes up for in attitude. It's a celebration, it's joyful, it's unserious. It's about travel and appreciation and family. "Just make sure you teach your kids how to do it, too," he urges at the end of the pie section. The passing on of pie techniques from one generation to another may not be a uniquely American tradition (or a tradition for all Americans), but Batali's sincere, wide-ranging enthusiasm offers a distinctly American way to celebrate it. —Amanda Kludt
Rux Martin, October 2016
When I tested a recipe I immediately wished I had doubled it, so I could have frozen half of the dough for another time.
For anyone who has followed the charmed career of writer Dorie Greenspan — now among the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America — a cookbook dedicated to cookies comes as no surprise. For a little over a year, between 2012 and 2013, Greenspan owned and operated a cookie shop (Beurre & Sel) in New York City; before and since, she's made a living as a freelance writer and prolific cookbook author, focused primarily on baking books (she worked with Julia Child on several books, in addition to authoring her own). She lives at least part of the year in Paris, and is informed equally by techniques passed down from friends and family and from the world's greatest pastry chefs.
In her latest book, Greenspan presents a comprehensive and intriguing collection of cookie recipes. Most will be fairly familiar to the average cookie fan (chocolate chip and shortbread varieties abound), but her versions are tasteful and precise. The book is divided into sections on technique and ingredients, bars and biscotti, everyday cookies, celebratory cookies, and savory bites (which she calls "cocktail cookies").
New twists on the classic chocolate chip, thumbprint, and brownie are all welcome additions to the canon, but true standouts include Swedish visiting bars (a butter cookie bar base topped with a crisp almond crust), strawberry shortcake cookies (why didn't I think of this?), almond crackle cookies (an ideal weekday snack), pecan-butterscotch shortbreads, and caramel-sugar pufflets. The last is an example of how Greenspan can seamlessly take a complex French technique (puff pastry) and transform it with American ingredients (cream cheese) and a more casual process. The result yields a cookie every bit as delicious and indulgent as the arlette, its French inspiration, but with an added American ease and playfulness. When I tested it, I immediately wished I had doubled the recipe so I could have frozen half of the dough for another time.
Greenspan also dips into the grocery store cookie and cracker aisle for inspiration; Biarritz cookies look like Pepperidge Farm Milanos, and several recipes make use of Triscuit cracker crumbs for an added, well, je ne sais quoi. Greenspan's warm and confident writing makes this book a fine addition to any cookbook collection, and is capable of guiding the novice baker as well as inspiring fellow cookie experts. —Daniela Galarza
Mozza At Home
Nancy Silverton, Carolynn Carreno
Knopf, October 2016
Silverton’s latest book is a collection of recipes developed from her summers throwing dinner parties in Umbria, Italy. (Yes, really.)
When Nancy Silverton brought home the prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef back in 2014, it felt overdue. Starting with her years of stellar cooking at Campanile, Silverton's cooking has been shaping Los Angeles's culinary culture for decades. The founder of La Brea Bakery and owner of LA restaurants Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza, and Chi Spacca had already won the Beard Award for pastry chef back in 1991. And although Pizzeria Mozza, the first restaurant she opened herself, had only been open since 2007, fans had been ready for it for years.
Silverton's cookbooks are another unsung aspect of that mighty legacy. Her latest is Mozza at Home: More than 150 Crowd-Pleasing Recipes for Relaxed, Family-Style Entertaining, a collection developed from her summers throwing dinner parties in Umbria, Italy. (Yes, really.) The cookbook's name is a bit of misnomer, since only a few of the recipes actually come from the kitchens at the Mozzaplex (as LA Times critic Jonathan Gold likes to call her trio of restaurants). Instead, its dozens of recipes are organized into 19 dinner party menus. Every section revolves around a core "main" dish, coupled with various side plates that can be prepared in advance.
The book is personal and inviting; each recipe comes with an often lengthy headnote about its origins. The recipes themselves are written in paragraphs instead of broken down in the more traditional format, which makes them difficult to follow step-by-step — but also beckon the reader to sit back and soak in Silverton's joie de vivre. The menus are geared toward serious home cooks who have plenty of time, plenty of friends to help prep courses, and access to incredible produce. It's something a Southern California cook might take for granted, but even I found it difficult to acquire every ingredient in Los Angeles.
In preparation for the garlic-rubbed skirt steak, charred broccolini, and Santa Maria-style beans, I visited two supermarkets hunting for broccolini and fresh burrata. My fiancé and another friend helped with prep work, and without those extra hands, I would've had to work for at least two hours before getting plates together. But with a crowd in the kitchen, the recipes were well worth it. The scallion vinaigrette helped bring the charred broccolini, fresh burrata, and sliced salami together. I opted to sear the skirt steak (and the brilliant broccolini) over a charcoal grill, despite Silverton recommending the cast iron griddle. The results made for an excellent midsummer dinner on my backyard patio. Each dish felt at once original and unexpected, deep with flavor and perfectly conceived.
While Mozza at Home won't reflect a dining experience at Silverton's restaurants (which her previous book The Mozza Cookbook accomplishes), this latest volume is a welcome portal into her idyllic Southern California lifestyle, seemingly full of endless summers and backyard dinner parties. —Matthew Kang
Other Notable Books
Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Ina Garten does it herself and, when it comes to cooking, she does it for Jeffrey. For the uninitiated, Ina Garten is the cultishly beloved Barefoot Contessa, a Food Network star and best-selling cookbook author many times over. Jeffrey is her husband, of course, who plays a major role in her show. In this book, Ina has assembled Jeffrey's most-requested recipes, dishes that home cooks can surely master. Think roasted lemon chicken, maple-roasted carrot salad, fig and goat cheese bruschetta, and other familiar-yet-elegant dishes readers have come to expect from an Ina book. —HD
Appetites: A Cookbook
Anthony Bourdain, Laurie Woolever
Bourdain Books / Ecco
It's been years since Anthony Bourdain left the kitchen and started traveling the world in search of the best food and the stories it tells. With Appetites, Bourdain brings us to his home, where he has put his encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisines and his first-hand experience as a chef and cook to work for him as an entertainer and host. The self-described "psychotic, anally retentive, bad-tempered Ina Garten" offers readers recipes and guidance to smartly and efficiently cook at home. —HD
The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith, and the Joy of Eating Well
Little, Brown and Company
Ayesha Curry, though recognized as the wife of NBA star Stephen Curry, has carved out a path of her own in the lifestyle and culinary world. Through her work hosting a cooking show, as a spokesperson for a line of bottled soups, and now, as a cookbook author, she has branded herself as the sports world's lifestyle maven, a Gwyneth Paltrow or a Chrissy Teigen of the NBA set. The recipes are mostly approachable, designed to feed a young family. Yet styles and flavors run the gamut, echoing Curry's own culinary backstory: She spent her childhood in culturally diverse Toronto, and draws liberally from her Jamaican-Chinese-Polish-African-American heritage. This is a book for cooks of all levels, especially novices: It is filled with uncomplicated, globally influenced recipes like jerk turkey and sweet chile shrimp wraps. It’s also an innocent glimpse into the kitchen of America’s (or at least California’s) sweethearts. —Ellen Fort
Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs
Julia Turshen is something of a cookbook author's cookbook author: She made a name for herself as the presumed ghost writer, and then credited co-author, of Gwyneth Paltrow's first two cookbooks, respectively, and a slew of other cookbooks, too. For her first solo project, Turshen has turned her attention to the home kitchen, where lessons are chronicled as "small victories" in header notes to recipes designed like building blocks. These recipes aim to satisfy those searching to grow their repertoire of reliable dinners — dishes include roast chicken, grilled skirt steak, roasted salmon, and plenty of pastas. Fittingly, the foreword is by the queen of the genre: Ina Garten. —HD
Alton Brown: EveryDayCook
When he's not busy wearing himself out filming hours of snarky side comments and unhinged laughter on Cutthroat Kitchen, hosting pompous chefs on Iron Chef America, or reveling in the long-lost glory of Good Eats, Alton Brown is looking to get personal with his fans. That's what he says about EveryDayCook, his first cookbook in nearly five years, anyway. In the book, Brown presents the recipes he uses on a daily basis, ones that tend to fit into his busy schedule. Highlights include lacquered bacon, "EnchiLasagna," miso mussels, cider house fondue, and his own fried chicken recipe. Illustrated with pictures straight from the source — Brown's iPhone 5 — you can't help but feel like you're getting a real sense of the man who has taken the food world by storm. —ZK
The Edna Lewis Cookbook
Southern cooking legend Edna Lewis, who died in 2006 at the age of 90, is often credited as the preeminent voice in Southern American cooking, one positioned to chronicle how culinary culture developed in a region shrouded first under slavery, and later under Jim Crow. Born in Virginia as the granddaughter of an emancipated slave, Lewis found fame in the 1950s as the chef/co-owner of a New York City restaurant, serving recipes learned from her family over generations. She’s best known for her 1976 cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking, but Lewis’s first book — The Edna Lewis Cookbook — was published in 1972, and this new edition by Axios Press commemorates the 100th anniversary of her birth. —ED
Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm
This is the quintessential blog-to-cookbook title of the season. Within just a few years of launching, writer Molly Yeh has made her blog My Name is Yeh a must-read for food lovers, Instagrammers, and people who dream of owning a farm. With her debut cookbook, Yeh promises more of the same — along with lifestyle porn, readers can look forward to approachable yet unexpected recipes like Asian Scotch eggs, scallion pancake challah bread, and cardamom vanilla cake. Molly on the Range is poised to be a big seller. —HD
Cooking School: Mastering Classic and Modern French Cuisine
Inexplicably, leading French chef Alain Ducasse — who has collected Michelin stars for concepts like Paris’s Plaza Athéné and London’s Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester — has written a book about cooking for children, but never a book about French culinary technique. That changes in October with the publication of Cooking School, an authoritative volume that promises nearly 200 recipes and "thousands" of step-by-step photographs focused on French cuisine. With a title referencing Ducasse’s cooking school in Paris, sections are organized by difficulty level to encourage even novice cooks to add the mother sauces to their repertoires. —ED
Guy Fieri Family Food: 125 Real-Deal Recipes—Kitchen Tested, Home Approved
Fans of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, rejoice: Guy Fieri is releasing yet another cookbook, this time dedicated to family-friendly foods and strategies for meal planning at home. There's a signature Fierishness to it all, whether in recipes for buffalo chicken soup or deep-fried ice cream "boulders," or in the aggressive cover font. The focus here is definitely on family cooking, which in this case means pressure cooker recipes, strategies for stretching weekend cooking through the work week, and ideas for getting the kids involved. —HD
Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South
Little, Brown and Company
Chef, television star, and now Vivian Howard can add cookbook author to her impressive resume. Deep Run Roots focuses on her brand of Southern food and country cooking, both from her home and from her acclaimed Kinston, NC restaurant, Chef and the Farmer. These are compelling recipes, like fried yams paired with five-spice maple bacon and fried okra updated with a tempura batter. There are over 200 recipes and, remarkably, each has a photo. —HD
Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking
Let the Iron Chef show you how it's done. With his latest cookbook, Masaharu Morimoto makes the case Japanese home cooking. Morimoto aims to please with recipes for tempura, miso soup, teriyaki, California hand rolls, and even poke-style tuna and rice bowls. Those looking for strictly traditional recipes would be best served by something like Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton's opus on donabe cooking. —HD
Pierre Hermé: Chocolate
Legendary French pastry chef and seller of delicious macarons Pierre Hermé has a proposal for all the chocolate-lovers of the world: visit his shops, buy his new cookbook, and see what it takes to become a master. Recipes run the gamut from cakes to eclairs, but all pay homage to chocolate, as in a chocolate and lemon madeleine. —HD
Lead image: Helen Rosner