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The Biggest Cookbooks of Fall 2017: Chefs Tackle Home Cooking

From Alex Guarnaschelli to Kristen Kish, the pros share their top secrets

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Sometimes chefs want to step away from the professional kitchen and write explicitly for the home cook — and with their restaurant background, they have a lot of knowledge to bestow. From plating finesse to time-saving techniques, chefs Alex Guarnaschelli and Kristen Kish may be most famous for the work they’ve done on television, but this season they bring it home. Meanwhile, chef and restaurateurs Claus Meyer (Noma in Copenhagen; Agern in NYC) and Yotam Ottolenghi (of his namesake London cafe and bakery) dive into rustic baked goods, all designed for the home kitchen.

Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques

Kristen Kish, Meredith Erickson
Clarkson Potter, October 31

Top Chef Season 10 winner Kristen Kish publishes her first cookbook this fall, and it’s highly personal: The book’s introduction serves as a mini autobiography, detailing Kish’s childhood (born in South Korea, she was adopted by a family from Michigan at just four months old), her path to culinary school that eventually led to being mentored by badass Boston chef Barbara Lynch, and the Top Chef stint that would secure her fame.

The recipes here are intimidating: From seared scallops with pistachio puree and lardo to veal loin with sweetbreads and escargot ragout, this is the kind of high-end, exquisitely complex food that helped Kish snatch the Top Chef crown. The book also makes a big show of emphasizing techniques (its subtitle is, after all, “Recipes and Techniques”): “I’m all about properly searing and seasoning, the importance of knife skills, and understanding how things cook,” Kish writes. “And so I’m going to direct you, the reader, as I would instruct fresh cooks in my kitchen.”

But the idea that someone who’s never made fresh pasta or seared a piece of meat is going to learn it from this book in the process of making the kind of intricate, refined dishes that helped Kish snatch her reality TV victory is a bit dubious, and frankly, some of the techniques simply cannot be learned from a book. (Has anyone really ever successfully taught themselves to quenelle just from reading a single paragraph on how to do it?)

In that sense, Kristen Kish Cooking suffers a bit of an identity crisis: The inclusion of explanations on techniques like braising, tempering, and deglazing assumes that the reader is coming in without a basic fundamental knowledge of culinary techniques, but these are not recipes that can be pulled off by beginners. Dishes like braised octopus with chorizo puree and celery salad contain multiple sub-recipes that will span the better part of two days (but hey, at least Tom Colicchio won’t be breathing down your neck while you cook).

Kristen Kish Cooking is far from the first cookbook we’ve seen from a Top Chef winner, and it won’t be the last. Whether it’s worth a place on your cookbook shelf depends entirely on your own level of fascination with Kish: Her followers will enjoy the personal insights, and diehard Top Chef fans will savor the peek behind the curtain. —Whitney Filloon

Meyer’s Bakery: Bread and Baking in the Nordic Kitchen

Claus Meyer
Mitchell Beazley, November 7

Bread books are kind of like self-help books. They seem exciting at first, so full of possibility and promise. This time it will work. This time, I will follow the rules and become the person I so very much want and deserve to be. But unless the book conforms to the reader’s lifestyle, or they are ready to radically alter habits, the promises of a steady stream of freshly baked baguettes and sandwich bread, rustic loaves, and raisin-studded scones will fall ever so painfully out of reach.

It’s too early to predict if Meyer’s Bakery will break the curse for novice bread bakers, but there’s reason for optimism. Claus Meyer, the Nordic chef and restaurateur best known for introducing the world to Copenhagen’s Noma alongside chef René Redzepi, guides the reader through breadmaking with a steady hand. With great friendliness and zero condescension, he explains how to make and maintain a starter — the natural culture that is both a crucial ingredient for most breads and the thing that scares most first-time bakers off — and the process behind kneading, forming, and baking bread dough.

He’s encouraging, offering photo guides to what might have gone wrong at various stages (instrumental for a baker who is trying to pinpoint exactly where everything went awry). Where militant bakers demand almost daily maintenance of starters, Meyer promises easy revival after a prolonged period of neglect.

Standard recipes for both starters and a few different types of dough act as the building blocks of the book, so the novice or advanced baker isn’t starting from scratch with each new recipe. Once you’ve mastered one bread, you’re well on your way to figuring out a whole world of permutations.

Beyond the hand holding, what sets Meyer’s Bakery apart from the trove of bread tomes is its Nordic bent. Whole wheat, whole grain, and rye bread recipes dominate the volume, following shout outs to Swedish and Danish wheat varieties and farmers. Readers hoping to master a ciabatta or pane francese should look elsewhere. But inexperienced bakers who want to start easy with some whole grain loaves and graduate to dense seeded ryes — and experienced bakers who want to add a new genre to the repertoire — should let Meyer be their guru. —Amanda Kludt

The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart

Alex Guarnaschelli
Clarkson Potter, September 26

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is the opposite of a home cook: She’s an Iron Chef and a fierce judge on the fast-paced cooking competition Chopped. But in her new cookbook, The Home Cook, Guarnaschelli takes off her professional chef coat and shows her audience a culinary repertoire that’s close to her heart. Dotted with memories of sharing food with family, including her mother, she comes off as charming, and each recipe feels inviting and personal — a far cry from the personality she’s known for on TV.

Unlike many cookbooks by star chefs, Guarnaschelli’s book is extremely approachable. The recipes don’t have a long laundry list of ingredients, and the directions are clear and detailed. Guarnaschelli pairs exciting flavors with familiar ingredients, as in pasta puttanesca, sesame chicken drumsticks, and Cajun portobello mushrooms.

It’s the pasta puttanesca recipe that sets the tone for this cookbook. A flavorful and a classic Italian dish that only requires a few ingredients, this particular recipe is divided into three steps — making the sauce, cooking the pasta, assembling the dish. Guarnaschelli walks the reader through every detail of how to execute her recipe, from the amount of water and salt needed to cook pasta to the texture of fried capers before adding garlic — a level of detail that inexperienced cooks often seek out but fail to find in many cookbooks.

While trying this recipe, I doubted the final result and thought the sauce would turn out oily (the recipe calls for a full ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil). But when I tasted it right out of the hot skillet, I almost felt like chef Guarnaschelli was right next to me saying, “I told you it would be delicious.” The voice, though, was not of the executive chef/usually harsh Chopped judge speaking over me; with the intimidation stripped away by The Home Cook, it was the voice of my newfound aunt Alex, saying it with a big smile on her face. —James Park

Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottoleghi, Helen Goh
Ten Speed Press, October 3

I told a few of my colleagues before I started making recipes from this book that I secretly hoped they wouldn’t work. “Does everything Ottolenghi puts out have to be so perfect?” I asked, jokingly annoyed. Yotam Ottolenghi, the London-based restaurateur and chef, splashed onto the cookbook scene in 2011 with Plenty. Since then, he’s publised four additional books, and each of them have become bestsellers. For his latest, he partnered with pastry chef Helen Goh, and the pair makes a great team: In a book all about dessert, they so brilliantly riff on flavors and textures that even brownies (marbled with a halva and tahini swirl) go from basic to bananas.

This isn’t strictly a book of recipes for sweets served at Ottolenghi’s shops. There is some of that — regulars will note the Victoria sponge and take-home chocolate cake — but it’s mostly a book of desserts that have been, for lack of a better term, Ottolenghi-fied: dressed down, with perfect bedhead, and an edge — the Charlotte Gainsbourg of pastries.

Ottolenghi and Goh strike the right tone throughout. In the introduction they acknowledge the health effects of eating too much sugar and admonish readers to live a balanced life. They give credit where it’s due — in using Cake Bible author Rose Levy Beranbaum’s base recipe for pound cake, which they improve upon with hits of coffee and cardamom.

It’s easy to achieve success here because success does not mean perfection; rather, it means tempting textures, multi-faceted flavors, and eye-catching colors. In a world with so many unknowns, it’s a relief to open a book like Sweet and know for certain that following these recipes, step by step, will yield a perfectly moist bundt cake, pillow-y pavlova, or crispy-crusted crostata. Like Ottolenghi’s other titles, this is a keeper. —Daniela Galarza

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner... Life!: Recipes and Adventures from My Home Kitchen
Missy Robbins, Carrie King
Rizzoli, September 19

Chef burnout is all too common in the notoriously grueling restaurant industry, and in 2013 — after racking up a couple Michelin stars — acclaimed NYC chef Missy Robbins decided to take a year off to focus on her personal health and relationships. Appropriately, her debut cookbook-cum-memoir showcases not fancy restaurant food but rather the kind of food she makes at home. Essays of self-discovery are punctuated by recipes for homey-yet-sophisticated fare like chicken soup with ricotta dumplings, and there’s also a chapter dedicated to Vietnamese and Thai recipes that serve as edible souvenirs from Robbins’s long-awaited vacation. —WF

The Sioux Chefs Indigenous Kitchen
Sean Sherman, Beth Dooley
University of Minnesota Press, October 10

When will Native American food finally get its due? If Minnesota chef Sean Sherman — aka the Sioux Chef — gets his way, very soon. Sherman recently crushed Kickstarter records with a crowdfunding campaign for his upcoming restaurant, and his first cookbook will give folks a taste of things to come. Sherman eschews European staples such as wheat, dairy, and sugar, instead focusing on “pre-contact” Native American ingredients like venison, rabbit, freshwater fish, blueberries, plums, and wild turnips for a modern take on indigenous cuisine — think deviled duck eggs, cedar-braised bison, and roasted corn sorbet. —WF

The Chef and the Slow Cooker
Hugh Acheson
Clarkson Potter, October 17

Crockpots may not seem like natural territory for a James Beard Award-winning chef and acclaimed restaurateur to conquer, but that’s precisely the subject Hugh Acheson tackles with his newest cookbook. Acheson presents some fresh twists on traditional slow cooker dishes (think braised pork shoulder with fennel and raisins), but where it really stands out from the pack is in showing home cooks how to use the appliances in unexpected ways, from making duck confit and ramen broth to poaching eggs and making preserves. —WF

Other notable titles:

Maison Kayser’s French Pastry Workshop by Eric Kayser. Black Dog & Leventhal, September 12

David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient by David Tanis. Artisan, October 3

Mastering Sauces: The Home Cooks Guide to New Techniques for Fresh Flavors by Susan Volland. W. W. Norton & Company, November 14

Read More: The Biggest Fall Cookbooks of 2017

Read More: Eater’s Fall Preview 2017


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