The holiday shopping panic has set in for most of us. It’s a weird phenomenon, because pre-Thanksgiving who’s really thinking about gifts? Not me! But before the last crumbs of pie have been swept from the table—woosh, it’s down the Christmas rabbit hole we go, days flying by like so many jars of jam. For better or for worse we live in the era of online shopping and debit cards and overnight delivery, so it’s possible to shower our friends and family with giftly love in just a few expensive hours, and never see another soul (or endure another Christmas carol ear worm). Does anyone out there remember how we managed it before? I am old enough to say we, but I honestly can’t remember Christmas shopping back in the day—I guess one sort of follows the other. But I digress, and I am here to help you click and drag your way down your shopping list with cookbook suggestions both newly published as well as some old faves. In no particular order are the first five.
Tartine Bread: This is the brand new publication from the famed Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. The very first post I wrote here, was a love letter to Tartine, easily my BBBOAT (best baking book of all times). Chad Robertson, the bread making half of the husband and wife team has dedicated his life to perfecting the bread of his imagination, and he has poured the same perfectionism into translating his years of knowledge into a form the home cook can recreate. In fact, some of the gorgeous loaves in the book were baked at home by testers working with basic equipment. Bread is my Achilles heel as a chef, I continue to find it daunting and most cookbooks on the subject disappointing, but I have high hopes for Tartine Bread. I haven't had time to work my way through it yet, but will keep you “posted.” I can say that it is a gorgeous book that anyone with an interest in bread making will be thrilled to receive.
The Food Substitutions Bible: This one is for the absentminded (i.e. busy) but practical cook—not as narrow a category as you might think. How to make substitutions for indispensible missing (or expired) ingredients, from the commonplace (confectioner’s sugar, buttermilk) to the strange (“honey…are we out of crocodile meat again?). In alphabetical order with exact and reliable measurements in recipe form (this is the 2nd edition), so you can be that most wondrous of contradictions, precisely imprecise.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: I put this one on the list because I’m amazed at how many people have never heard of Marcella Hazan, who is sort of the Julia Child of Italy, except unlike Julia her recipes are gloriously simple, but also unfailingly good if you follow them to the letter. This is an ideal gift for someone just learning to cook or looking to expand their repertoire of easy to prepare family favorites.
Flavor Bible: Another "Good Book," this one for the creative cook, it's a dictionary of ingredients that complement one another based on the distilled wisdom of some of the world’s greatest chefs. From classic flavor affinities, to original pairings in dishes from renowned restaurants, this essential kitchen library book is the color-wheel of tastes, and will inspire those with a passion to create and experiment. I cannot stress enough how cool/useful this book is.
Avec Eric: Does your giftee religiously tune in to Top Chef? Well, I'm sure How to Cook Like a Top Chef would make a fun gift, but why not take the cooler, sexier road?, Recurring TC judge Eric Ripert’s book is based on his PBS series, in which the Michelin-starred chef superstar with the perfect hair goes on culinary journeys around the world. From his discoveries talking to California oystermen and Tuscan farmers, he creates simple meals at home. The results aren’t fancy-shmantzy-Bernadancey, so the home cook can benefit from Ripert’s lifelong experience, but in the context of his zen-like modesty and humility. I like Eric Ripert. A lot.
I’ll post the second batch in a few days, as it is Sunday night, I spent too much time shopping on line without actually buying anything, and I’ve gotta get dinner on the table. Those turkey leftovers aren’t gonna slice themselves.
Although Carolyn Grifel has been cooking, baking, and devouring cookbooks since she was old enough to read, it took her four decades to finally devote herself to professional cooking. She received a degree from The French Culinary Institute in 2009, while working at Epicurious.com. Since graduating she’s been a chef for Sweet Deliverance, as well as the executive chef at the historic TA Ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming. She’s currently a private chef for a family of four in NYC, and the enchanted mother of a 10-year-old named Stella.