The wannabe chefs in your life are pretty easy when it comes to Christmas gifts—gorgeous, tasty cookbooks always do the trick. And, this year, there is a stellar crop to choose from. With options ranging from odes to the trendiest restaurants around the world and investigations into a single item on the food pyramid to cookbook memoirs of some of the hottest personalities in the food industry, you’re guaranteed to have no lack of dinner invites in 2016.
Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread—Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky
With the publication of Brooklyn bakery Bien Cuit’s new cookbook, the act of baking bread has gone from rustic to chic. Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread is a work of art itself, even before your mouth starts watering at the sumptuous recipes; its exposed binding and sleek black pages will make you want to leave it safely on the shelf. But that would be a pity because Chef Zachary Golper has achieved the seemingly impossible: he’s made baking bread seem accessible for the home cook. Each step of the process, from how to make the perfect starter to how to shape and score your loaves is fully explained, often complete with pictures. And there’s no skimping on recipes here; old-faithful loaves (sourdough, ciabatta, Kaiser rolls) are combined with creative interpretations (port and fig rolls, chestnut holiday bread, margherita scones) and an exploration of international bread traditions (Lithuanian table bread, Portuguese corn bread) that will leave you itching to bury your hands in a pile of dough.
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto—Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay
In a land that worships barbecue as a religion, it doesn’t get much better than Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Barbecue pit master extraordinaire Aaron Franklin calls the contents of this book “more of an idea” for how to make barbecue than an official recipe guide; it’s hard to dictate how to make a dish that changes with each decision in the process (smoker, wood, meat), not to mention is guided by just plain feel. Franklin walks readers through the types of smokers available—as well as how to build your own for those DIY fanatics—how to select, source, and season your wood, what to look for in the perfect cut of meat, and, of course, how to season and cook it. In short, this one book has everything you could possibly need to have your friends queuing up around the block at your next neighborhood barbecue.
The NoMad Cookbook—Daniel Humm and Will Guidara
For those who’ve never had the chance to eat at The NoMad—or can’t get the experience out of their heads—The NoMad Cookbook is the perfect pick. A pure embodiment of the swanky, laid-back restaurant, the distinguished black tome gives readers a taste not only of the divine menu, but also of what it’s like to live a day in the restaurant. Humm and Guidara pull no punches when it comes to recipes—they are the same ones they use in the restaurant kitchen, complete with metric measurements and “to finish” directions for nearly every dish. But the shining gem is the recipe for The NoMad’s famous roast chicken—here with five variations—the dish that has won over even the most critical of New York foodies. Like any good meal, the cookbook ends with the perfect flourish: a hidden compartment in the back cover holds a mini cocktail guide by the bar director, Leo Robitschek.
The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual—Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Ben Schaffer
The Belfast duo behind The Dead Rabbit, one of the premiere cocktail bars in mixology-obsessed Manhattan, is giving away their boozy secrets with this delightful drinks manual. A combination thrilling tale of the pair’s improbable rise to world domination and instruction book on how to concoct over 90 of their historically-inspired drinks, this guide will ensure no guest goes sober at your next party. Acknowledging that “‘cocktail’ is a silly word” with dubious origins, the pair instead explores much more serious sounding drinks like sours and fizzes, slings and toddies, and fixes and daisies. The recipes come complete with fun anecdotes and helpful tips, like one detailing the benefits of punch: it will have your guests descending the stairs a little more quickly—and probably not on their feet—at the end of the night.
A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden—April Bloomfield
Despite the emphasis on produce, April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens is not strictly vegetarian, so meat-lovers take heart. The chef known for her nose-to-tail pig creations gives the same treatment to the back garden. From top-to-tail recipes, like a roasted carrot with burrata dish garnished with a carrot top pesto, to sections dedicated to vegetables we normally take for granted, like the “humble potato,” Bloomfield breathes new life and creativity into the food group that is often a side dish. Food photography is mixed with delightful illustrations throughout the book, making for a charming read that will have you starting to think more like a farmer and less like a butcher.
Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatán—Eric Werner and Mya Henry
There is no hotter destination right now than Tulum, Mexico, and no more sought after reservation there than Hartwood, the outdoor restaurant that is a favorite of such food world luminaries as Noma chef René Redzepi. The dream of Eric Werner and Mya Henry, two transplants from New York City, Hartwood is known for harnessing local flavors to give visitors a true taste of the Riviera Maya. Recipes include such diverse offerings as blistered plátanos with honey, a variety of ceviches, Maya prawns with chipotle mezcal sauce, and slow-grilled pork belly. They are garnished with beautiful photos of the restaurant, the finished dishes, and the gorgeous scenery surrounding Hartwood to give a taste of the life and community of Tulum.
The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook—Danny Bowien and Chris Ying
Mission Chinese Food has taken both coasts by storm with its “maddeningly, addictingly flavorful” food, as Anthony Bourdain describes it in the introduction to the phenomenon’s new cookbook. It’s also quite young, so, instead of writing a definitive history of his not-so-established restaurants, chef wunderkind Danny Bowien has crafted something of a diary, as he describes it, complete with corresponding recipes that were inspired by each aspect of his life. Written in the form of a conversation with Lucky Peach editor-in-chief Chris Ying and Bowien’s business partner Anthony Myint, The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook is just as much the story of how a young chef soars to great heights as it is a delicious book of recipes stemming from Bowien’s “love-crazed ode to Chinese food.” Look out for such signature Mission Chinese Food dishes as Chongqinq Chicken Wings, Crunchy Tea-Smoked Eel Roles, and Salt-Cod Fried Rice.
My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life—Ruth Reichl
In 2009, when the self-described former Condé Nast princess Ruth Reichl was laid off from the top position at the foodie bible, Gourmet, after the top brass decided to shutter the magazine, she didn’t know what to do with herself. So, she did what she’s always done in times of trouble—she went back to the kitchen. The result is a heartfelt and supremely personal cookbook-cum-memoir about the flavors and dishes that connect you to your deepest memories and help dig you out of your darkest days. With accessible recipes broken up by season, Reichl will have you heading back to the kitchen to celebrate your wins or mourn your losses while getting your hands dirty making her Easy “Bolognese” fresh pasta or whipping up The Cake That Cures Everything.
The Complete Guide to Sushi & Sashimi—Jeffrey Elliot & Robby Cook
These days, cookbooks are often prized as much for their good looks as their scrumptious eats. The Complete Guide to Sushi & Sashimi doesn’t bother as much with the former—it’s more concerned with functionality with its spiral binding and photos laying out every step of every process. But for aspiring home sushi chefs, there is no more thorough education than that provided by star chefs Robby Cook and Jeffrey Elliot in their guide that addresses almost every aspect of making sushi. From how to butcher fish (including sea urchin) to how to cut and prepare sashimi to how to make all of your favorite rolls, this cookbook has everything you need to make your guests think they’re actually eating in Japan.
Mexico from the Inside Out—Enrique Olvera
Chef Enrique Olvera has spent his career exploring—and reinventing—the cuisine of his home country, Mexico. With one of the best restaurants in the country, Pujol, and the recent opening of his New York City phenomenon, Cosme, he can’t be stopped. With ingredients like chapulines (grasshoppers) and lots of local Mexican fruits, veggies, and herbs, plus a plating section for every dish, Mexico from the Inside Out is not the most accessible of cookbooks for amateur chefs. But, no matter your skill level, the book has something to satisfy everyone. Sheer half pages are paired with many recipes giving readers background into Olvera’s childhood memories and culinary explorations that helped inspire the accompanying dishes. Throughout his career, Olvera has helped bring the culture of Mexican street food into fine dining, and the stories and recipes showcased in Mexico from the Inside Out do this again, not only showcasing his own creative process, but also the traditions of his home country.
NOPI: The Cookbook—Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scullly
NOPI is quite possibly the most beautiful cookbook published this year. With a sleek cream and black cover and edges tinged in gold, it looks as delicious as the recipes and photographs that fill its pages. In addition to being a renowned chef, Ottolenghi is a prolific cookbook author who has become a favorite among home cooks around the world. His latest publication is a bit of a departure from his past work, “reflect[ing] the ethos of a restaurant” more than that of home cooking, as he recently told the editors of Eater. The recipes are similarly restaurant worthy and will force you to up your home cooking game with such creations as truffled polenta fries, spiced buttermilk cod, and lamb rump with vanilla-braised endive and sorrel pesto. But whether or not you’re up for the culinary challenge, it sure will look nice on your cookbook shelf.