12 Cookbooks We’re Excited to Buy as Gifts

December 5, 2016

Cookbooks are the best gifts. They won’t fit poorly or go bad, and the price is pretty much on the money. And they say a lot about us, the gifter. After all, aren’t we giving gifts to say something? You, best friend, deserve this deep dive into the food culture of Spain. You, mother-in-law, would love a dozen new cookie recipes. You, brother living in Los Angeles, might dig a book about the international world of sausages. We’ve pulled together a few of our favorites for you to keep in mind this gifting season. Or buy one for yourself. That is totally cool, too.

Dinner at the Long Table
By Andrew Tarlow and Anna Dunn
In his lyrical opening salvo, Williamsburg icon Andrew Tarlow tells us, “Don’t follow recipes.” Ignore him. You’ll want to cook this book—and give it to that food-obsessed friend who wants guidance (and a generous helping of aspirational loftiness) when entertaining a crowd. Grouped by spirited, seasonal menus (The Tomato and the Sea, Under the Harvest Moon, The Night Before a New Year), Tarlow’s Brooklyn-i-ness is on full, covetable display: Combine simple, thoughtfully sourced ingredients in dramatic fashion, serve it with lots of good booze, and dine outdoors whenever possible. $40, Ten Speed Press —Mandy Major

Grape, Olive, Pig
By Matt Goulding

In his second in a series of highly personal, slightly gonzo, fully liquored travel books (the first was Japan; Italy is next, in 2017), the Roads & Kingdoms editor takes on Spain, his adopted country and one rife with food clichés that are smartly and systematically eviscerated by this book. Goulding is a master of the extreme zoom-in, taking readers along for a week of percebes harvesting in Galicia and into the classroom of his former instructor, Luis Irizar, the father of modern Basque cooking. (Indeed, it’s not Adrià.) Goulding kicks around with José Andrés in Asturias and pens a letter to his hometown of Barcelona in three movements: Lust, Breakup, Love. $35, Harper Wave/Anthony Bourdain —Matt Rodbard

French Country Cooking
By Mimi Thorrison

Mimi Thorrison gets a lot of press because she’s a striking mother of seven living in a glamorously aged chateau in the Medoc region of France. But to focus on that is a disservice to her wildly appealing recipes, which breathe new, earnest life into formerly fussy French fallbacks, such as feuillete, terrine, roast duck with cherries, and Dauphine potatoes. To delve into this book is to feel like you’ve been plunked down in Thorrison’s corner of the world—the best kind of armchair travel. $40, Clarkson Potter Major

Adventures of Fat Rice
By Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo, and Hugh Amano
Fat Rice (that name!) is a Chicago restaurant that kind of blew up on the Chicago scene after friends Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo, and Hugh Amano transitioned from running pop-ups to opening a tiny Logan Square restaurant that focused on the foods of former Portuguese colony Macau, a Special Administrative Region near Hong Kong, where natives have long utilized the region’s broad spice box with cooking that swings from daikon radish cakes to salt cod to whole ducks “cooked in their own blood.” The Adventures of Fat Rice—richly illustrated, tightly written, smelling of XO sauce—is truly the adventure you’ve been waiting for (in book form). $35, Ten Speed Press —Rodbard

By Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan
This year saw a heavy influx of Asian cookbooks—Chinese in particular. With strong competing titles such as All Under Heaven and Land of Fish and Rice, why this one? Easy. China is as much a cookbook as it is a field guide to China, offering 650 recipes (the book is a staggering 720 pages) that span 33 provinces; each recipe is labeled by region and written with detailed clarity helpful to the novice. The fact that it’s also artfully packaged makes it all the more giftable. $50, Phaidon —Major

A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches
By Tyler Kord
Tyler Kord is not just a sandwich god—he runs one of New York City’s most popular submarine shops—but also a writer with some serious chops. In this book of sandwich recipes (with photography from famous canine portraitist William Wegman), Kord proposes that the BLT is good, but supposes roasted cauliflower with smoked French dressing, or fried zucchini with onion puree, is actually better. He also writes many lines about why adding maple syrup to things is a good idea, sandwiches included. $23, Clarkson Potter —Rodbard

By Ronni Lundy

Cast in the hazy light of daybreak, Ronni Lundy’s Victuals (pronounced “vittles”) is a slow roll through the Southern Appalachian Mountains. At a precarious time when this cross-section of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia has essentially become political fighting words rather than a physical destination, here is a thoughtful respite and meditation on the cooking and cuisine that gives the region a sense of place. You’ll find delightful signatures of the area (cornmeal, buttermilk, greens, sorghum, chili buns), as well as thoughtful explorations of topics like seed saving and bean growing—forgotten hallmarks of Appalachian living that are now being rediscovered by a new generation. $32.50, Clarkson Potter —Major

The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasury of Encased Meat
By Chris Ying and the editors of Lucky Peach

This was my favorite book of the year because, first, I’m a man who loves his tubesteaks. But second, the way tubesteaks are covered in this book by Chris Ying is both creative and a little nuts. There are obsessive banger crawls through Germany and Northern Thailand, and a field guide to encased things like pølsevogn (Danish sausage wagons) and danger dogs (also called the Tijuana dog and always wrapped in bacon). This dude Ying will go to the mat, too. He argues that chorizo is one of the foods that American culture has ruined. The fist hath shaken. And on the topic of adding ketchup to a hot dog? Opinions. There are opinions. $26, Clarkson Potter  —Rodbard

Dorie’s Cookies
By Dorie Greenspan

Greenspan’s power is sneaky. Her ebullient love for the art of baking lures you in word by word in her recipes, sparking a need to play, create, eat…immediately. In this cookbook, her compelling and instructive voice is alive and well as she offers up a mind-boggling number of must-try cookies, bars, and brownies, all cast in high-contrast, ultracolorful images. $35, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  —Major

The Dumpling Galaxy
By Helen You and Max Falkowitz
The act of stuffing meat and vegetables and other wonderful things into pouches of dough, then deep-frying, boiling, or steaming said pouches is woven into the fabric of many food cultures around the world. But for Chinese cooks, the cooking of these things called dumplings can approach an art form. Helen You is the owner of the wonderful Galaxy Dumping in Flushing, Queens, and this book is the story of her complex dumpling universe—with recipes that include classics like pork and chive as well as more out-there combinations like lamb, zucchini and Sichuan peppercorns. There are also a few dough recipes for those willing to make their own wrappers. The authors promise it’s worth it. $19.99, Clarkson Potter (out in January, pre-order) —Rodbard

Taste & Technique
By Naomi Pomeroy

If there’s one thing to learn from Naomi Pomeroy’s stunning cookbook, it’s that practice equals precision. It’s how the self-taught chef-owner of Portland, Oregon’s Beast has risen to this point in her career—learning dish by dish, failures and all. The result is an impressive collection of intensive, beautifully shot, and highly detailed recipes for everything from soufflés (a specialty) to a two-day-prep sherry-glazed pork belly (a Beast favorite). $40, Ten Speed Press —Major

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes From My Corner of the South
By Vivian Howard
For fans of chef Vivian Howard’s PBS show A Chef’s Life, this book is the must-own magnum opus they’d been requesting for years (it lands with a large thud at 230 recipes and 576 pages). And for those new to Howard’s world, where her rural hometown of Deep Run, North Carolina, informs her cooking and storytelling style, this is a deep dive into the food culture of the American South, not unlike the recent Victuals and Heritage. $40 Little, Brown —Rodbard

Cookbooks of 2016Gift GuideHoliday Gift Guide
From Around the Web
Previous StoryDitch the Knives, Spoon Cheese is HereNext StoryThe Best Way to Roast Pork? Overnight.