Holiday Gift Guide: Cookbooks for the Serious Cook

December 9, 2015

Have someone on your gift list who loves to experiment in the kitchen and learn new techniques? You couldn’t have asked for a better year of cookbooks to choose from—2015 was packed with great titles from chefs and food lovers devoted to the art of cooking. Here, get our top cookbook gift guide picks for this holiday season.

Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine Cookbook Cover
Equal parts textbook and cookbook, Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine fulfills the promise of it’s subtitle—everything you need to know to be a great Italian cook. Bastianich defines ingredients in a huge glossary and includes chapters on Italian culture and language. Boasting more than 400 recipes, including Prune-Stuffed Roast Loin of Pork, Short Ribs Pizzaiola, and Cannoli, it is the Italian equivalent of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. While we do wish there were photographs, their absence makes more room for recipes and helpful instruction. This title makes the perfect gift for those who wish to learn Italian cuisine and those who want to perfect it. ($37.50; Knopf)

The Food Lab
by J. Kenji López-Alt
The Food Lab Cookbook Cover
This bible to better cooking through science by mad culinary genius J. Kenji López-Alt is a must-have for any serious cook. While filled with great recipes like Braised Leeks with Thyme and Lemon Zest, Best Short-Rib Chili with Beans, and Butter-Basted Pan Seared Thick-Cut Steaks, the real value of the tome is the vast knowledge López-Alt imparts. You won’t find just another version of a steak, salad, or pasta dish, but the tools and techniques to create the best possible version of each dish. Give this title to anyone who loves to cook, wishes to learn, or just loves to geek out about food. It’s an invaluable resource in any cook’s kitchen. ($49.95; W.W. Norton)

The Broad Fork
by Hugh Acheson
The Broad Fork
Vegetable haters—put down those hamburgers and pay attention. The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits wants to convert you to a vegetable lover. The beautifully photographed recipes feature vegetables and fruits as the star ingredients, but meat-eaters will find plenty to love. Recipes for Veal Loin with Sautéed Peaches and Arugula; Spring Onion Risotto; and Tartine of Mustard Greens, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Caramelized Onions, and Olive Tapenade stand out among a collection of already noteworthy recipes. The trifecta of gorgeous photographs, delicious recipes, and Acheson’s expertise, make this a beautiful gift for any cook. ($35.00; Clarkson Potter)

The Nordic Cookbook
by Magnus Nilsson
The Nordic Cookbook Cover
Where can you find 700 recipes devoted to Nordic home cooking? In The Nordic Cookbook, of course. Nilsson wrote this massive cookbook to share his travels throughout many countries including Denmark and Finland and to bring the best of authentic Nordic cooking to the kitchens of home cooks everywhere. The dreamy Swede veers from the recipes that he shared from his restaurant Fäviken to offer us more approachable dishes, but still manages to include many unfamiliar ingredients. The book includes a wide range of recipes such as Beef Tenderloin and Potato Hash; Rye Sourdough, Potato and Pea Soup From Virolahti; Danish Doughnuts; and Norwegian Sweet Pressed Cardamom and Vanilla Wafers. Get this for anyone wishing to expand their horizons in international cuisine. ($49.95; Phaidon)

by Bryan Voltaggio
Home Cookbook Cover
Top Chef finalist Bryan Voltaggio’s latest cookbook gives us a sneak peek into how he cooks at home. Spoiler alert: It’s probably more complicated than most of your weeknight dinners, but his passion is inspiring and makes the recipes worth the extra effort. You’ll find complex comfort food at its best, including recipes for Potpie Fritters, Biscuits and Gravy (imagine a biscuit topping with little portholes of sausage gravy bubbling through), Chess Pie with Sweet Curry Crust and, Goat Cheesecake with Blueberry-Gin Compote. You won’t need a chemistry or culinary degree to tackle these recipes—just some time and dedication. Give this title to the friend who is ready to take their basics to the next level. ($35.00; Little Brown)

Mastering Sauces
by Susan Volland
Mastering Sauces Cookbook Cover
Sauces can make or break a meal. Mastering Sauces provides everything you need to turn a simple meal into a spectacular one with the addition of a sauce, relish, or other condiment. Volland details techniques for all the classic sauces, and branches out into more ambitious recipes like Arkansas Chocolate Gravy, Korean Pear Bulgogi Sauce, and even English Pouring Custard, which you might know as Crème Anglaise. Cooks of every level will appreciate Mastering Sauces—it’s the only sauce book they’ll ever need. ($39.95; W.W. Norton)

The Masters at Home
Various authors
The Masters at Home Cookbook Cover
Ready to learn from the masters? This is the perfect book. Inside, 33 master chefs each share three recipes that they make at home on the weekends. Ferran Adrià, Lidia Bastianich, Massimo Bottura, Jamie Oliver, and Wylie Dufresne are just a handful of the chefs featured. Perfect for the chef who likes to go big and entertain on the weekends, the recipes in this book, like Rooster Potato, Smoked Pancetta and Gruyère Cake; Soufflé of Panettone; and Onion Lime Ravioli with Broad Beans and Mint are destined to impress. ($35.00; Absolute Press)

by Anne-Sophie Pic
Scook Cookbook Cover
The vibrant, photograph-filled Scook: The Complete Cookery Course from Anne-Sophie Pic will make everyone’s mouth water. And with dozens of tutorials for the 100 French recipes it makes French cuisine more accessible. Step-by-step photographs guide us through soufflés, puff pastry, and macarons. A few of the recipes topping our to-make list include Fresh Morels with Tarragon and Parmesan Cream, Saint Marcellin Cheese Croquettes, Ravioli Gratin with Caramelized Onions and Light Nutmeg Bechamel, and Rum Baba with Chestnut Sauce and Vanilla Whipped Cream. ($60.00; Quarto)

Arzak Secrets
by Juan Mari Arzak
Arzak Cookbook Cover
For the über-serious gourmet, there’s no better choice than Arzak Secrets. The genius of Juan Mari Arzak can only be truly appreciated by someone who loves to experiment with techniques and flavors. Live Seafood Soup, The Deer’s Footprints, and Malt Beer Injected Lamb are not for the faint of heart. Creating Volcano of Aromas with a sealed bag, crayfish, and spices or a Bubbling Carrot Soup in a small jar introduces new levels of creativity into the home kitchen. But don’t think this title is just for the professionals. Any dedicated cook willing to explore the creative development and innovation behind Arzak’s dishes will be duly rewarded. It is a testament to the work of art a meal can become. ($59.95; Grub Street)

My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl
My Kitchen Year Cookbook Cover
My Kitchen Year not only includes a stunning collection of recipes, but also chronicles Reichl’s recovery from the demise of Gourmet magazine. With 136 recipes that “saved her life,” the book reads more like a novel with deliciously tempting recipes woven throughout. Unlike most novels, My Kitchen Year includes beautiful full page photographs of recipes like Venetian Pork, Sriracha Shrimp Over Coconut Rice, Tart Lemon Tart, and Matzo Brei. Serious cooks will appreciate it for the Reichl aspect alone, but cooks of all levels will find something to love. That’s what Reichl does best, after all. ($35.00; Random House)

Genius Recipes
by Kristen Miglore
Genius Recipes Cookbook Cover
Based on the Genius Recipes column on Food52’s website, this compendium of “100 recipes that will change the way you cook” has been gathered from knowledgeable chefs and famous restaurants across the country. Finally, you’ll be able to make Raised Waffles from Marion Cunningham, Touch-of-Grace Biscuits from Shirley Corriher, Pasta with Yogurt & Caramelized Onions from Diane Kochilas, and Black Pepper Tofu from Yotam Otttolenghi in your own home. The recipes truly are genius (we speak from experience), making this a clear winner for anyone who loves to cook. ($35.00; Ten Speed Press)

For more holiday gift giving inspiration, check out the following guides:

Holiday Gift Guide: Cookbooks for the Restaurant-Obsessed

Holiday Gift Guide: Cookbooks for the Brunch Lover

Holiday Gift Guide: Cookbooks for the Baker

Holiday Gift Guide: Cookbooks for the Entertainer

Jenny Hartin is the creator and founder of the Facebook group and website The Cookbook Junkies.

Cookbooks of 2015HolidayHoliday Gift Guide
Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine

From the Emmy-winning host of Lidia’s Kitchen, best-selling author, and beloved ambassador for Italian culinary traditions in America comes the ultimate master class: a beautifully… Read more »

The Broad Fork

From James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson comes a seasonal cookbook of 200 recipes designed to make the most of your farmers' market bounty,… Read more »

My Kitchen Year

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Los Angeles Times • NPR • Men’s Journal • BookPage • Booklist • Publishers… Read more »

Food52 Genius Recipes

There are good recipes and there are great ones—and then, there are genius recipes.   Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink the… Read more »

The Nordic Cookbook

The Nordic Cookbook offers an unprecedented look at the rich culinary offerings of the Nordic region with 700 recipes collected by the acclaimed Swedish… Read more »

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