It’s cookbook buying season, and not just because of the home cooks on our holiday shopping lists. This is the time of year our oven goes on overdrive and the cookbooks come off the shelves as we search for the perfect Sunday meal. Thumbing through recipes and deciding what new dish we’re going to attempt is half the fun, especially with a new cookbook in hand. We wholly recommend adding at least one of these 2017 titles to your collection (or your friend’s), to make the most of these prime braising, baking and boozing months.
3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon, Robert Simonson
I have to admit that when I see a new cocktail or spirit book come out I tend to sigh and roll my eyes a bit. How much more can we possibly immerse ourselves in cocktail culture at this point? As a fairly serious wine drinker I often find cocktails kind of fussy, as well. This book made me start building up a home bar. Simonson, who writes about spirits for The New York Times, convincingly argues that many modern cocktails are too crowded with ingredients and that three-ingredient drink creates a perfect balance, staying simple while also becoming more than the sum of its parts.
In thumbing through I found myself reading all of his excellent headnotes for both individual drinks and drink categories, and learning a great deal about the history of the cocktail in the process. I’m pretty excited to spend the Christmas season perfecting my Manhattan, updating it to a Star–an apple brandy version, and the delving into the refreshing world of the Tom Collins, which I’ve never even thought to order or make. —Annaliese Griffin
Milk Street: The New Home Cooking, Christopher Kimball
If you buy one cookbook this year, this is the one. I’ve been loving Milk Street, Christopher Kimball’s new magazine. There are more recipes I want to try in every issue than ones I don’t and they’re so clear and streamlined. The cookbook is more of the same and worth the price for the Cuban-Style Pork Shoulder and Rosemary-Pine Nut Cornmeal Cookies alone.
Kimball’s approach is to pick favorite dishes and flavor combinations from around the globe and really investigate the techniques and ingredients that go into those dishes and then adapt them to a modern American kitchen. If you desperately need some new inspiration for your regular rotation of dinner staples, this book will change your life, and it somehow also manages to deliver more than a few excellent recipes for baked goods. Get one for everyone on your list. —AG
America: The Cookbook, Gabrielle Langholtz
Published by Phaidon and edited by former Edible Brooklyn and Manhattan editor, Gabrielle Langholtz, this is a hefty tome that travels unceasingly around the country to deliver regional specialties and local favorites. I have to say that I wish it had more photos, but as a gift for a foodie friend, this is a lovely and comprehensive collection. –AG
Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker and Instant Pot, Melissa Clark
If you got an Instant Pot this season or even last year, and still have not purchased Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant to accompany it, do it now. All the other cookbooks for this cult kitchen appliance are either out of date or written for a “Taste of Home” reader in mind (not that I don’t enjoy a good taco lasagna every now and then). Clark’s books will inspire you to try dishes you may never have considered for your pressure cooker, like saffron risotto, which is amazingly easy and delicious, or duck confit, which I may actually attempt. Not everything is a winner—the chili required more pans than I like for a one-pot device, with little payoff. (A Texas-style chili, with hunks of beef that the Instant Pot can work its magic on, would have been worth it.) But her creativity will inspire you to be more adventurous with your multi cooker. For a solid year, I made only chicken soup in mine, and Clark has given me the tools to make a richer stock, improvise bean stews, try my hand at custards, and make ricotta without having to look up the recipe online and read through those annoying food blogs that make you scroll through endless food porn and display ads before you can get to the three-ingredient recipe at the very end. Given that most “modern” Instant Pot recipes reside on the Internet, it’s worth having Clark’s slim compilation to cook from instead.—Nicole Davis
I was late to the Smitten Kitchen bandwagon, but now that I’ve discovered the wonders of Deb Perelman’s mushroom bourguignon and her blueberry cornmeal butter cake, I’m a convert. Her newest cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, contains the same kinds of comforting dishes, many of which you can whip up on a weeknight no prob. The kale Caesar is a genius rendition of the classic, and the mushroom shepherd’s pie is well worth the fuss. (Can you tell I like mushrooms? So does she.) While it feels at times that Perelman is reaching for ideas to fill the book (looking at you, meatballs marsala) or riffing on the same old recipes, like Jean-Georges’ fried rice, you’ll find some fresh standbys. It’s a fun read, too. I have never laughed out loud at a cookbook the way I do when I read Perelman’s cooking notes.—N.D.
State Bird Provisions, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinkski
State Bird Provisions is a cult San Francisco restaurant I’ve never been to and was totally unaware of until its cookbook arrived in the mail. Unbeknownst to me, my husband experienced their Michelin-starred, California-style dim sum on a recent trip, and ordered the book as a memento. And now I’m officially jealous. After thumbing through its beautiful pages, I can say this is the first restaurant cookbook that is actually a pleasure to read, and not because the recipes are geared toward the typical home cook. The very fact that you need to make their signature sourdough pancakes 8 to 12 hours after you’ve fed the starter is enough to send shivers down this novice baker’s spine. But if you are ambitious in the kitchen, or already a passionate pickler and condiment maker, this is totally your speed. Even if you don’t like to ferment your foods, or source obscure ingredients, the writing is so endearing, the concepts so original (smoked trout dip + guacamole + potato chips?!), and the photographs so appealing, that it works equally well as armchair dining.—N.D.