The best cookbooks of 2016. We know that’s what you’re seeking. So without further ado, here’s our short list of best cookbooks published at some point during this wildly bewildering, challenging, unprecedented year. May what you find within these pages inspire you to relax into dedicating more time to the sustenance of you and your loved ones. Wishing you all the magic of the season.—Renee Schettler Rossi
ART OF THE PIE
“Making the world a better place one pie at a time.” That’s pie guru Kate McDermott’s tag line, and it captures to perfection what she accomplishes with her first cookbook, Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life. Her charming prose conveys exactly what you need to watch for, listen for, and feel for when you make pie from scratch but without being offputtingly pedantic or technical. It’s precisely the sort of foolproof and grandmotherly advice that home cooks need nowadays. And that’s to say nothing of the exquisiteness procured by your efforts, which includes impossibly flaky pastry and foolproof fillings sweet as well as savory for all manner of pie-minded creations classic as well as unconventional. We’re talking hand pies and galettes and countless other sweet things that belong in your life. If you buy but a single cookbook this season, it ought to be this one.—Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor in Chief
Self-described barbecue whisperer, hedonism evangelist, and mythbuster Meathead Goldwyn guides you through all the potential pitfalls and victories of barbecuing in Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. It contains everything you need to know to decide which grill or smoker best suits your needs, to see you through grill and smoker set up, to help you wade through all possible fuel types (wood, gas, charcoal), and to discern which of the various methods of cooking best suit your needs. Meathead also includes all the how-tos and what-fors that are so often glossed over or completely overlooked in other barbecue books. Did I mention it also contains solid recipes for nearly ANYTHING that benefits from the marriage of fire and smoke? If you cherish the ancient ritual of fire and meat, this book is essential to your very existence.—Larry Noak, LC Recipe Tester
LAND OF FISH AND RICE
In Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes From The Culinary Heart of China, Fuchsia Dunlop explores the cooking and history of the provinces surrounding the Lower Yangtze River in Southern China. While not as well known as Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines, the cooking from this area is light, balanced, fresh, and elegant, with an emphasis on quality indigenous ingredients and centuries-old techniques used to emphasize these delicate flavors. Easy or challenging, each recipe contains clear instructions and the background of the dish and the area or chef from where it hails. The book also includes a comprehensive glossary of terms and ingredients, both in English and Chinese characters, to assist you when shopping. Dunlop’s writing is a charming mix of the poetic (“compose your salad like a symphony of colors”) and the practical (“cook just long enough to break the rawness”).—Lisa Mitchell, LC Recipe Tester
BIG BAD BREAKFAST
James Beard award-winning chef John Currency does right by his New Orleans heritage in Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day, which reaffirms with shameless indulgence an adoration for and infatuation with breakfast done southern style. And by breakfast, we’re talking unabashedly eggy, messy, ridiculously soulful fare such as homemade breakfast sausage, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, and 134–yes, you read that right, 134–other immensely satiating and napkin-grabbing concoctions that rely on eggs and bacon and waffles and all manner of all-too-oft-shunned a.m. awesomeness.—Renee Schettler Rossi, Editor in Chief
Appalachian food writer Ronni Lundy pulls back the curtains on her native region’s overlooked cuisine in Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, With Recipes, a heartfelt and beautiful melding of history, memoir, travelogue, profiles, and recipes. The book is organized by staple ingredients such as beans, apples, corn, and salt, although lesser-known local commodities, including ramps, candy roaster squash, and sorghum syrup are also prominently featured. It’s worth the trouble to acquire whatever ingredients you can given that the recipes are consistently excellent, whether cornbread or pickles, beans or a truly magnificent southern sticky toffee pudding.—Melissa Maedgen, LC Recipe Tester
THE ADVENTURES OF FAT RICE
Growing up in Swansea, Massachusetts, whenever my mother or grandmother would tell me we were having bacalhau (salt cod), I’d bolt from the room. One time, I wasn’t watching where I was going, and I ran straight into a door jamb, splitting open my lip. (OK, maybe I exaggerate, but I do know I drew blood escaping something I was told I had to eat.) But little chubby boys grow into big chubby men. And with all that chub comes a big appetite. Wouldn’t you know the first thing I opened up to in The Adventures of Fat Rice—the marvelous cookbook-cum-comic book by Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, owners of the restaurant Fat Rice in Chicago—was Bacalhau de Vóvó. Grandmother’s Salt Cod. But this time, I leaned in. Close. I’ve come to love salt cod and everything about my Portuguese heritage. And while Fat Rice is an homage to the exquisite cuisine of Macau, one of Portugal’s former colonies in China, there’s all kinds of familiar Portuguese flavors floating through these pages. Like Peixinhos Fritos (Tiny Fried Fish), Camarãoes Com Caril (Curried Shrimp), and Arroz Gordo (the signature dish “Fat Rice”). And because the restaurant and its cookbook are dedicated to bringing cooks global Portuguese flavors, you’ll also be treated to dishes from China, Malaysia, and India. Mr. Conlon has done Vasco de Gama proud.—David Leite, Publisher
MY KITCHEN IN ROME
My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian Cooking offers a first-person narrative on living and cooking in Rome based on knowledge and affinities author Rachel Roddy gleaned not just from her experience in the city but from the collective culinary consciousness that pervades its restaurant kitchens and markets and home kitchens. Her voice, like the voice of most Romans, is opinionated. Listen to it. Her opinions are punctuated by charming glimpses of everyday life and, natch, recipes. And her emphasis is on proper techniques—expect to understand why a food mill is crucial as well as the essential simplicity of a properly prepared affogato.—Renee Schettler Rossi, Editor in Chief
THE SPICE COMPANION
It’s hard not to be smitten with, or at least profoundly grateful for, The Spice Companion: A Guide To The World Of Spices. Author Lior Lev Sercarz lavishes attention on each of 102 common as well as not-so-common spices, portraying each in terms of where it originated, what to seek out when buying, how to store it, and a gratifyingly extensive array of options for what the heck to do with it. The weighty compendium is an encyclopedic cheat sheet of helpful information and beautiful botanical illustrations that you’ll quickly come to find indispensable for culinary inspiration every day.—Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor In Chief
COMPOSING THE CHEESE PLATE
There are a lot of cheese books out there. Cheese books filled with fussy recipes that require a weekend of work. Cheese books that pretentiously and poetically flaunt wine pairing know-how. Cheese books that pretentiously shame the reader into only seeking out artisanal cheese creations. Not this cheese book from the well respected folks behind Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe in Manhattan. Composing the Cheese Plate: Recipes, Pairings, and Platings for the Inventive Cheese Course is an unassuming compendium of unconventional as well as practical information for the average person who loves cheese but doesn’t have—or want—a PhD on the topic, including approachable wine pairings and practical buying and storing advice and even a few words on cheeses for the lactose intolerant. And the recipes for sweet and savory condiments to adorn your cheese plate truly to complement the cheese’s finer points in such a magnificent fashion as to make you look like a cheese snob without you having to act like one.—Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor In Chief
THE RYE BAKER
A decade ago, I became a bread baker with an obsessive affinity for rye. Sadly, my search for recipes always seemed to lead to a dead end. Stanley Ginsberg’s stellar book, The Rye Baker: Classic Breads From Europe and America, addresses this gaping emptiness. The Rye Baker organizes its recipes by region—Europe, Russia, Slavic countries, the far north, and America’s regional favorites. Not only are we presented with great recipes, we’re also supplied with history, legend, and insightful technical information. Here science meets patience with a little magic tossed in for good measure.—Larry Noak, LC Senior Recipe Tester
As the title of Poole’s: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner implies, you will find on its pages comforting diner fare reimagined with a contemporary, though not hipster, edge. But the title rather undersells the genius contained between the covers. There’s a definite artistry to the cooking of Ashley Christensen, chef and owner of Poole’s Diner as well as half a dozen other restaurants in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. And it manages to marry upscale and down-home to magnificent effect. Like burnt orange marmalade vinaigrette. Short rib pot pie. Roasted pumpkin with grits. And a spectacular—and spectacularly simple—macaroni au gratin recipe that just may make you weep.—LC Editor in Chief Renee Schettler Rossi
Breaking Breads ushers in a whole new world of Israeli breads courtesy of Danish-Israeli baker Uri Scheft, the co-owner and creative brilliance behind Breads Bakery in New York City. The book features some 100 reader-friendly recipes that are whimsical innovations on Old World classics, including his famous chocolate babka that’s largely regarded as the best in New York City. [SPOILER ALERT! It contains Nutella.] Thanks to an abundance of how-to photos and well articulated techniques, novices as well as experienced bakers will be tempted to bake their way entirely through the book—and hope not to gain 10 pounds while doing so!—Sue Epstein, LC Recipe Tester
Dorie Greenspan. What more can be said about this Doyenne of Desserts? She has forever been an integral part of the collective baking consciousness of millions of home cooks. So you would expect that when she compiles a cookie cookbook called, appropriately enough, Dorie’s Cookies, it damn well better be over the top with sweet awesomeness. And, happily, it is. No fewer than 170 recipes grace these pages—including brownies, bars, break-ups, holiday noshes, even recipes for the exact treats Dorie and her son Joshua sold at their beloved cookie boutique on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The photos by David Luciano lend the cookies a modern, artful feel though there’s plenty of familiar classics to be found. This book is the perfect gift for the holidays—oh, hell, it’s great any day of the year.—David Leite, Publisher
I am honored and giddy with joy to be included on this list of some amazing titles!
Well, it’s a great book, Kate.
Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots is wonderful and beautifully written. Giving it for gifts this Christmas.
Lovely, Abigail. We saw that book, too, and it is nice.