Twelve tomes featuring star chefs, enticing recipes and eye-catching photography
By Lesley Chesterman, Special to The Gazette December 6, 2013 6:10 PM
Lesley Chesterman chooses 12 cookbooks that caught her eye in 2013, including No. 8. Le Pigeon, Cooking at the Dirty Bird, by Gabriel Rucker and Meredith Erickson (10 Speed Press, 2013). Recipes that grabbed me: Smoked rabbit pie with cheddar and mustart ice cream, rib eye, pineapple and blue cheese, chicken-fried quail, egos, foie maple syrup. MONTREAL - Christmas is less than a month away and with the holidays comes the traditional crush of tree ornaments, yards of sparkling lights and cookbooks galore. A dozen grabbed my attention immediately, some for their looks, some for their star authors and some for their enticing topics (hello chocolate cookbook!). Here is a list of cookbooks ? and one travel food book ? that made their way to the top of my pile. 1. Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession and Recipes From Tokyo?s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint, by Ivan Orkin (10 Speed Press, 2013). I couldn?t put this book down when I started reading it, immediately swept up in the story of chef Ivan Orkin, who went from Long Island, N.Y., to Tokyo, where he opened a ramen shop and quickly became a celebrity. With two shops now in Tokyo and one in New York, Orkin has overcome some major tragedies in his life on the road to success. His story is compelling, and the book also offers a superb array of recipes, including everything you?ll need to make his ramen. >Recipes that grabbed me: Shio ramen, pork belly chashu, four-cheese maze men. 2. Manresa: An Edible Reflection, by David Kinch and Christine Muhlke (Ten Speed Press, 2013). Looking for that artsy cookbook filled with essays on the beauty of ingredients, intricate recipes and artistic food photos of jaw-dropping gorgeous plates and exotic ingredients? Well, this is the book for you. Written by one of California?s new generation of star chefs, David Kinch (owner of Manresa), along with Bon Appétit food editor Christine Muhlke, this foodie tome reminds me of The French Laundry cookbook in style, though the recipes are more exotic/esoteric in nature. Though I couldn?t find many recipes I?d have the energy to tackle, I enjoyed this up-close look at Kinch?s cuisine. Definitely one for the coffee table and the chefs ? the ambitious ones. > Recipes that grabbed me: Parmesan churros, rooster in zinfandel. 3. A.O.C. Cookbook, by Suzanne Goin (Knopf, 2013). Chef Goin gets her fair share of press not only for being one of California?s top cooks, but also for being a woman. But what I like best about Goin is her Mediterranean style. Her recipes are a bit involved, yet the resulting dishes are always full-flavoured and elegant. This latest book is focused on her more casual wine bar A.O.C. (Lucques is her fancier resto), which explains the lengthy text on cheese (she even includes a Quebec variety), elaborate notes on wine pairings for all the dishes, charcuterie selection and great array of Mediterranean/Californian dishes. It?s hard to find recipes in this book that you don?t want to make, but choose wisely because some are time-consuming. > Recipes that grabbed me: Crisp pork belly with peaches, ricotta salata and abbamele, chocolate mascarpone tart with pistachios in olive oil, watermelon and strawberry coupe with torn mint. 4. The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, by Michael Anthony (Potter, 2013). Fans of this acclaimed New York restaurant are sure to lap up every page of this glossy restaurant-business-card of a cookbook. The book details the rise of Gramercy Tavern and offers recipes for many of its most famous dishes. This book offers a great inside look over four seasons of a luxury restaurant where the flower arrangements, seared scallops and monkey bread are made fresh every day. As appealing as the recipes may seem, they are cheffy in nature, yet the cakes and pastries are American and homey and, therefore, a little less daunting. > Recipes that grabbed me: Chilled corn soup, the duo of braised and roasted beef, the cocktails, just about every dessert. 5. The Complete Chocolate Book, by The Canadian Living Test Kitchen (Transcontinental, 2013). I?ve long been a fan of Canadian Living cookbooks because the recipes are solid and the selection is always level-headed and enticing. This book is especially appealing because of its fun retro design and feel, but also because it?s all about chocolate. Divided into eight chapters ? gooey, creamy, crunchy, chewy, melty, crumbly, chilly and cake ? this book is also filled with seductive photos, helpful hints and a wide array of recipes for beginners and advanced bakers alike. > Recipes that grabbed me: Nanaimo bar ice cream cake, monkey bars, chocolate peanut butter pie. 6. Martha Stewart?s Cakes (Potter, 2013). Another great book in this lineup from the editors at Martha Stewart who already featured books on cookies, cupcakes and pies in this series. This book features 150 classic cakes, including bunts, loaf cakes, layer cakes, coffee cakes and more. A must for cake lovers (and that includes most of us), this book offers a picture of each cake and clear instructions and the ?Golden Rules? of cake making. Now if only they had added metric measures, this book would have been perfect. > Recipes that grabbed me: Maple cake, chocolate and hazelnut meringue cake, Meyer lemon coffee cake. 7. In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita, by Stefano Faita (Penguin, 2013). Well known to Montrealers, this energetic young cook is the host of the CBC cookery show In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita, a co-owner of the Little Italy restaurant Impasto and a member of the famous Faita family behind Quincallerie Dante. He?s also a cookbook author, but his three bestselling cookbooks thus far have been published in French. Finally, we?re seeing an English book filled with Italian, family-friendly recipes as well as recipes for dishes like tabbouleh and Vietnamese chicken noodle soup, which Faita obviously likes. Though I wish the photography was a little more inspiring, this book has plenty to offer home cooks. > Recipes that grabbed me: Layered cheese and vegetable pie, spinach and ricotta lazy lasagna, cinnamon ricotta ravioli. 8. Le Pigeon, Cooking at the Dirty Bird, by Gabriel Rucker and Meredith Erickson (10 Speed Press, 2013). There?s a nice buzz around this restaurant cookbook, which has resemblances to the Joe Beef/Au Pied de Cochon cookbooks (co-author Meredith Erickson co-authored the Joe Beef book as well) in mood, but has a personality all its own. The mood here is casual and creative (the restaurant is located in foodie central, Portland, Ore.) and the dishes are unpretentious, but a bit cheffy in nature, so advanced cooking skills are preferable. Still, there?s plenty to like here, lots of good reading, and boy, did this book ever make me want to go to Portland. > Recipes that grabbed me: Smoked rabbit pie with cheddar and mustard ice cream, rib eye, pineapple and blue cheese, chicken-fried quail, egos, foie maple syrup. 9. In the Charcuterie, by Taylor Boettichef and Toponia Miller (10 Speed Press, 2013). From the famous Fatted Calf in San Francisco?s Bay Area comes this fantastic book sure to charm the carnivores in the crowd. If sausage, salami, pâtés, roasts and confits are your thing, this book is sure to inspire. There are recipes, but, more importantly, step-by-step instructions with photos and detailed directions on how to master the sometimes complicated procedures. Despite the technique-driven nature of the book, there are enough modern recipes here for dishes that don?t call for sausage casings, intricate butchering techniques and caul fat to make this book equally appealing to those who just want a great burger. Vegetarians need not apply. > Recipes that grabbed me: Duck and lemon grass sausage, rabbit rillettes, gingery braised duck legs. 10. Dans la cuisine de Danny St-Pierre, by Danny St-Pierre (Les Éditions La Presse, 2013). In French. Quebec chouchou chef St-Pierre is everywhere this year. You?ll see him on TV, hear him on radio and you can head to Sherbrooke and dine at his excellent restaurant, Auguste. The drive of this, his first book, is to get Mr et Mme Tout le Monde cooking, resulting in a pretty basic cookbook coming from a fine-dining chef. Though I wish St-Pierre?s book contained headnotes to the recipes and a bit more writing, the recipes included are ideal for everyday meals. There is an unsophisticated design to this book that makes me think it?s destined for parents eager to cook with their kids. But look past the cheesy graphics and you?ll find some good recipes for everything from spaghetti sauce to whoopee pie to quick lobster bisque. > Recipes that grabbed me: Trout tartare, clam chowder with corn and pancetta, duck ragout with orange sauce. 11. The Can?t Cook Book, by Jessica Seinfeld (Atria Books, 2013). This is the second cookbook by Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld, who no doubt benefits greatly from her husband?s fame to flog this book aimed at the novice cook. Yet cynicism aside, there is a lot to like here. The recipes are basic, appealing and there?s a good variety of styles and flavours at play with absolutely nothing too challenging for the cook or the palate. This would make a great book for any beginner cook, but especially teenagers to get started. The book begins with a chapter called ?How-to? that offers basic techniques ranging from how to chop an onion to how to set up your work space. > Recipes that grabbed me: The turkey bolognese, the lemon ricotta pancakes and the stewy shrimp with tomatoes and white beans. 12. The Paris Gourmet, by Trish Deseine (Flammarion, 2013). When it comes to exploring the Paris food scene, many a gourmet traveller is sure to come away from the experience wasting precious time on soggy baguettes or doorstopper millefeuilles. But armed with this terrific new guide, foodies will now be able to cut a succulent swath through the capital. A renowned Irish food writer who has lived in Paris for more than 25 years, Deseine is a bona fide gourmet and this guide is our chance to discover her ?bones addresses.? Her restaurant selection includes establishments that have become timeless institutions as well as the trendsetting hot spots whose chefs are redefining the cuisine of their generation. Add to that a compilation of the city?s best charcutiers, patissiers, boulangers and butchers, and this book reads like a mouth-watering Who?s Who. She even lists the best suppliers of beautiful tableware and kitchen equipment. What?s most appealing, though, is this guide reads like an intimate personal history of the author?s love affair with the city and its gourmet pleasures.