Check out Gayot.com's list of the clutch cookbooks you absolutely must own.
Baking: From My Home to Yours
By Dorie Greenspan
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006)
The author of nine cookbooks, including Baking with Julia (the book that accompanied Julia Child's PBS series), Dorie Greenspan has been called a "culinary guru." Baking: From My Home to Yours is Greenspan's first book in which she isn't sharing the spotlight with another baking expert. In it, she offers 230 of her homey recipes presented in a style that is expert yet warm. Detailed instructions are part of what makes this one of the world's greatest baking books. Its other great feature is the variations she offers on many of the recipes, allowing the home cook to conquer one recipe and then build a repertoire from mastering one technique. The book includes recipes from breakfast sweets like allspice crumb muffins to savory cheddar scones, thumbprint cookies, coconut cake and exotic treats such as gingered lime and mango meringue pie.
Joy of Cooking
By Irma S. Rombauer
Considered the definitive guide to American cooking, Joy of Cooking is more than a collection of recipes; it is a work of American history and one that is telling of regional distinctions in how Americans eat. It was one of the first books of home cooking written by a home cook and as such, it took off immediately. But it is the tome's extensive collection of recipes and its specific instructions that help it to continue to be one of the most popular cookbooks more than 75 years later. The current edition has updated many of the originals for modern tastes and has even added a few new recipes for dishes like enchiladas and sushi. But the homey flavor still remains with recipes like brined, roast turkey, beef fondue and chocolate cake with seven-minute frosting.
By Prosper Montagné
(Editions Larousse, 1938)
Unlike the other books on this list, this tome offers a broader focus on food versus simply supplying recipes. It is considered the definitive encyclopedia of cookery. As the name implies, the emphasis of Larousse Gastronomique is on the cuisine of France, but its expertise can be applied to any cuisine. The book offers detailed cooking techniques such as braising, poaching, grilling, culinary jobs, biographical information on culinary luminaries and covers all the basic tools of the trade. In addition to the book's lists, definitions and articles, there are over 3,500 recipes from the mundane (fifteen variations for apple) to the adventurous (eight ways to prepare eel). It is the book even the world's most famous chefs look to as their reference.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts
By Maida Heatter
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1999)
Maida Heatter has been called the "Queen of Cake." The author of nine dessert books and a member of the James Beard Foundation Hall of Fame, Heatter has earned her title over a lifetime dedicated to baking. Her best-known work, the Book of Great Desserts covers every category of dessert popular in America from tortes and pies to fried cookies, crêpes, icebox cakes, brownies, bars and soufflés. Heatter talks to the reader like an old friend, explaining her recommendations through anecdotes. The not-to-be-missed recipe is her Queen Mother cake, a flourless chocolate number with almonds that the author declares would be her pick if there were only one dessert in the entire world.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
By Julia Child
(Knopf Doubleday, 1961)
This cookbook was the first to bring French cooking to the American home and it did so, in 1961, in such style, with such thoroughness that it is still considered the best guide of its kind today. As was illustrated by the feature film, "Julie & Julia," the book's 524 recipes are so clearly explained that even the most novice of cooks can learn everything from poaching an egg to boning a duck from its instruction. What makes it most practical are hints for sourcing or substituting French ingredients to recreate the exact tastes and textures of the nation known as the birthplace of Western gastronomy. Recipes are divided into sections including soups, sauces, eggs, luncheon, fish, poultry, meat, vegetables, cold buffet and desserts, and cover everything from quiches to aspics, cassoulet to Julia Child's signature boeuf bourguignon. Learn how to make vegetables the French way from this Julia Child video.
The New York Times Cookbook
By Craig Claiborne
(HarperCollins Publishers, 1961)
First published in 1961, The New York Times Cookbook set the standard for American cookbooks. Although many of the nearly 1,500 recipes have been revised or replaced over the years, the tome manages to maintain a sense of timelessness. Author Craig Claibourne was the first man to head the food section of a major U.S. newspaper and his work at The New York Times shaped food journalism across the country for many decades. The recipes in the book are a reflection of his work at the Times, all having originally appeared in the paper. And while the recipes originated from countless sources, they were all refined in Claibourne's test kitchen to ensure clarity and ease. They run the gamut from American classics like barbecue ribs with beer and honey to the more exotic flavors of Spanish fish chowder and lebkuchen.
The Barbecue! Bible
By Steven Raichlen
Not only the biggest book on its topic, this single-ingredient work is widely considered the very best book available on the great American pastime. The first edition won an International Association of Culinary Professionals cookbook award, and while you would think it couldn't get any better than that, the tenth anniversary edition sought to improve on the original with the addition of full-color photography throughout. The Barbecue! Bible's 500+ recipes include appetizers, main courses and even grilled desserts. Rather than delivering the expected burgers and ribs, Steven Raichlen's oeuvre covers everything from grilling bread and salads to rice and beans cooked on the barbecue. A "crash course" on grilling and barbecuing is thorough enough to make even the most novice user feel at ease. There are also recipes for sauces and rubs for those looking to progress beyond the basics, like classic bbq sauce and piri piri, toasted Indian spice rubs and Bourbon butter. Check out the Top 10 Barbecue Grills.
The French Laundry Cookbook
By Thomas Keller
Considering the breadth of major works by noted chefs on the market, it is hard to say which is "the best." But between Thomas Keller's world-renowned skill and the restaurant's international reputation, The French Laundry Cookbook is a logical choice. Rather than simply sharing a bunch of recipes that made the restaurant famous, the book walks the reader through The French Laundry experience, from the eatery's history to the many professional tools the restaurant employs to make its acclaimed cuisine. Of course, there is also an ample amount of the restaurant's signature recipes, from the coronets of salmon tartare to a "surf and turf" of monkfish tail and braised ox tail. The French Laundry Cookbook is fully illustrated with photography by Deborah Jones, whose vibrant pictures bring the recipes to life. Watch an exclusive video interview with chef Thomas Keller.
The Professional Chef
By Culinary Institute of America
(Wiley, John & Sons, Inc., 2001)
Now in its eighth edition, this tome is considered the textbook for professional chefs in America. Created by the country's most prestigious cooking school, The Professional Chef focuses on both the science and the creative side of cooking. The book offers over 600 recipes that take the user from mise en place to presentation of the finished product. There is also information on aspects of the restaurant industry like kitchen safety, nutrition, portioning and management, as well as definitions of ingredients and tools. The current edition includes 650 photographs by award-winning Ben Fink, which help to illustrate techniques and the visual appeal of completed dishes. Although the book's foundation is French technique, it includes foods and recipes from the Americas, Asia and all of Europe like empanadas, deviled eggs, cioppino, samosas and goulash.
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
By Deborah Madison
(Bantam Dell Pub, 1997)
This is the tenth anniversary edition of what is considered America's most comprehensive guide to vegetarian cooking. Author Deborah Madison has been working in California's premiere produce-based restaurants from Greens to Chez Panisse — and her experience shines through in this celebrated book. Apart from the more than 800 recipes that fill the pages of the sizable tome, Madison also offers guidance on sourcing and selecting produce, grains, soy and dairy, and illustrates techniques which may not be familiar to the home cook. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone begins with a section on flavor development and seasoning — a skill so very essential to vegetarian cooking. Recipes include things you would expect like pear and endive salad and bean and vegetable soup, as well as more surprising dishes like cashew curry, winter squash flan and ginger cream scones.
Check out Gayot.com's list of the clutch cookbooks you absolutely must own.