I really like cookbooks. This passion for recipes in bound, tangible form is somewhat distressing to my wife, since I only end up cooking on some weekends and then I usually end up buying a bunch of extra food to honor the depth of my culinary genius, but yet, I have a giant stack of cookbooks. So, while I might not be an expert on cooking, I do know something about what makes for a good cookbook gift. If you're still out there shopping, here are three new releases that I'd wholeheartedly recommend, whether for an actual cook or just someone who wants to appear to be one.
Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Guide to Butchering Beef, Lamb, and Pork, by Ryan Farr
While this is definitely not the book to get for your favorite vegetarian, San Francisco chef/self-taught-butcher Ryan Farr has put together a butchery course in book form, plus some unique recipes for what you end up with. There's photo after photo putting together the process of taking very large parts of animals and turning them into cookable cuts, plus equipment advice and a guide to handling meat. I think we'll start seeing farmers market vendors selling larger butcher sized cuts of meat to willing consumers who want to do the work themselves, so get this book and get ready for the opportunity to use a bonesaw.
This book isn't exactly the place to look for a specific recipe or to understand a genre of cooking, but it's a super-charming book with great illustrations and a bunch of dishes that look delicious, so that's cool. Yvette van Boven is a chef in Amsterdam, I think, and she focuses on doing as much as you can at home with ordinary equipment and ingredients. What I like about this book is that you can just look through it and come up with some ideas. There are a lot of mini-recipes in here for components of dishes, tapenades, sauces, breads, etc. This cookbook really can make you a better cook, at very least, a more creative one.
Christina Tosi's desserts at Milk Bar in New York City are the stuff of legend, and for good reason. There are so many amazing recipes and ideas in this cookbook (among them, liquid cheesecake), but it's worth coughing up the cover price for the "crack pie" recipe. Seriously, you need to make this thing and be the talk of your neighborhood. The entire book is full of fun desserts that transform nostalgic tastes in interesting ways, but start with the crack pie. Trust me.