Shopping & Reviews

Books Worth Buying: October’s Best Food and Drink Releases

The monthly guide to our favorite new cookbook releases

Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts

    By Brooks Headley

    I've been a fan of Brooks Headley, the much-lauded pastry chef of Manhattan's Del Posto, for a while. Not just for his inventive desserts—which are incredible—but for his overall cooking philosophy, in which he rejects cheffy pomp in favor of a quiet, egoless, collaborative approach to making food. So I'd been looking forward to picking up his new cookbook, Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts. The title of the book is tongue in cheek: Brooks Headley does make fancy desserts, but they are not immediately recognizable as such; rather, they have a purposefully rustic look and a quiet genius that sneaks up on you. In fact, his cooking style is pretty solidly anti-fancy in a lot of ways; musician Steve Albini, in the book's foreword, describes him as "my favorite kind of artist. He does his thing, his beautiful unique thing, and presents it to you with no fanfare." That approach is evident in his book, which he fills with not just his own writing and recipes, but essays from friends and colleagues, giving them the floor when he thinks someone else may do a better job of explaining things than he can. I brought the book along with me on a flight from JFK to Portland recently, and I quickly found myself engrossed in the commentary explaining his process and inspiration; the anecdotes from his days as a punk drummer and his transition to pastry (one describing how he turned down a job with Alex Stupak via email, and how he's still terrified of running into him); and the frequent worshipful descriptions of greenmarket fruits, which I read with a mixture of pleasure and tortured envy over a sad airplane dinner of red wine and Terra chips. The recipes, which are mostly for plated desserts, occasionally feature an ingredient or technique that sounds intimidating at first, like dextrose or hand pulling stracciatella. But true to Brooks's style, everything is simpler than it first appears, and his encouraging DIY approach makes you feel totally empowered to craft a makeshift smoker and get down to the business of making smoked applesauce in your home kitchen. I'd bet that whether you're in it for the recipes, the hilarious stories about road tripping with a punk band, or an in-depth exploration of "the historic role of sugar in empire building" from Ian Svenonius, you'll find it impossible not to devour the book, too. —Laura Sant

    Available October 20 from W. W. Norton & Company; $30
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    Mexico: The Cookbook
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      By Margarita Carrillo Arronte

      Reading Mexico: The Cookbook, the 704 page tome from chef and restaurateur Margarita Carrillo Arronte, prepare to suffer from hunger pains as you visually chow down on unctuous potato and chorizo gorditas and red pork tamales while devouring chapters devoted to eggs, soups, and much more. The 47 pages on vegetable dishes alone, like the inspired cucumbers stuffed with shrimp from Baja or the chanterelle stew from Veracruz, will stop you dead in your tracks. And the meat chapter will make you want to jump on a last-minute flight to Puebla for page 397's vibrantly photographed chiles en nogada. Arronte also deserves props for inviting a dozen of her chef friends like Mexico City's Enrique Olvera (Pujol), Houston, Texas' Hugo Ortega (Hugo's), and Australia's Andrew Logan (Mamasita) to contribute their excellent versions of restaurant classics including red snapper ceviche and octopus with guacamole. With its 650 mouthwatering recipes, you'll curse the publishers for only including one book-marking ribbon. —Kellie Evans

      Available October 27 from Phaidon Press; $50
      Buy Mexico: The Cookbook on Amazon

      How to Cook Everything Fast
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        By Mark Bittman

        "Real-time cooking" is the overarching approach to Mark Bittman's newest, densely packed cookbook, How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food. What that means is cooking smarter—from recipes that have been designed and written to streamline and optimize preparation into a seamless 45 minutes (or less). While this series addition is all about speed, Bittman, the famously fecund food writer and cookbook author, doesn't compromise on overall flavor complexity here. Fast is a compendium of 2,000 unintimidating, globally inspired recipes; and as an outspoken proponent of home cooking, it acts like his entreaty for the busiest, most well intentioned of us to take to the stove. I know I certainly qualify. A highlight of the chicken chapter, for me, was the Moroccan-spiced chicken cutlets with chickpeas and dried fruit. As a cook I gravitate towards savory-sweet combinations, and this tagine-inspired main was wholesome, satisfying, and, best of all, done in a half hour. With variations, helpful notes, and side suggestions offered for almost every recipe, the only thing missing in this 1,000-plus page tome are pictures to salivate over, though dishes like the mussel and vegetable pan roast with saffron aïoli or seared miso lamb chops with carrots just sound outright delicious. —Marissa Wolkenberg

        Available October 7 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $35
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        Edible French
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          By Clotilde Dusoulier

          The latest from popular French food writer and blogger Clotilde Dusoulier is dedicated to the history and meaning of fifty of the French language's most popular food-related expressions. As a French-speaker and avid reader of her blog Chocolate and Zucchini, I was excited and curious to delve into this beautifully illustrated guide when it arrived on my desk. I was sure I'd recognize many of the expressions, like avoir la pêche (literally "having the peach," or being in top form) and plein comme un œuf ("full as an egg," meaning completely full), but for the most part I found myself learning new "edible idioms," like être comme un coq en pâte ("being like a rooster in dough," or feeling cozy and pampered) and pédaler dans la choucroute ("pedaling in sauerkraut," or being in over one's head). To illustrate each expression, Dusoulier examines its origins and provides example sentences, while artist Melina Josserand brings them to life with her whimsical watercolors, my favorite of which is the apron-clad cow alongside aller à quelqu'un comme un tablier à une vache (literally "fitting someone like an apron fits a cow," meaning unbecoming or ridiculous). A handful of recipes for dishes like apple tarte fine and zucchini gratin are sprinkled throughout, plus fun quizzes to test your knowledge. A window into French culture, it's a delightful read for both Francophiles and food lovers alike. —Laura Loesch-Quintin

          Available October 7 from Perigee Hardcover; $20
          Buy Edible French on Amazon

          The Kitchn Cookbook
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            By Sara Kate Gillingham, Faith Durand

            I've been a fan of Apartment Therapy's cooking site, The Kitchn, for a while now, so I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of their first paper-and-ink publication. The Kitchn Cookbook is much more than a cookbook. Yes, it's got good recipes—over a hundred greatest hits from the site, ranging from addictive snacks like sriracha popcorn clusters to homey one-pot dishes like white bean and roasted tomato chili. But what makes this book for me is how it distills the most essential lessons that The Kitchn has imparted over the years on how to make the kitchen a simultaneously inviting and hard-working space. Packed with tips on everything from how to undertake a kitchen renovation to the best way to whip cream, whether you're a confident cook, or just getting started, The Kitchen Cookbook will help you cook better, and more often. —Karen Shimizu

            Available October 7 from Clarkson Potter; $32.50
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            Death & Co
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              By David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald, Alex Day

              The embarrassment of riches to be found between the covers of Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails might pass unnoticed were you to just open up and start reading the intro. David Kaplan, who co-wrote this book (and owns the elite East Village cocktail bar from which the book takes its life and inspiration), starts with a casual introduction that belies the rigor of the recipes and the encyclopedic content that follows: from explanations and histories of ingredients and thorough discussions of techniques to a towering list of cocktail recipes. Kaplan's tone is disarmingly casual, but bears nonetheless the tenor of somebody who knows that he is part of something incredible. While deeply passionate, he introduces the bar and the book with an intimacy that makes this book an engaging read from start to finish, as well as an enormously useful cocktail resource. Chapters begin with short and entertaining notes written by various regulars at the bar, each coupled with that regular's drink of choice, giving the book a laid-back, dynamic and entertaining feel. Regularly interspersed, dark, moody, and rich photography depicts the bar and the wonderful cocktails to be found within. The recipes themselves range from as complicated and experimental to perfection in simplicity: I made Gin Rickeys for a crowd, looking for a cocktail I could make in a batch. The drinks were refreshing, subtle, and precisely balanced, offering a harmonious interplay of sweet, tart, and botanically boozy. After nudging my toe in, I can't wait to press forward through the seemingly inexhaustible collection of recipes. —Oliver Erteman

              Available October 7 from Ten Speed Press; $40
              Buy Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails on Amazon

              What to Bake and How to Bake It
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                By Jane Hornby

                I'd wager that anyone with a love of baking also has a deep love of order and precision. It's a bit of a cliché, but I think it's true that the weighing and measuring, the exacting techniques, and the careful applying of frostings, garnishes, and decorative elements that baking usually requires appeal to a particular sort of personality. If you're of that type, you'll be as delighted as I was by Jane Hornby's What to Bake and How to Bake It, a gorgeous, graphic tome of breakfast, snack, and dessert recipes accompanied by clear overhead photographs of each step that are as structured and precise as if they were styled by a 50's-era Swiss designer. With equally illuminating written instructions and tips on technique, the recipes—50 of them, ranging from malted milk chocolate birthday cake to maple-pecan cinnamon rolls—are a joy to follow. Whether you're wondering exactly what degree of stiffness your egg whites need to reach or you just enjoy gazing upon images of carefully organized kitchen implements, it's a book to return to again and again. —Laura Sant

                Available September 29 from Phaidon Press; $35
                Buy What to Bake and How to Bake It on Amazon

                My Portugal
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                  By George Mendes and Genevieve Ko

                  I have rarely cooked more soul-satisfying dishes than those I made using recipes in George Mendes' new book, My Portugal. The deck is stacked in his favor, given the rustic lushness of Portuguese cooking: the carbs soaked with umami-rich tomato, the lavish use of pork and eggs and full-flavored salt cod, steamed clams and other shellfish spilling their juices into a winey, cilantro-laced broth. It's food that just goes right to the gut, and I don't mean your stomach; I mean your heart. All that heart is amply represented in the book, co-authored by Genevieve Ko, in stories of Mendes' life and family, his old-country ancestry, and his travels there. But the reason to buy this book, of course, is the recipes. The young and accomplished chef of New York City's acclaimed Aldea restaurant gives readers sound techniques that yield lusty dishes. For soupy "tomato rice," the fruits are strained overnight to release the dish's key ingredient, their sweet-tangy water. Salt cod is handmade, dredged in the mineral and then hung for days in the fridge. A big batch of smoky, oniony refogado, the Portuguese soffrito, is one of the many "building blocks" that will serve to boost flavor in dishes in this book and beyond (definitely include that "optional" pinch of saffron). So there's learning in the cooking, and oh my goodness, is there ever pleasure in the eating. Eggs baked just until set on a bed of peas laced with smoked linguiça sausage, fresh chorizo, and bacon was so green, the vegetable so well-balanced with the richer ingredients, that it made a virtue out of a dish largely (and deliciously) flavored by fatty pork. Açorda, a smoky, spicy, herbaceous tomato, bread, and egg stew, is like the best stuffing in the world; I gobbled the leftovers cold the next morning. Lowly button mushrooms were born anew, stewed with tomato, fresh bay leaf and parsley, and pimentón. And those aforementioned clams? I scooped them from their shells and slurped the broth straight from the bowl. Here is a book made for evenings of happiness, leaning over its sauce-splattered pages. —Betsy Andrews

                  Available October 7 from Stewart, Tabori & Chang; $22
                  Buy My Portugal on Amazon

                  Whiskey Distilled
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                    By Heather Greene

                    As I read Heather Greene's new guide to my favorite brown liquor, her experience hosting tastings and teaching classes about the spirit came through in the most readable, user-friendly breakdown of what whisky and whiskey are, how they're made, and how to enjoy them best. I adored her pages dedicated to attributing the various flavors in whiskey to their sources, from caramel notes imbued by barley, to the maple syrup finish on some American bourbons that comes courtesy of the charred oak of their aging barrels. But I think it is her "Whiskey Conversation (or Rebuttal) Chart" in the Whiskey Around the World chapter that I enjoyed the most: It's a comprehensive set of cliffs notes on the various whiskies of the world, from aging requirements and flavor profiles to the myths that surround them. Whisk(e)y Distilled is a must-read for any fan of bourbon, scotch, or rye, and anyone eager to learn more about the differences between them. —Felicia Campbell

                    Available October 16 from Studio; $25
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