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We get dozens of cookbooks each week at SAVEUR, and every month we share our favorite new releases—books that, through one avenue of greatness or another, have earned a place on our over-stuffed shelves. January tends to be a somewhat slow time for food books (most of the big releases hit shelves before the holidays, or are waiting for spring), but we’ve been delighted by the gems that have crossed our desk this month.

We’re kicking off the new year with rich bacon breakfasts, masterful British chocolates, regional recipes from Northern China, and a journey around the world of herbs and spices. Judging by this handful of books, 2014 is shaping up to be a great year.

Bacon 24/Seven

Bacon 24/Seven Amazon

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by Theresa Gilliam

I’m no stranger to the charms of bacon. My mother’s refrigerator was always stocked with bacon fat; she used it to season vegetables, fry eggs, mix a simple salad dressing—my grandmother even used it once as a miracle salve when I got chewing gum stuck in my hair. So it comes as no surprise that Bacon 24/Seven instantly appealed to me. Recipes range from simple classics like Clams Casino to elaborate instructions for at-home curing and smoking—my favorite was the bacon red-eye gravy, a Southern breakfast staple that gets a salty, smoky flavor from six slices of bacon and an extra kick from espresso. On a particular gluttonous morning, I whipped up said gravy along with a batch of the bacon cheddar biscuits on page 35. It was a dream bacon-on-bacon meal—and thanks to this cookbook, probably the first of many more to come. —Anne Roderique-Jones

Available from Countryman Press; $22.95
Buy Bacon 24/7: Recipes for Curing, Smoking, and Eating

Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate

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by Chantal Coady

This isn’t fine chocolate producer Chantal Coady’s first book on chocolate, but it is certainly the most beautiful. With Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate, maybe you should judge a book by its cover: The white and navy blue volume comes packaged in a sturdy box decorated with the same motif—detailed vintage illustrations from a 19th-century Parisian candy catalogue—that also serves as wrapping for Rococo’s famous chocolates; a delicate, Victorian-style drawing of a half-open cocoa pod graces the cover; and a hot pink fore-edge serves as a reminder that, when done right, chocolate can be both elegant and fun. Inside you’ll find dozens of recipes for bon bons and truffles, drinks and ice creams, cakes and tarts, and even savory dishes such as Grenada Pepperpot and Citrus-Braised White Chocolate with Fennel. Thanks to Coady’s straightforward, plain-English explanations, decorating with and tempering chocolate finally makes sense to me. Woven through the inventive recipes and colorful photography is the story of Coady herself, an inspirational entrepreneur who opened her first shop at the age of 23, and 30 years later still strives to work closely with companies like Grenada Chocolate to produce fair trade and ethical chocolate. _—Zainab Shah

Available from Orion Publishing; $55
Buy Rococo: Mastering the Art of ChocolateBooks Worth Buying: January’s Best Food and Drink Releases

Culinary Herbs and Spices of the World

Culinary Herbs and Spices of the World Amazon

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by Ben-Erik Van Wyk

We have the pleasure of working with incredible ingredients in the SAVEUR test kitchen; from hyssop to Icelandic thyme, our pantry is full of flavors from around the globe. Still, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting spices, and Ben-Erik Van Wyk’s _ Culinary Herbs and Spices of the World_ is the perfect resource to help expand my collection. The book features more than 150 different varieties of herbs and spices, and is filled with photographs that show them each from seed to flower to dried spice, which makes sourcing unfamiliar ingredients in shops around the city much easier. Van Wyk also provides detailed information on each ingredient’s culinary uses and flavor notes, all of which prove very helpful when experimenting with flavors such as African buchu or Mediterranean borage. In just a matter of weeks, it’s become one of my most-used books—I may even get a copy for each of our kitchen assistants so that they can carry it around the city on their search for ingredients. _—Farideh Sadeghin

Available from University of Chicago Press; $45
Buy Culinary Herbs and Spices of the World

Mandarin Food and Cooking

Mandarin Food and Cooking Amazon

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by Terry Tan

For a novice at Chinese cookery like myself, the task of decoding the subtleties and complexities of China’s regional cuisines can seem daunting. However, to learn from longtime culinary instructor Terry Tan’s Mandarin Food and Cooking is to fall under a spell that makes elegant, authentic food suddenly seem possible. A concise opening section is illuminating: Tan describes the effect of Northern China’s climate on its cuisine (harsh winters necessitated preservation and creativity with ingredients), and the historical context of the foods, implements, and techniques used in Mandarin cooking. No recipe—not even the fabled Peking duck—has more than six steps, and Tan has all kinds of inventive ingredient swaps, both for convenience and for differing palates. Arriving in perfect time to keep me happily warm and full of steamed bread, quick pickles, and a ton of easy, accessible snacks and dinners, Mandarin Food and Cooking has definitely earned its place at the top of my bookshelf this winter. _—Kaylee Hammonds

Available from Lorenz Books; $40
Buy Mandarin Food and Cooking: 75 Regional Recipes From Beijing and Northern China

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