As honorable as it might be to be able to conjure up a library of recipes off the top of one’s head, the fact remains that even professionals need to reference a page or two out of the good book. But thanks to the cataclysmic tidal wave of the “Self-Help Era”, there are scores of cookbooks, for just about anything, that have been left it its wake. Let me help you sift through the fodder, gentlemen, and get to the essentials needed for prolonged success in the kitchen…and at the bar.
1. “Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert” by Eric Ripert
A long-time friend of one of my favorite chefs, Anthony Bourdain, the French-born restaurateur specializes in a both Latin and French recipes with an emphasis on seafood. He’s also probably the only person in the world that knows how to roast a chicken perfectly. His book looks at cooking “as an adventure” (cliche, much), but much of the book focuses on recipes that he learned when was both a child and a student in culinary school. Take a look at his Carbonara recipe for inspiration.
2. “Tough Guys Don’t Dice: A Cookbook for Men Who Can’t Cook” by James Thorson (This book may be difficult to find new, keep an eye out for it used)
Just like joining the NBA and becoming an astronaut, for some, the ability to cook is just one of those dreams that may never come to fruition for some men. This book aims to challenge that notion. You’re not going to find tips on how to make the next best remoulade or tricks on preparing food sous vide. Instead, Thorson brings cooking back to its fundamental (and sometimes primitive) beginnings so even a caveman can learn to feed himself without assistance.
3. “The River Cottage Meat Book” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Ever wanted to try your hand at dressing an entire pig? What about converting your cellar or attic into a makeshift salumiera storage room? This book gives you all the tools and much more to conquer every square inch of next cow, chicken, pig, goat or game that dares cross your path.
4. “New American Table” by Marcus Samuelsson
The Ethiopian-born, Swedish chef takes the mainstream image of American cuisine and turns it on it’s head. What I mean by this is that the cooking style we know as “American” has roots in cuisines and cultures the world over. Samuelsson acknowledges this by breaking down popular dishes like bruschetta, roast beef and apple pie, then shows cooks and chefs how to simplify recipes while still maintaining original flavors and aromas.
*5. “Bartender’s Guide on How to Mix Drinks” by Jerry Thomas
Look, I know it’s not a “cookbook”, per se, but it’s still chock full of recipes for drinks that date back as early as the 1860s. Besides, with all the cooking you’re about to engage in, wouldn’t be prudent to have a Gin Rickey or Manhattan on stand by? Protocol, people!
*There is an electronic version you can download to a Kindle app on your smart phone. How nice would it be to have on hand the next time a bartender wasn’t sure how to mix your favorite drink?
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