Dad’s Favorite Cook Books

Cook books become like old friends after a while: reliable, wise, deep, and reminiscent. Cultivate relationships with your own recipe treasure troves.

The Art of Simple Food

The Queen and I had lunch at Alice Waters‘s Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California in 1974. Don’t remember much except it seemed exotic for a Midwesterner like me (but then it was in Berkeley, after all), and they had the best salad I’d ever tasted. In Chicago, a “California burger” was a regular burger with lettuce and tomato. Sad. Got this book several years ago, and it has only improved with age in the reading and using of it.

The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook

We love New Orleans and New Orleans food! It’s hard to imagine that it was more than 40 years ago that we picked up this cook book after indulging in the famous “breakfast at Brennan’s” experience on our first visit to the Big Easy. See Yams Richard (ree-​shar) for one of our favorite recipes from the book, which features recipes from all the best New Orleans restaurants of that time and includes various restaurants’ versions of classics such as Remoulade Sauce, Shrimp Marinière, and Beef Tournedos Rossini. I had Pompano en Papillote (fish steamed in a paper bag) at Antoine’s. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

The New York Times Cook Book

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My first cook book. I must have had the cooking bug early, because I got this in the early 70s, as a freebie in a Book of the Month Club promotion. Have been using its Cranberry Relish on holidays for decades. It’s the family default on Thanksgiving. Of course, there are many great recipes and perspectives here—a real classic and the predecessor to all the great food and cooking stuff at the New York Times.

How to Cook Everything

Mark Bittman wraps it all up in this massive compendium of recipes, insights and tips. It’s my go-to, do-anything recipe bible, replacing the Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book, used reliably for years. In HCTE, I always find the catalyst I need for answering questions such as “So, what are the basics for cooking this whole chicken?” or “What can I do with these four ingredients that are just hanging out, waiting for a purpose?” Even been there?