You can never have too many cookbooks. A great cookbook can transport you to a faraway land with the turn of a page and introduce you to new spices, flavors, and cooking techniques. Some feature simple dishes and instructions while others contain recipes that can take many attempts to master. There are cookbooks dedicated to vegetables and others that put meat on a pedestal. This year, we explored the many different types of cookbooks to select the best new volumes that were released this year. From one journalist’s love story to her Indian-American upbringing to Chef Angie Mar’s beautiful ode to meat, here are the 10 best new cookbooks from 2019.
Made in Mexico: Classic and Contemporary Recipes from Mexico City by Danny Mena
Mexico City is one of our favorite urban locales with its intoxicating mix of ancient lore and cultural traditions that seamlessly meld with the city’s sleek, modern architecture and world-class art scene. But the food alone is enough to get us on a plane headed south of the border. Chef Danny Mena has perfectly captured the city’s culinary magic in his cookbook Made in Mexico: Classic and Contemporary Recipes from Mexico City.
Mena grew up in Mexico City and studied engineering at Virginia Tech, but soon realized that cooking was his calling. He attended the French culinary institute in New York City and opened the late restaurant Hecho en Dumbo, and now owns Bushwick mainstay La Loncheria. In his first cookbook, Mena celebrates all aspects of dining in Mexico City, from classic and modern restaurants to the celebrated taquerias and mercados.
Inside, you’ll find tacos stuffed with beef, chorizo, and chicharron, and tostadas topped with octopus and sliced avocado. Mexican breakfast shines with morning dishes like Chilaquiles Verdes and Huevos Rancheros topped with a rich red salsa. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to fresh salads and ceviches and another that highlights smaller nibbles and soups like Pozole Verde. Elegant main dishes are designed to be served and celebrated with a crowd, whether you’re in the mood for Chamorro Cantinero (pork shanks cooked with beer and herbs) or Pavo en Pipián Blanco, turkey breast that’s brined then served with an almond-rich white mole. The book closes with a few classic desserts like Pastel Imposible, a beauty pastry that features flan on top and chocolate cake on the bottom.
Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking by Lior Lev Sercarz
Spices can elevate a dish from basic to extraordinary, which is exactly what spice master and chef Lior Lev Sercarz aims to do with this home-cook-friendly book. In 2006, Sercarz opened La Boîte, a spice shop in New York City’s Midtown West neighborhood, where he decided to showcase unique spice blends inspired by his early years in Europe, upbringing in Israel, training in France, and exposure to a plethora of multicultural cuisines in NYC.
Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking is full of flavorful, weeknight meals and helpful tips to keep your pantry organized and well-stocked. It starts with a primer on buying, storing, and using spices before diving into Sercarz’s recipes and their variations. For each recipe — like Skillet Braised Fennel, for example — a cooking technique is accompanied by a main spice blend.
On the following page, it shows you how to alter that recipe with a different spice blend or preparation, like turning that Braised Fennel into a salad with pecorino, green olives, and almonds. Stovetop Paella with saffron and coriander can be transformed into Savory Pan-Fried Paella Cake. Shakshuka can be spiced with coriander and paprika or cumin and caraway, and you can add butternut squash to the recipe if you please. Sercarz instructs how to make Sugar-and-Salt-Cured Salmon, offering a choice between a spice blend of mustard and caraway or juniper and orange. It’s a perfect cookbook for anyone who likes to make recipes their own.
Butcher + Beast: Mastering the Art of Meat by Angie Mar
Chef Angie Mar has been our butchering guru for a long time. When she first took the helm of The Beatrice Inn, she invited us into the kitchen to learn how to butcher a crown roast. Since then, Mar has purchased the famed and historic restaurant, and her no-apologies approach to her rich and decadent menu has won her well-deserved accolades from the biggest players in the culinary world. When she first started writing Butcher + Beast: Mastering the Art of Meat back in 2013, the idea was to showcase simpler versions of what she cooks in the restaurant. But Angie Mar doesn’t compromise on anything, which is why the meaty dishes featured in this book will likely take you days to make — and that’s a-okay with us.
Butcher + Beast is foremost a book about Mar, her family history, and the journey throughout her years at The Beatrice, but Polaroid photography and animal-fat filled recipes make us want to roll up our sleeves and hole up in the kitchen. The book is divided into seasons, even though Mar prefers to eat what she wants, when she wants it. Winter features warming dishes like Mar’s signature Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder and cold-smoked Lavender-Aged Beef. Spring brings Confit Rabbit with Poached Rhubarb, Snail Butter, and Elderflower, and Black Spaghetti with Langoustines and Pink Peppercorns. Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Wild Boar Pozole Verde adorn the summer pages, while autumn ushers in rich flavors like Veal Kidneys with Prunes, Madeira, and Cream; and Savory Plum Tarts with Beef Suet Crust, Arugula, and Parmesan. This book celebrates indulging in our most carnal pleasures, and we’re here for it.
The Edible Beat: 60 Recipes of Chef Empowerment, Humor, and Human-Centric Mojo by Justin Cucci
When you open Chef Justin Cucci’s The Edible Beat, the first thing that jumps out is a variation of font styles and sizes, fun images with sidenotes, and bold images splashed across the pages. It’s not like other cookbooks, and that’s what stood out to us when we first started reading. Cucci, a native New Yorker, is the man behind Denver-based Edible Beats restaurant group, which is known for its veggie-forward menus and sustainable sourcing practices.
The book kicks off with a Front of House chapter, which talks about the pantry essentials to have on hand when cooking through the recipes. Each following chapter outlines recipes from each of his five restaurants. Linger is inspired by global kitchens and street food with dishes like Tom Kha Soup and Ginger Chili Shrimp. Restaurant and music venue Ophelia’s is a Denver gem, and this book lets you re-create dishes like Carolina Gold BBQ Ribs. From fast-casual, plant-based Vital Root, wholesome, colorful recipes like Chia Pudding, and a Vegetable “Poke” Bowl jump off the page. El Five boasts Mediterranean small plates — think Moroccan Lamb Sausage and pastries like Rugelach — which you can expertly recreate with the help of the chapter’s recipes. Even if you can’t dine among the funky details of Root Down, you can enjoy dishes like Tomato & Quinoa Benedict and Pumpkin Pound Cake French Toast at home.
The Saltwater Table: Recipes From the Coastal South by Whitney Otawka
In this stunning cookbook from chef and Top Chef contestant Whitney Otawka, you’ll be transported to one of our favorite places to eat in the world. The Saltwater Table: Recipes From the Coastal South is a love story to the rich history and diverse foodways of the region, which has been influenced by the Gullah and Geechee communities — who carry on the culinary traditions of their enslaved West African ancestors — and Caribbean flavors and ingredients from places like Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Haiti.
While this book celebrates all of the ingredients the lush region has to offer, it focuses on one place in particular. Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, and it looks very much as it did 300 years ago, thanks to preservation efforts and its 1972 designation as a national seashore. The island can only be reached by boat, and you must either be a visitor with the national park system or a guest at Greyfield, a 100-year-old property-turned-inn where Otawka is the chef.
The book is divided into chapters that reflect the region’s distinct growing seasons: Oyster Season (Jan-Mar), Vegetable Season (Mar-May), Shrimp Season (Apr-Jun), Heat Season (Jun-Sep), and Smoke & Cedar Season (Oct-Dec). Throughout, you’ll find plenty of dishes that celebrate the area’s produce, like Greens, Eggs, and Country Ham and Cast-Iron Filet Beans. Seafood is a star in this book, with recipes like Ginger and Chile Grilled Shrimp and Banana Leaf-Wrapped Snapper displayed in vibrant photographs. Special tips throughout, like how to throw an oyster roast, will get you in the mood to entertain.
Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia by Nicholas Elmi
If you’ve ever wanted to re-create a chef-worthy tasting menu in your own home, Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia is here to show you the way. Helmed by Top Chef winner Nicholas Elmi, Laurel is an intimate, 22-seat restaurant in South Philly that serves hyper-seasonal, French-influenced American fare in six- and nine-course tasting menus. The book is divided into four seasons, with a nine-nine course menu (including a dessert and cocktail) housed within each. Although Elmi encourages readers to serve each menu in its entirety, the recipes are also designed to stand on their own.
A set of striking photos opens each chapter to inspire and visually instruct how to plate the dishes. The book starts with fall and brings flavor-rich dishes like Albacore Crudo with Horseradish Snow and Pears, and Burnt-Sugar Salsify with Cured Lamb, Black Trumpets, and Watercress. The comforting dishes of an East Coast winter come next, with recipes like Bourbon-Glazed Grilled Lobster with Crunchy Grains and Apple Blossoms to warm you from the inside. Spring brings fresh flavors that shine in recipes like Shaved Asparagus with Frog Leg Confit, Wild Nettles, and Jalapeño and Black Sea Bass with Pears and Rhubarb. When summer rolls around, you can enjoy dishes like Blue Crab Porridge with Soft-Shell Custard and Hickory Nuts while sipping a Rum, Johnnie Rum — a cross between a Mai Tai and piña colada that features both overproof rum and blended scotch. The appendix offers recipes for things like brines, pickles, stocks, and oils that you’ll use throughout the book.
Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan
Hong Kong is one of the most diverse food cities in the world. Its Chinese roots are intertwined with its English colonial connection, and it’s there that you’ll find some of the best dim sum on Earth alongside upscale high tea culture a few of the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. And there is no one better to tell the story of Hong King’s rich food culture than Tony Tan.
Born on Malaysia’s east coast into a restaurant-owning family, Tan trained as a chef in France and England and established a Melbourne cooking school that’s considered one of the best in the world. In Hong Kong Food City, Tan celebrates all the cuisine the city has to offer, from the night market stalls to the high-end restaurants of the city’s luxury hotels. The book opens with a brief history of the city and all the ingredients you need in your Hong Kong pantry. Then come recipes for starters like Hot and Sour Soup and Prawn Toast, followed by a meat chapter with dishes like Sweet and Sour Pork and Braised Lamb with Bean Curd and Tangerine Peel. You’ll find Hainanese Chicken Rice in the poultry chapter, and seafood follows with gorgeous dishes like Steamed Crab Claw with Egg White Mustard. The book’s vegetable dishes are hearty and creative — think Lotus Root “Meatballs” with Roast Tomato Sauce — and the rice and noodles chapter has something that everyone will enjoy. Of course, a book about Hong Kong cuisine isn’t complete without dim sum, so you can try your hand at Steamed Pork and Prawn Dumplings and Baked Barbecue Pork Buns.
Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin
In 2015, food journalist and historian Toni Tipton-Martin released The Jemima Code, a beautiful body of work that brought to life recipes from more than 200 African American cookbooks published over the course of two centuries. In Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, Tipton-Martin gets even more specific with these found recipes, translating the most popular and often-seen into versions adapted for today’s home cook.
This cookbook celebrates two distinct styles of African-American cooking — the food cooked by enslaved people with limited ingredients using African techniques, and the often-overlooked cuisine developed by professional chefs, culinary business owners, and those of the bourgeois class. Many of the dishes in this book include a sidebar with a historical version of the recipe, just as the author originally published it, to give you a better idea of how the food has evolved over time.
In the chapter Food for Company, appetizers like Benne Wafers and Salmon Croquettes are prime for entertaining. Liquified Soul covers beverages like Ginger Punch, and The Staff of Life is dedicated to breads such as Orange Biscuits and Island Banana Bread. A chapter covering soups and salads includes a mouthwatering recipe for Okra Gumbo, and the sides and vegetables section offers dishes like Rice and Peas with Coconut and Green Beans Amandine. Comfort in Dining contains gorgeous, larger format recipes for Braised Lamb Shanks with Peanut Sauce and Baked Ham Glazed with Champagne. The book ends on a sweet note with desserts like Lemon Tea Cake and Pralines.
Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna
If there’s one thing that author Priya Krishna wants you to take away from this book, it’s that Indian food is everyday food. Because if it was overly complicated and difficult to make, billions of working Indian moms wouldn’t be able to whip up weeknight meals for their families. Written together with her mom Ritu Krishna, Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family is a tome dedicated to Priya’s upbringing and the food that nourished her along the way.
Ritu never learned to cook growing up, so when she immigrated to the United States, she would watch PBS cooking shows and meld the techniques with the memories of her grandmother’s food, inspiration from her world travels and, of course, classic American cravings like pizza. Indian-ish kicks off with spice and lentil guides that talk about the different varieties used in the book and where to find them. There’s a chapter dedicated to Mother Sauces like Dad’s Yogurt and Tamarind, Fig and Cumin Chutney. Veggies are the star of the book — one section talks about how to use them in main dishes (Tofu Green Bean Breakfast Scramble), and another is all about Vegetable Sides like South Indian-ish Squash and Mustard Seed and Curry Leaf Carrot Salad. You’ll find Roti Pizza and Aloo Parathas in the bread section, and Ritu’s take on classic dishes like Caramelized Onion Dal and Tomato Rice with Crispy Cheddar. There’s a section for sweets (think Cardamom Bread Pudding) and Ritu’s guide for pairing wine with Indian food so you can drink the correct vino with your meal.
Poilâne: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery by Appollonia Poilâne
Apollonia Poilâne always knew she was going to take over her family’s Parisian bakery, which her grandfather opened in 1932, but she didn’t realize how quickly that day would come. In October of 2002 when Apollonia was 18, both of her parents died in a tragic helicopter crash, leaving her and her younger sister orphaned. But armed with the perseverance instilled by her father, Apollonia pulled up his desk chair the very next day and began to plan for the future of the business.
The following years were a balancing act of finishing her studies at Harvard while running the business long distance, having loaves flown to her dorm every Monday to ensure quality control. Poilâne’s bakers don’t use recipes. Every baker — including Apollonia — goes through a rigorous nine-month training program where they learn to make bread and pastries based on their senses. But now, fans of the bakery can make them at home thanks to Apollonia’s cookbook, Poilâne: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery.
Poilâne’s famed sourdough loaf is the star, but there are also recipes for Rye Bread and Black Pepper Pain de Mie. You’ll find methods to make breakfast classics like Croissants, Pains au Chocolat, and Brioche, as well as accompaniments like homemade jams and cultured butter. A chapter of afternoon dishes includes recipes for tartines, grain salads, and a Croque Mademoiselle, and pastries like Custard Tart will cure your sweet tooth. The book ends with Dreams and Explorations, where you’ll find dishes like Corn-Flour bread and Millet Polenta with Crisp Mushrooms.
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