But a new crop of recipe manuals takes a different approach, preferring depth to breadth by focusing on a single ingredient or dish. Here, a list of our favorite one-trick-pony shows:
• Salted, by Mark Bitterman Salt is so essential to cooking that a volume on the topic might seem redundant. Not for Mark Bitterman: His book gets into geeky detail about salt types for flavor academics. However, the "Salting" section, which outlines tips and tricks for coaxing flavor out of your meal with the mineral, is very useful for home cooks.
• Flour, by Joanne Chang Upholding the same philosophy as her Boston bakery (also named Flour), the pastry chef's cookbook takes the fussiness out of baking by celebrating its core ingredient: flour. Her approachable recipes, such as sticky buns and oatmeal-maple scones, are refreshingly simple.
• A Bird in the Oven and Then Some, by Mindy Fox Roast chicken might be the quintessential home-cooked staple. And Fox--a cookbook veteran--takes the poultry through its paces, with recipes for classic, tea-brined and porchetta-style-iterations. Complete your meal with a handful of recipes for chicken-loving sides.
• Meat: A Kitchen Education, by James Peterson This James Beard Award winning cookbook author has staked his reputation on single-topic explorations. This one has made a successful play in becoming our go-to primer for home butchery. Although the recipes are delicious, they function more as a teaching tool (with step-by-step color photos) than a dinner plan.