The 10 Best Cookbooks Of 2014

Our 10 favorite gift-ready cookbooks of the year

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On the heels of an exciting fall cookbook season that included Sean Brock's highly anticipated Heritage and Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty sequel, narrowing down our holiday cookbook wish list wasn't easy. But these 10 titles rose to the top—they're the books we plan to give and the ones we hope to receive.

For the Americana Buff: Heritage, by Sean Brock (Artisan, $40)

The long-awaited debut cookbook from Charleston-based chef Sean Brock is everything his devoted fan base hoped it would be and so much more. In addition to recipes from Husk and McCrady's, as well as everyday favorites like Pimento Cheese and Fried Chicken, Heritage features thoughtful essays on the ingredients, traditions and people who shape Brock's cooking. It's an exploration and celebration of Southern cuisine, written with the same care and passion that's turned Brock into one of the most influential chefs in recent years.

For the Petite Francophile: Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, by Jody Williams (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)

Chef Jody Williams's first cookbook was released earlier this year, and much like her beloved West Village bistro of the same name, Buvette is not to be missed. It's filled with the kind of simple, irresistible dishes that built Williams's reputation and written with a warmth and accessibility that will feel familiar to fans of the restaurant. Alongside recipes for Cassoulet, Ratatouille, Celery Root Rémoulade and Tarte Tatin, Williams offers advice on a wide range of topics, such as the aperitif tradition, shopping for cheese and that elusive entertaining essential: how to time a meal.

For the Aspiring Homesteader: Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes, by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns (Chronicle, $40)

In the ambitious and elegantly designed book, the team behind San Francisco's Bar Tartine shares their recipes, as well as the techniques and formulas to create their almost completely from-scratch larder. In part one, you'll learn to make pickles, powders, spice mixes, vinegars and other pantry staples, and in part two, you'll use your new DIY skills to create dishes like Cauliflower Salad with Yogurt and Chickpeas or Rye Pound Cake with Pear Sherbet and Chestnuts. With diverse culinary influences that range from Hungarian to Japanese to Mexican, Bar Tartine both surprises and inspires, all while challenging us to be better cooks.

For the Consumate Entertainer: A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus, by Renee Erickson with Jess Thomson (Sasquatch, $40)

In her small but generous first cookbook, celebrated Seattle chef Renee Erickson—Boat Street Café, The Whale Wins, The Walrus and the Carpenter and Barnacle—shares a year's worth of party menus, including a wild foods dinner, a crab boil and a Normandy-inspired supper. Broken down by season, each chapter also features a handful of easy, everyday dishes like Watermelon Panzanella and Salmon with Sorrel Cream Sauce. Packed between the recipes, you'll find Erickson's tips for everything from cleaning mushrooms to buying wine to creating a cheese plate, plus a thorough and specific resource guide for stocking up on her chef-approved staples.

For the Philosophizer: Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef, by Massimo Bottura (Phaidon, $60)

At his three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, Massimo Bottura has earned a reputation for radically reinventing his country's classic dishes (for instance, a sous-vide take on bollito misto). Here, in his first English cookbook, Bottura takes readers through the thought process behind his modernist masterpieces, including Tortellini Walking on Broth, Memory of a Mortadella Sandwich and An Eel Swimming up the Po River. The recipes are indeed ambitious, but it's Bottura's voice—energetic, engrossing and often quite funny—that makes this book so hard to put down.

For the Rebel: Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts, Brooks Headley (W.W. Norton & Company, $30)

As the pastry chef at New York's four-star Italian restaurant Del Posto, Brooks Headley is known for delivering the unexpected. So it's little surprise that his first cookbook skews unconventional. He includes nearly 100 recipes, including Celery Sorbet, Sweet Pea Cake and Quinoa Cookie Sandwiches, but there are also concert flyers, a gummy bear still life and a Mad Libs version of the email that got Headley his Del Posto job. Is it random? Perhaps. It's also highly original and undeniably entertaining. Whether sharing a story from his days as a punk drummer or explaining his love-hate relationship with farmers' markets, Headley writes with an engaging and irresistible mix of sincerity, humor and humility.

For the Enlightened Boozehound: Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, by David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Alex Day (Ten Speed, $40)

NYC's Death & Co. is one of the most influential bars in the modern cocktail movement and, in this stunning and comprehensive book, the team behind it shares their secrets. In the first few chapters, they tell the story of how Death & Co. came to be and explain their cocktail philosophy. Next, it's a deep dive into how to make a superior drink and why each particular ingredient, equipment and technique is the best match for certain cocktails. All of this builds to the book's 500-plus recipe collection. There are plenty of classic cocktails, including originals like the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned with tequila and mezcal, and though some recipes require making a special infusion or tracking down an obscure liqueur, most are surprisingly easy to make at home.

For the Lean, Green Machine: Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ten Speed Press, $35)

Three years ago, Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty changed the way home cooks cook, eat and even think about vegetables. There's just as much produce in the London-based chef's gorgeous new follow-up, Plenty More, and Ottolenghi certainly hasn't lost his gift for combining unexpected ingredients and layering dishes with bold flavors, textures and colors. Alphonso Mango and Curried Chickpea Salad is a perfect example; Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce is another. This time, the focus is on technique, with Ottolenghi encouraging home cooks to blanch beets, roast lemons and braise lettuce. And just like that: a whole new approach to vegetables in all their glory.

For the Cuisine Completist: Mexico: The Cookbook, by Margarita Carrillo Arronte (Phaidon, $50)

From Mexican cooking teacher and culinary authority Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Mexico: The Cookbook is as vast and vibrant as its subject. Among the more than 600 recipes, you'll find recognizable favorites like tacos, tamales and tortas, but you'll also discover Chile Pasilla con Queso, a melted cheese dish from the Chihuahua, Oaxaca and Puebla regions, or Birria, a spiced meat stew from Jalisco. A guest chef chapter features recipes from a lineup of international culinary stars including Alex Stupak, José Andrés and Enrique Olvera. There's also a brief but thorough glossary with helpful ingredient substitutions, plus a quick rundown of cooking terms.

For the Pho Fanatic: The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food, by Charles Phan (Ten Speed Press, $40)

Charles Phan is the biggest name in Vietnamese cooking in the U.S., and, here, in his second cookbook, he shares recipes from his legendary San Francisco restaurant, The Slanted Door. After nearly 20 years in business, Phan remains true to his original vision: using exceptional ingredients to make simple Vietnamese dishes in a beautiful, modern setting. Though this is a restaurant cookbook and spotlights menu favorites like Shaking Beef, Spring Rolls and Jicama and Grapefruit Salad, Phan's recipes are straightforward and accessible, making them well suited to home cooks.