Monday, November 21, 2011

Can’t Live Without: 3 Cookbooks for the Holidays

Can’t Live Without: 3 Cookbooks for the Holidays

This time of year, three of my cookbooks seem to spend more time off the shelf than on.  Whether baking holiday treats, setting up a spread for a cocktail party, or dreaming up a show-stopping main course for dinner, I go back to these books for tips over and over again.  These cookbooks are old friends, dog eared and beat up, who are always there for me, no matter how many spots of food I spill on their well loved pages.
Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres HandbookThe queen of all things domestic may have just come out with a new book on entertaining, but for my needs, the Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook covers it all.  If you’ve ever wondered how those catering companies find so many clever ways to hold bits of food- cucumber bowls, stuffed grapes, phyllo pockets- Martha has all the answers.  Beautiful photographs detail instructions for the more complicated dishes.  Menus in a back appendix give suggestions for every event from baby showers to a New Year’s Eve cocktail party.  I’m no Martha, but with a little help from her Hors d’Oeuvres book my cocktail parties always feel a little bit classier.

Baking with Julia:  I’d like to think if Julia Child had been my grandmother, this book would have been her collection of baking secrets passed on to me before she died. I go to this book when I need a refresher on making a tender pastry crust or step-by-step instructions for brioche sticky buns.  The holidays are all about baking and the recipes found here cover everything- delicate cookies, bagels, everyday bread, simple tarts, even wedding cakes.   For an infrequent baker such as myself, this book is part teacher, part inspiration, and part grandmotherly baking wisdom. 

Bones- Recipes,History, & Lore:  I have this thing where every Christmas I try to make a more interesting Christmas dinner than I have ever before.  It is to Jennifer McLagan’s indispensable book Bones I go to first when thinking up a new, grand, meat based centerpiece.  McLagan gives tips and recipes for cooking with almost every kind of meat and fish on the bone.  The Millennium Rib Roast, a recipe where a beef rib roast gets a multicolored peppercorn crust bursting with flavor, is one I have gone back to multiple times.  But there is enough in here worthy of a celebration- Crown Roast of Pork, Osso Buco with Fennel and Blood Orange, Seven Hour Leg of Lamb- I’ll have elegant and memorable dinner ideas for many holidays to come. 

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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