Sarah McClellan-Brandt: Here are five cookbooks you need in your kitchen

A good cookbook is like a good friend. It’s always there when you need it, and it gives you great recipes. Well, I hope you have friends who give you recipes.

One of the most common reasons for ordering takeout or not cooking at home is being tired of the regular meal rotation. That’s why having a bunch of good cookbooks is an absolute must. Sure, food blogs and online recipe creators are great, but there’s nothing like curling up with a cup of coffee (or wine) and opening a beautiful cookbook. I like to keep a pad of paper handy to take notes and mark recipes I intend to make. In fact, most of my cookbooks have half the pages marked for revisiting.

Few experiences can beat cooking a great meal, and cookbooks play a big part in making that happen. Whether you follow them word for word, take them as suggestions, or just read them for inspiration, everyone has a favorite (or ten). Here are my top five picks for all good food and drink:

  1. Best Overall: Julia Child anything. I have several of her cookbooks by her and since she is one of the OG’s of American cookbook writers, she has to top my list. Mastering the art of French cuisine he’s so iconic, there’s a movie based on his creation. Nothing sharpens patience like trying their beef bourguignon (I still have to sear all the beef chunks and set them aside before continuing, as the recipe dictates) and no book teaches quantities and technique as well. Her recipes are both complex and simple, which is a difficult balance for a cookbook author.
  2. Best for food sensitivities and healthy versions of comfort foods: Eat What You Love by Danielle Walker. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, gluten intolerance, or food sensitivity of any kind, this book is an absolute must-have for your kitchen. Their key lime pie recipe is a favorite in my house and is loved by family members who don’t subscribe to a gluten and dairy free lifestyle.
  3. Best for drinks: french drink by David Lebowitz. Whether you’re looking for great cocktail recipes or something non-alcoholic to serve, this book has options. From traditional French coffee and hot chocolate recipes to delicious lemonades and classic cocktails like the French 75, there’s something for everyone. My favorite recipe in the book (so far) is the Germain Giny. This gin-based cocktail includes lime, cucumber, elderflower, and an egg white to give it a foamy texture when shaken.
  4. Best Restaurant Cookbook: Balthazar’s Cookbook by Keith McNally, Read Nasr, and Lee Hanson. Cataloging the recipes of New York City’s famous French restaurant, this book is not for fast-casual dining. This book will teach you exactly how to make restaurant-quality meals, and it won’t beat around the bush with the ingredients. Do you want to make a steak? You have to have the best meat. Meatloaf? You just need some moulard duck legs. This book will take you a few trips to the Central Market before you get it right, but it will be worth every minute (and every dollar). I love the Steak Frites recipe (made with the fries recipe from the book) for a fancy meal at home. You will learn the true value of butter while making this dish.
  5. Best for reading about fun food and recipes: The New York Times Essential Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Lesser. This book is an extensive collection curated from the New York Times recipe archives dating back 150 years. If you’re looking for a recipe for just about any type of food, chances are you’ll find one in this book. It has James Beard’s Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic and other notable chef-driven meals, but it also includes recipe submissions from readers like “Eccles Pie (1877)”, hosted by “Polly”. The author uses history and levity to immerse himself in the intense changes that the American culinary landscape has undergone over the generations that have lived here. Multi-milestone timelines, like the introduction of boxed cake mix, add context and variety. Oh, and the recipes are great. One of the recipes in this book has made my regular weekday rotation: the minimalist paella. It’s an easy, hearty, delicious, one pan meal that’s great in its simplicity while packing such complex flavors.

What are your favorite cookbooks? Tag us on Instagram at @ModernHippieKitchen and @FWBusinessPress!
about the cook
Once upon a time, shortly after graduating from TCU, Sarah McClellan-Brandt paid her rent by working as a reporter for the Fort Worth Business Press. Today she is a social media specialist for a North Texas hospital system and in her spare time she shares recipes and cooking tips with devoted followers of her Modern Hippie Kitchen blog.

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