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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Best Cookbooks of 2019

This year I've seen cookbooks for nearly everything you can imagine. Keto and Instant Pot cookbooks are as popular as ever, but I've seen fewer vegan titles this year, and a lot more focusing on meat.  Recipes for foods of the world have crossed my desk, and 2019 has been a year packed with inspiring chef memoirs and fascinating food writing. 

Now it's best of the year time, which means narrowing all these beauties down to a list of twenty favorites.  This year our list includes cookbooks that are fun, useful, creative, beautiful (and in some cases all of these) along with a couple very special memoirs.

Choosing the number one cookbook of 2019 was difficult, but in the end we landed on Sean Brock's new cookbook, South.  Southern food, once maligned as unhealthy and pedestrian, has been having a moment that is well-deserved.  We're seeing incredible food coming from Southern restaurants and chefs, and it's been exciting to see home cooks embracing the variations that exist across that particular food landscape.  This is what Brock is doing in South: using stories and recipes to show us the tremendous diversity and seasonality that the food of the American South has to offer.  Below are the top five of the best cookbooks of 2019.  You can see all twenty here.


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South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations by Sean Brock

The South is a special place, particularly when it comes to food.  Many of us probably associate certain dishes with the region--for me shrimp and grits springs to mind--and each part of the South does it their own way.

Sean Brock is a Southern cuisine evangelist and in his new cookbook, South, he gives home cooks 125 recipes for seasonal dishes and comfort foods.  Brock's South is inspiring--who else could make me want to serve up Hickory Smoked Ice Cream? There are not only four different recipes for cornbread, but also a recipe for making your own butter to go with it.  My mouth literally waters every time I open this cookbook and start looking for what to make next.

Our No. 1 pick for the best cookbooks of 2019, I think South will have a place on home cooks' shelf for years to come.


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Half Baked Harvest Super Simple: More Than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped, and Easy Comfort Foods by Tieghan Gerard

Tieghan Gerard is a weeknight cook's best friend.  She gets it. This is Gerard's second cookbook and it's every bit as fantastic as her first (Half Baked Harvest).  The new recipes in Half Baked Harvest Super Simple once again focus on fresh simplicity, and this time Tieghan is even more focused on giving home cooks tasty dishes that don't suck up all your energy and time to prepare. Half Baked Harvest Super Simple is at the top of our best of 2019 list because it is a delicious and beautiful workhorse.  My copy is already dog-eared and food-splattered. Need I say more?


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Maangchi's Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine by Maangchi

Korean food can be intimidating if you aren't used to the ingredients or cooking methods, and this is where Maangchi comes in.  We loved her first cookbook, Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking, and her latest is a Korean cookbook bible for home cooks.  Maangchi's Big Book of Korean Cooking has full-color photographs of food and ingredients on every page, photographic instructions, and recipes for everything from quick street food to special dishes that take days to prepare.  This is the cookbook that puts all the pieces together to show the big picture that is Korean cuisine.

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Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

I've been talking about this memoir pretty much all year and there was no question that it would be in the top five best of 2019 in cookbooks and food writing.  Save Me the Plums is not just a memoir, it's also culinary history. The final decade of Gourmet magazine with Reichl at the helm, the rise of the celebrity chef, the parties, the food, the fun, and the passion for all things culinary.  Reichl is a magnificent writer and for anyone who enjoys food writing or wants to dip into the genre for the first time, Save Me the Plums is the book you want to read next.

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Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin

Jubilee is as much a cultural history through food as it is a cookbook. Tipton-Martin showcases African-American cuisine through beloved recipes and the stories that go with them. A remarkable amount of research went into writing Jubilee, as Tipton-Martin uncovered the roots of familiar dishes, and variations that have evolved over the years.  Some recipes have been updated while others remain as they always have been, but in every one of them a sense of time and place comes through.  Beautifully photographed and a pleasure to read, Jubilee is one of those rare and special cookbooks that will stand the test of time.

> The full list of the best cookbooks and food writing of 2019


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