It's been an astonishingly competitive year for cookbooks. Here's a baker's dozen of the year's best, one for every kind of cook on your holiday list.
THE ART OF LIVING ACCORDING TO JOE BEEF. By Frederic Morin, David McMillan & Meredith Erickson.Ten Speed Press
One part hipster lifestyle book, one part tongue-in-cheek restaurant history, and one part recipe book, this cookbook from the celebrated Montreal restaurant Joe Beef scores points for being a charming read.
Just right for: Budding hipster chefs.
COOKING WITHOUT BORDERS. By Anita Lo. Stewart Tabori & Chang.
This Top Chef Masters alum and popular New York City chef paired with crackerjack food scribe Charlotte Druckman on this cookbook, which takes a global approach to dinner. Some recipes are more for dreaming about than making, but what lovely dreams they inspire.
Just right for: The hobbyist cook with a curious palate.
THE COMPLETE AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN TV SHOW COOKBOOK. By the Editors of America's Test Kitchen. ATK.
The dirty little secret of cookbook publishing is this: Most publishers don't really test the recipes all that much. Not so America's Test Kitchen, where recipes are tested, taste-tested, re-tested, and tested again.
Rely on this doorstopper for explicit and comprehensive takes on recipes from basic to sophisticated.
Just right for: The kitchen tinkerer on your list.
RUHLMAN'S TWENTY. By Michael Ruhlman. Chronicle Books.
Michael Ruhlman sits at the head table of contemporary American food writers, having produced seminal books like The Soul of a Chef and Ratio. His new book, Ruhlman's Twenty, blends his signature style -- lighthearted but substantive prose -- with eminently useful information and clear, informative pictures. Twenty chapters cover essential ingredients and techniques.
Just right for: Food geeks.
A NEW TURN IN THE SOUTH. By Hugh Acheson. Clarkson Potter.
Hugh Acheson is 2011's "it" cook, the go-to guy for contemporary Southern cooking using French technique. His Georgia restaurants are among the most celebrated in the country, thanks to his thoughtful, welcoming approach.
Just right for: Food-culture junkies.
BIG VEGAN. By Robin Asbell. Chronicle Books.
The trend is well established: Vegan cooking is more popular than ever. It's not about segregating meals anymore, it's about making room for everyone at your table, and Robin Asbell's aptly named Big Vegan (it contains 350 recipes) holds the key to making blended gatherings go smoothly.
Just right for: Committed dinner party hosts.
THE ART OF EATING COOKBOOK. By Edward Behr. University of California Press.
Whether you're a cook or not, this one makes for a good read -- just like the food journal (The Art of Eating) it springs from. The recipes work, but what works even better are the history lessons and literate writing that surrounds them.
Just right for: Extra-literate culinarians.
MOURAD: NEW MOROCCAN. By Mourad Lahlou. Artisan.
Morocco meets California in this expansive, beautifully photographed cookbook from San Francisco chef Mourad Lahlou. From basic classics like couscous to contemporary takes like confit chicken wings, this one's dense with pristine recipes and rich personality.
Just right for: Ambitious, romantically inclined cooks.
ROTIS. By Stephane Reynaud. Melville House.
Following his popular books Pork and Sons and French Feasts, appealing chef Stephane Reynaud downsizes with his new Rotis, a slimmer volume with a more focused mission.
Divided into days of the week, he covers beef, chicken, fish, lamb, veal, and vegetables.
Just right for: Francophile meat-eaters.
FEEDING THE DRAGON. By Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate. Andrews McMeel.
After studying in China, the Tate siblings (Nate and Mary Kate) developed an insatiable appetite for Chinese cuisine. The cure: An extensive, 9,700-mile tour through the hinterlands of the vast country, eating everything in their path. The result: A totally charming travelogue and recipe book.
Just right for: The itinerant traveling food-fanatic.
BOUGHT, BORROWED & STOLEN: RECIPES & KNIVES FROM A TRAVELING CHEF. By Allegra McEvedy. Conran Octopus.
Allegra McEvedy is one of the most compelling personalities in global food culture today; the UK-based journalist, caterer, and travel maven creates lively tales and seductive meals with equal aplomb. In Bought, Borrowed & Stolen, she weaves a passion for collecting knives around a passion for collecting recipes, covering ground from Lebanon to Norway to Hong Kong.
Just right for: Offbeat recipe collectors.
MILK: THE MOMOFUKU MILK BAR. By Christina Tosi. Clarkson Potter.
She made herself famous in New York with her legendary "crack pie," which spurred lines around the block at her bakery in the East Village. Here, the young pastry chef reveals her secrets, not just for "crack pie," but for goodies from cereal-infused milk to banana cake.
Just right for: The sweet tooth on your list.
THE PDT COCKTAIL BOOK. By Jim Meehan. Sterling Epicure.
One of the leaders of the craft-cocktail revolution is Jim Meehan, whose speakeasy-like bar PDT (hidden behind New York's Crif Dogs hot dog joint) is a required pilgrimage for contemporary bartenders looking for inspiration.
His new book is packed with tips on setting up and maintaining a home bar, plus scores of cocktail recipes from himself and fellow bartenders. Illustrations by Chris Gall seal the deal.
Just right for: The amateur (or professional) barkeep.