Fall used to be when all the show-pony cookbooks were published, waiting to be propelled into holiday best-sellerdom. Spring? You know. It was nice. Something for Mom. Don’t forget that grilling Dad. Well, those rules no longer hold. Just as Beyoncé can drop an album out of the sky one morning, or leaves can start turning color well before Labor Day, cookbook publishers have upended the game, unleashing Chrissy Teigen in March and quietly launching word-of-mouth juggernaut Samin Nosrat in, like, June.
And so this year’s fall releases are a hodgepodge of deliciousness at every level, from hyperdork Nathan Myrhvold’s five-volume, $562 Modernist Bread to a taco book from a dude with a truck; home-cooking hand-holders from a certain Redzepi, and Bon App’s own Alison Roman. There’s even a very stylish and oversized “book” that would look great stacked with the latest issues of Apartamento and The Gentlewoman. I’m trying to remember what the biggest celebrity release is. Kristin Kish? Hugh Acheson’s slow-cooker book? Ah, right: Ottolenghi’s Sweets. #obsessed
Here are some of our very objective favorites.
Will Yotam Ottolenghi’s and longtime collaborator Helen Goh’s Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi (Ten Speed) turn your kitchen into The Great British Bakeoff, Notting Hill Edition? Will it become the Plenty of baking? If you’re not starting as an amateur, it definitely could. As much as I admire Ottolenghi (an early fan, I was lucky to be his editor at Bon Appétit), I will sheepishly say that, for the most part, these recipes require a bit more skill and commitment than my American attention span can muster at the moment—though I want to change! While recipes like tahini and halva brownies, almond butter cake with cardamom and baked plums, and the cover star, cinnamon pavlova with praline cream and fresh figs will certainly make it into the rotation, I’ll have to work my way up to hazelnut crumble cake with gianduja frosting and apricot-thyme galettes with polenta pastry. That said, the recipes in Sweet are considered and elegant; grown-up productions for kitchens with counter space, well-calibrated ovens, and a deep pantry. I aspire.
We can also aspire to be Nadine Levy Redzepi—and not only because her mother lives with her and her husband, some chef named René, to help care for their three daughters in Copenhagen. In addition to having access to the best food in the world, she cooks some of it in her funky old house, a short walk from the former Noma. This is the woman who, three weeks after giving birth, threw together a rich, buttery walnut cake for a Bon App entertaining story that, even guest David Chang admitted, blew her husband’s (****) dishes out of the water. Her debut cookbook, Downtime: Deliciousness at Home (Pam Krauss books), shares the recipe, along with other offhandedly delicious, only occasionally precious food. Okay, there are white asparagus and truffle moments and a restaurant-y turn or two. But as it turns out, Adoni Mugaritz’s egg-poaching technique is life-changing. Adding brown butter-bathed egg yolks is a killer way to dress up store-bought ravioli. And glazing humble celery root with veal demi-glace and finishing it with buttermilk is a show-stopper, however Noma-esque. Also: René’s kale and mushroom carbonara will become your new late-night go-to. Levy Redzepi cheerfully provides foundational techniques and ideas for next steps, assuming that you are—like she once was—a really enthusiastic beginner.
BA superstar Alison Roman also combines expertise with ease, aiming for those who are more comfortable Instagramming their food than, like, making it IRL. Dining In (Clarkson Potter) should make Brooklynesque restaurants around the country nervous. Why would you dine out when you can roast chicken in anchovy butter and toast up croutons in the schmaltzy, umami-tastic butter, or make crispy chickpeas and lamb with greens and garlicky yogurt? What’s so hard about making addictive sour cream flatbread? Roman downplays her professional chops to put readers at ease—she writes in upspeak—but next thing you know, they’ll be banging out seared short ribs with quick kimchi and sesame salt, topped off with chocolate tahini tart with crunchy salt. Bet there will be lots of #diningin dinner parties starting in October.
Some cooks begin their menu with a craving. Food writer and former Chez Panisse chef David Tanis starts his with whatever happens to wink at him at the market that day. His new tome, David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations Ingredient by Ingredient (Artisan), is a gentle, approachable guide to getting the most out of your haul, whether it be fish, fowl, or fennel. Tanis isn’t a jazz-hands cook—though broccoli rabe lasagna (pictured above) counts in my book. Rather, his calm, Jedi-like assurance guides you into making a perfect Tuscan pork roast, Oaxaca-style garlic soup, or a quick harissa recipe that you’ll soon know by heart. There’s a reason that young-gun chefs like Ignacio Mattos, who cooked with Tanis at Chez Panisse, revere him: He’s got The Knowledge.
Karen Mordechai trained as a photographer, not a chef. But in recent years, her Williamsburg loft has served as a stylish food hub, hosting cooking classes, dinners, and other culinary events under the Sunday Suppers umbrella. Rather than publish another cookbook for the shelf, she created Simple Fare: A Guide to Everyday Cooking and Eating (Abrams) for the coffee- or bedside table. The fall/winter edition of this oversized, floppy mega-book has the stylish photography, of-the-moment content, and deadpan layout of a magazine (or Instagram account with 290,000 followers).
Her recipes are fairly elemental, but those elements are very considered. Kind of like the women in Céline ads. Like said women, they also require a fair bit of niche shopping, including from Mordechai’s own line of spices, Ilā—though market alts are offered for each recipe. Dishes like shaved black radish salad with persimmon and black garlic or dark chocolate buttermilk pancakes with crème fraîche and hazelnuts are as tempting to the eye as they are to the palate. I’m going to have to clear extra space to fit this “book” on my counter, but that burnt carrot toast with smoked labneh simply must be tried.
Angeleno Wes Avila went from Los Angeles DJ to Teamster to fine dining chef to the owner of the country’s best-known taco truck. As a result, the brilliant mashup that is Guerrilla Tacos feels personal, not gimmicky. With offerings like pork belly and caviar tacos alongside adobo, pastor, carnitas and the gang, there’s a reason that Jonathan Gold deemed it L.A.’s Best Taco Truck. In Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of LA (Ten Speed), with writer Richard Parks III, Avila tells his underdog story with endearing charm. The recipes range from tacos and salsas that you can make this weekend—shrimp and homemade chorizo tacos or sweet potato tacos with almond salsa (pictured above)—to things you’ll want to work up to or carve out a full day for, such as the oxtail taco. And there is the purely aspirational stuff that I’m sure some masa nerds will be serving to friends by early November, like duck heart tacos with carrot-gooseberry salsa and pickled persimmons (oh, California). Perhaps you’re more likely to head to L.A. and stand in line than attempt some of these recipes. Fair warning: You’ll really want to after reading this book.
Very Honorable Mentions
The Cherry Bombe Cookbook (Clarkson Potter) A wide range of recipes from a wide range of women in food. (And, um, a rice pudding recipe that I borrowed from one of my favorite restaurants in Paris.)
Meehan’s Bartender Manual (Ten Speed) Absolutely necessary for any spirits dork.
Cheers to the Publican, Repast and Present by Paul Kahan (Ten Speed) I want to eat everything in this book. However, I do not have a staff.
Kachka The Portland, OR, restaurant that has made Russian food hipstery will make you want to stash some vodka in the freezer immediately (Flatiron Books).
Modernist Bread If you worked your way through Tartine Bread and were like, …and???
Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends by Kris Yenbamroong (Clarkson Potter) This book is as bright, cool, and fun as the L.A. restaurants.
America: The Cookbook (Phaidon) A state-by-state compendium of American dishes. (And, um, an entry on Wisconsin that I forgot to tell my parents in Racine that I wrote.)