Nice article by Rob Mifsud in the Globe and Mail the other day combining two of my favourite things: food and books!
First, some pointers. Ditch the superstore and head to a shop that specializes in cookbooks. As Jonathan Cheung, co-owner of Appetite for Books in Montreal, points out: "I have personally cooked out of at least 700 of the cookbooks in the store. So we have a personal knowledge of how certain books could work for certain people."
Understand your cooking limitations, expectations and audience. Mika Bareket, owner of Toronto's Good Egg, tailors her recommendations based on a simple set of questions: "What do you already own and like? Do you follow recipes word for word, or are you looking for ideas more than instructions? Who do you cook for - children, vegetarians, fancy dinner parties etc.?"
The author then proceeds to recommend a Bible, Nice to Have and a For the Adventurous in a couple of different categories. Check out the original link for fuller descriptions of the choices!
- Bible: How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman
- Nice: How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson
- Adventurous: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
- Bible: A Taste of Canada: A Culinary Journey by Rose Murray
- Nice: Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann
- Adventurous: <a href="Au Pied de Cochon: The Album">Au Pied de Cochon: The Album by Martin Picard
- Bible: Baking Illustrated by Cook's Illustrated magazine editors
- Nice: In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley
- Adventurous: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart
- Bible: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set) by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
- Nice: Vij's at Home: Relax, Honey The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala
- Adventurous: Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop
- Bible: Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
- Nice: On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
- Adventurous: The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook by Niki Segnit
- Bible: Jamie's Italy by Jamie Oliver
- Nice: Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Adventurous: Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan
I tend to use cookbooks to browse and expand my repertoire. I'll use the web for known item searching. For example, if I want to make braised short ribs, I'll google it and see how a bunch of different people are preparing the dish and then either pick one or freestyle based on a kind of composite picture. Of the websites out there, my favourite is probably Simply Recipes.
As for cookbooks I keep going back to over and over again, I'll pick just a couple: by far my favourite cookbooks are Michael Smith's two Chef at Home books, the first one here and the expanded edition here. I really love Smith's emphasis on simple recipes as scaffolding for experimentation in the kitchen. It's really about "cooking without a recipe" -- or at least as much as a book of recipes can be.