Find inspiration in these recommendations.
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be nice to retreat into the kitchen for a cozy family meal. No more high pressure Entertaining with a capital E. Invite who you want, or no one at all. Set the table or don’t.
Here’s hoping this list of favorite cookbooks provides you with inspiration for a return to the simple Sunday supper—a meal you can spend your time working on and lingering over.
Whether your idea of simple is Mimi Thorisson’s recipe for Poulet-au-Pot (literally, chicken in a pot) or Anthony Bourdain’s Duck Rillettes, these recommendations have something for every taste, skill level and time commitment.
French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards
by Mimi Thorisson
As an ambitious home chef and lover of artfully styled food photos, I’m a big fan of Mimi Thorisson—so big a fan I recommended this book last month as a great gift. Thorisson is the author of “A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse,” the blog Manger, and an inspiring food and travel Instagram @mimithor.
Her new book, “French Country Cooking,” calls forth a rustic, homemade sense of luxury. Luxury is time. (And in some cases you’ll need that luxury for the recipes in this book.) Luxury is simple, high quality ingredients. (You’ll need those, too.) There’s a whole chapter on Sunday Suppers en famille with recipes like the aforementioned Poulet-au-Pot and Comte, Ham and Walnut Feuillete—basically the fancy French version of a ham and cheese hot pocket. Don’t let the French intimidate, this is not a high-concept cookbook. It’s simple food done well.
Appetites by Anthony Bourdain
Like Anthony Bourdain’s larger than life personality, this book is messy, irreverent and without pretension. Or, with a little rebellious, “I know what the you-know-what I’m talking about, and it’ll be delicious” pretension. Bourdain talks about the transition from wild child chefdom to fatherhood, and how for the first time in his life he’s cooking for his family instead of other people’s families. And this is what he cooks.
Flip through the pages and get pointers on how a professional chef elevates the same staples you’re flinging in your kitchen like omelets and burgers. Or benefit from Bourdain’s world travels to prepare dishes like his father-in-law’s Spaghetti alla Bottarga, Korean fried chicken, and a version of Mere Brazier’s Poulet “en Vessie” that doesn’t require the pig bladder. (Thanks for that, Tony.)
While this is about what Bourdain makes for his nine-year-old daughter, don’t expect “kid friendly” meals. This book is about acclimating your child’s palate to more adult cuisine, which Bourdain has clearly made a priority. The delicate of constitution (and prudish of language) may not enjoy the irreverent tone. But it’s a fun book with a bunch of good meals—what more can you ask for?
The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings
by Nathan Williams
The delicate cook might find more of a kinship with “The Kinfolk Table” than “Appetites.” I can’t think of a magazine Bourdain would hate more than “Kinfolk”—the bastion of Brooklynesque trendy hipster homesteading. But, “the simple pleasures of a shared meal,” which “The Kinfolk Table” bids you to discover, are what we’re all after in the end.
This is a book for fans of the slow movement—the cultural shift towards slowing down life’s pace. The book takes you through multiple regions starting with, yes, Brooklyn, and meandering with local cooks and creators through the English countryside, Copenhagen and the West Coast’s Brooklyn—Portland, Oregon. This variety of contributors helps give the book an eclectic mix of recipes perfect for the authors’ alternative idea of entertaining—casual, intentional, meaningful. It’s basically your coolest friends’ best recipes.
V Street: 100 Globe-Hopping Plates on the Cutting Edge of Vegetable Cooking
by Rich Landau & Kate Jacoby
Now for something local. This one may sound familiar as “V Street” is written by the award-winning chef/owners of vegetarian restaurants V Street and Vedge in Philadelphia—Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. With a nice little section on how to shop ethnic markets, this book can help you switch things up and broaden your repertoire in more ways than one. Not only does it work some vegetarian recipes into your rotation (or offer new and exciting meals to your already-vegetarian kitchen) but it takes you around the world as the title implies. Your horizons (and your pantry) will expand with offerings like Israeli grilled eggplant, Tandoor zucchini, Huli Huli barbecue seitan tacos and more. If vegetables aren’t your idea of a main dish, you’ll come away with some show-stopping side dishes.
Home Made Winter
by Yvette van Boven
It can be hard to cook in the winter. It feels like nothing is in season and comfort food doesn’t always excite. When I’m in a winter cooking rut, I turn to Yvette van Boven’s “Home Made Winter.” (She is also the author of “Home Made,” “Home Made Summer” and “Home Baked.”)
There are a lot of meals from van Boven’s Irish upbringing, including toad in the hole, homemade Irish butter, potted ham, steak and kidney pie and Guinness fruitcake. There are also cozy, warming mains like baked risotto with cauliflower, gruyère and crisp bread crumbs, and pulled pork. A frittata of kale and bacon was one I never expected to become a staple in my repertoire, but it has. Kale is so much better with heavy cream, cheese and bacon!
Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers and Cocktail Party Snacks
by Maria Del Mar Sacasa
Let’s not forget the libations. When you hear there’s going to be a snow day the next day, let this wonderful cocktail cookbook guide you through your liquor cabinet.
So, this winter hunker down and get ready to hibernate with some sumptuous sustenance.
Find these and more at Wellington Square Bookshop. The cookbook section is always stocked with the latest from your favorite celebrity chefs as well as classics of the culinary canon. Check back in May for a cookbook from Eagleview Farmers’ Market at Town Center. The Bookshop hosts a café, monthly fiction and non-fiction book clubs, staff picks and an Avid Reader podcast available on Podomatic, plus events with authors on site and on the website. 549 Wellington Square, Eagleview Town Center, Exton. WellingtonSquareBooks.com.