The 2017 food books on this list fall roughly into three categories: those that I will cook from, those that make me dream of exotic places, and those that I will use as references for years to come. Curating my personal top 10 was no simple task: I could easily tick off another half-dozen titles on foreign cuisines, and I didn’t even mention cocktails. Enough nail biting. My picks:
1. “Dinner: Changing the Game” by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter, $35). Who has time to fix a meat and two vegetables for dinner every night? Not me, not you, not this New York Times columnist. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly or sacrifice flavor. From Salt & Pepper Roasted Chicken to Kimchi Grain Bowl with Kale and Runny Egg, this book will help you make dinner without the drudgery.
2. “Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts”by Stella Parks (W.W. Norton & Company, $35). Parks has no interest in wowing us with weird stuff we’d never actually make. She bakes with history and nostalgia: Classic Cherry Pie; pure white birthday cake for her mom; uncanny knockoffs of the Oreos, Nutter Butters and Hostess-Style Cupcakes we scarfed as kids. Best thing to happen to baking since Shirley Corriher.
3. “On Vegetables” by Jeremy Fox (Phaidon, $49.99). A California chef who spent part of his youth in Atlanta, Fox was a golden boy who got lost in a fog of depression and prescription drugs. Now sober, he cooks with astonishing clarity, a man who believes vegetables can be as satisfying as meat and fish.
4. “Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes” by Alison Roman (Clarkson Potter, $35). This fine writer seems to believe that brevity is the soul of wit, in life and in the kitchen. I’d like to marry this book.
5. “Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends” by Kris Yenbamroong (Clarkson Potter, $35). In this exhilarating ride, the youngest member of a Los Angeles Thai-food dynasty tells about hacking turkeys into larb in remote Isan and cooking a soup so foreboding Ruth Reichl refused to touch it. (Why? It’s made with fresh coagulated pork blood!)
6. “Homegrown: Cooking From My New England Roots” by Matthew Jennings (Artisan, $35). I was moved by the staunch regionalism of this Boston-based chef, who makes clam rolls and “Yankee Gumbo” and bakes brown bread in 10-ounce coffee cans. Even his organizational approach (chapters on Dairy, Ocean, Farm, etc.) are elemental and original.
7. “The Chef and the Slow Cooker” by Hugh Acheson (Clarkson Potter, $29.99). Here, the Athens chef philosophizes about time and tenderness. If someone offers you five hours of freedom and a bowl of chicken and dumplings, why argue?
8. “Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes From France and Faraway” by Tessa Kiros (Quadrille, $35). The food of the French diaspora is documented scrapbook style, with postcard-like images of Provencal bouillabaisse, Vietnamese pho bo, and potato dosa from Pondicherry. The lyrical little book with the dusty-lavender cover feels washed with the patina of time, like a keepsake from days gone by.
9. “Peppers of the Americas” by Maricel E. Presilla (Lorena Jones Books/Ten Speed Press, $35). It’s December, and the chiles in my garden are still going like gangbusters. With this rigorously researched volume, capsicum-queen and triple James Beard Award winner Presilla inspires me to dig deeper and plant more. It is the foremost guide to the indigenous, fiery pods of the Americas.
10. “Queso! Regional Recipes for the World’s Favorite Chile-Cheese Dip” by Lisa Fain (Ten Speed Press, $15). I could lie and close my list with Samin Nosrat’s brilliant “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” (my God, she’s the woman who taught Michael Pollan to cook!). Or Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi’s poignant “Our Syria.” That would be noble. Instead, I’m keeping it real with the Homesick Texan’s delightful ode to my favorite guilty pleasure. Watch me wave goodbye to 2017 with a bag of chips, a mug of Tecate, a bowl of orange goo and thou.
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