Chris Kimball, the quixotic editor of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines, as well as way more than 10 cookbooks in his time, stuck out his bowtied neck this week and offered up his list of 10 books that have stood his test of time in the kitchen.
I've taken part in a few "best-cookbook" lists in my time and I know they are difficult. Honing it to 10 great books is particularly tough.
If you've read any of his magazines or seen his public TV show, you know that when Kimball mentions testing, it's the equivalent of Richard Petty listing which tires actually last. I've read and cooked from every book on this list, and I have to say there's not a clunker among them.
In honor of his No. 1 pick, the delightful "French Cooking in Ten Minutes" (a personal favorite), I'll give away a special book that's not on his list but has the makings of a classic. I've been hanging on to "French Feasts," by Stephane Reynaud, waiting for a chance to find it a home with someone who would appreciate it. It's an exhaustive collection of French cooking, mostly family-style, but it's also wonderfully quirky, with gorgeous pictures and touches like sheet music for old French songs. In the middle of winter, the pictures of simmering pots and braises will make you hope that winter lasts for months.
Here's Kimball's list. Post a comment with your own picks if you'd like. If you want to put your name in the cloche for "French Feasts," send an email with your contact information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Kimball's Top 10 Cookbooks:
1. "French Cooking in Ten Minutes," by Edouard de Pomaine. "Written by a Frenchman of Polish extraction in 1930, it reflects de Pomaine's unique ability to make cooking appear simple enough that any oaf could walk into a kitchen and produce good results. His advice is as breezy and useful today as it was 80 years ago."
2. "The Breakfast Book," by Marion Cunningham. "Marion did for breakfast what Julia did for French cooking - she made it both interesting and approachable."
3. "Chez Panisse Vegetables," by Alice Waters. "This is a little gem of a book if you want to look at vegetable cookery in a whole new light."
4. "The Italian Country Table," by Lynne Rosetto Kasper. "This is the real deal: Italian farmhouse cooking with big flavors and a fresh point of view. . . . You'll never make a boring pesto again."
5. "The Union Square Cafe Cookbook," by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano. "I am not often a fan of restaurant cookbooks, since the recipes rarely work well at home. But Danny Meyer and Michael Romano have produced recipes that do work if one is willing to put in the time and effort."
6. "Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet," by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. "One of the most gorgeous travel/cookbooks ever published, with stunning photos and well-researched recipes from Southeast Asia."
7. "Bistro Cooking at Home," by Gordon Hamersly. "His cooking is both solid and eye-opening, seducing diners with quality and execution rather than flights of fancy."
8. "Epitaph for a Peach," by David Masumoto. "If you want to understand the life of a farmer, this is the book to read."
9. "American Cookery," by James Beard. "If I want a good starting point for any recipe in the American repertoire, I always turn to Beard and American Cookery."
10. "The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook," by Jack Bishop. "The recipes work, they are straightforward, and they use the big earthy flavors of Italy to transform what are too often lackluster vegetable preparations."