For the gourmets and novices, everyday toilers and weekend super-chefs on your holiday hit list, cookbooks are the answer to the perennially perplexing present problem.

If you or your giftee bake or have baking aspirations, Bouchon Bakery is an absolute must. Written by the extraordinary Thomas Keller, perhaps America’s most important chef, and Sebastien Rouxel, executive pastry chef for the Thomas Keller restaurant group, it’s their homage to the universal appeal of bread and pastry and to the joy of baking, and it’s a knockout. In large format, with 250 color photos, Keller and Co. translate their perfectionist, professional approach to baking into more than 150 recipes that we mere mortals can follow and replicate. From baguettes, boules, brioches and bouchons to cakes, cookies, tarts, turnovers, pâte à choux and pastry cream, you’re baking with the best.

Carnivores get their day and their due in The Great Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells, who’s become the Mr. Meat of the cookbook world. If you care about sustainability; want to learn all about cuts (including the “underappreciated”), cure your own bacon or make sausages, pâtés and rillettes; or if you’re simply looking for new ways to spice up your meat mains, just turn to Bruce. Every recipe is tagged so that you can see at a glance if it’s a dish you’d serve for a family meal or a company dinner, whether it comforts, reheats or freezes and whether it leaves you with lovely leftovers or falls into that much-needed “cheap eats” category. From simple chops to ethnic extravaganzas, you’ll find it all in this hearty, hefty tome.

There can’t be a holiday cookbook roundup without a contribution from the South—and this is a lovely one that comes with the estimable imprimatur of Southern Living magazine. Rebecca Lang, steeped in the gracious traditions of the South, grew up in a small Georgia town where cooking was a way of life. And here, in Around the Southern Table, she invites us to pull up a chair and enjoy 150 cherished, classic recipes, with gorgeous full-color photos, that move from sunup to the ringing of the dinner bell, with ample helpings of breads, biscuits, sides and salads—and, of course, desserts luscious enough to satisfy a Southern sweet tooth.

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
You can never go wrong with Ina. And, fortunately for givers and getters, Ina Garten serves up her latest, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, just in time. It’s pure Ina: inspiring, totally trustworthy, confidence-building, packed with full-page photos and generously seasoned with tips for getting everything planned, prepped and plated. Oh, did I forget the recipes? There are nearly 100, from cocktails to confections, so elegantly easy that you won’t want to skip a single one. The divine Ina has done it again!

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