President Obama calls Bill Yosses, the White House executive pastry chef, “the Crustmaster.” I’m not sure what George W. Bush called him, but Yosses is obviously so skilled at making divine desserts that he crosses party lines with impunity. The Perfect Finish, his debut cookbook, written with Melissa Clark, showcases 80 of his most scrumptious creations, adapted here for us mere mortals. They’re organized by occasion, rather than by dessert category, making it easier to find that special something to serve at a brunch, a holiday lunch or a birthday dinner. Yosses says his recipes are “fairly simple,” but this is not a collection of quick fixes; each dessert deserves your full attention. Crumbly Apple and White Cheddar Scones star at brunch, chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies make great pick-me-ups and a chocolate-curl-covered Red Eye Devil’s Food Cake can take center stage anytime, as can an almond-crusted Linzertorte. Yosses’ instructions are thorough, with embedded “Chef’s Notes,” and his headers have excellent behind-the-recipe explanations and tips on enhancing the fabulous flavors you’re about to create. Oh, the sweet places you’ll go!
RECIPES OF AN ICON
Marco Pierre White is the ur-celebrity chef, the British bad-boy-of-the-kitchen who terrorized customers and commis chefs (aka apprentices) with equal fervor. He’s also the first British chef to win three Michelin stars, and the only chef ever to give them back. Now his Wild Food from Land and Sea, with 80 extraordinary recipes and nearly 80 more “basics,” sauces, stocks, purées and more, is available in the U.S. at long last. White is disarmingly honest, admitting there’s a wide gulf between what a pro, with staff and deep coffers, can accomplish and what a home cook can do. His recipes should be seen as a “distillation of knowledge,” classics and innovative combos (his Daube de Boeuf Bourguignonne is made with ox cheeks) to be carefully emulated or used as inspiration. This is serious, sophisticated cooking—no explanatory, comforting header notes, no “tips.” He tells it like it really is, and if you’re not up for serving your Bresse Pigeon with Pomme Fondant, Confit of Garlic and Mushroom Ravioli, just indulge in some rarified armchair cooking.
COOKBOOK OF THE MONTH
Melissa Clark is a busy girl; she writes a weekly cooking column for the New York Times, assisted Bill Yosses with The Perfect Finish (see above) and now has a new, winning cookbook of her own. In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite is pure Melissa at her chatty, enthusiastic best. The stories that preface each recipe and chapter burble with her love of food, culinary improv and the memories that a dish conjures up. Melissa’s infectious attitude is one of joy and abandon, in the sense of giving your cooking-self over to the moment, to a sensational ingredient or to the need to indulge a craving. She’s grouped her recipes—all with excellent instructions—in an invitingly idiosyncratic way as she creates, recreates and embellishes one tempting dish after another: Buckwheat Polenta with Bacon-Sautéed Radicchio, Baked Flounder and Eggs, Pomegranate Roasted Carrots, Grilled Squid with Snail Butter, Seared Pork Chops with Kimchi, Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake and many more delights.