With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving–and Hanukkah!–right around the corner, it’s time to start collecting culinary inspiration for your perfect holiday menu.
There are, of course, tons of recipes online, but it’s tricky to know which recipes are reliable. It may be old school, but I say that holiday cooking calls for hitting the bookshelf. These eight awesome holiday cookbooks will help make your holidays special. And if you’re not cooking, well, maybe you need to buy Aunt Sue an early holiday gift: it will pay dividends to all!
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I have to start with my new favorite holiday cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays (above). Ree Drummond’s book is gorgeous and packed with 140 mouthwatering dishes that are, literally, made for the holiday table. In true Pioneer Woman style, Ree gives step-by-step photos, so the turkey will be carved correctly this year! The book also includes make-ahead plans and full menus so that breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all covered on major holidays. This book is a one-stop shop. A really, really delicious one.
You’ll find classic inspiration in Thanksgiving by former New York Times food writer Sam Sifton. A definitive guide to Turkey Day, this book is chock full of simple, fool-proof recipes for timeless Thanksgiving staples, as well as new takes on old standbys. And, more than that, this book is a guide to enjoying the day. Even if you’re the cook.
If you’re a fan of Latin food or are just looking for something different this holiday season, give Daisy’s Holiday Cooking: Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining by Daisy Martinez a peek. Dubbed the Queen of Latin Cooking, the PBS and Food Network star packs 10 chapters full of menus to get you through the fall and winter holiday season. From a Thanksgiving brunch to a tree-trimming open house, Daisy’s got something for you. In fact, she inspired my Christmas dinner last year, complete with pernil, mashed plantains, and the best rice and beans on the planet–all from this book.
I can hardly complain (or blame you!) if you can’t resist novel holiday recipes on your favorite food sites. But here’s a piece of advice: use them for fun sides, salads, and desserts, but don’t mess with the meat. Keep it simple and sensational. Grab James Beard Award-winning All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens. In this book, Molly explains basics like when to use high, moderate, or low heat, and applies them to 150 recipes. If you’re going big this holiday season, the book includes showstoppers like porchetta and roast goose. It also includes simple roasts that work as well for a holiday meal as they do for Sunday supper.
If you’re celebrating Hanukkah and don’t already have Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook, head to the bookstore now. Joan is a multi-award-winning cookbook author, regular New York Times contributor, and frequent guest on Martha Stewart. Let’s just say that her knowledge of Jewish cooking is definitive, and this book is the culmination of her years of collecting Jewish holiday recipes from around the world. The dishes range from familiar favorites to lesser known staples of Jewish cooking from far-flung places like Morocco and Russia. Plus, you’ll have menus for every other major Jewish holiday of the year.
We’ve talked menus, mains, and techniques but, like with any good meal, I’ve saved the best for last: dessert. As you’d expect, Martha Stewart and her band of merry editors have us covered. Their latest book, Martha Stewart’s Cakes, is their first ever that’s focused exclusively on cakes. From bundts to layers, loaves to chiffon cakes, this book has it all, for everyday and holidays alike.
If you’re making cookies for Santa, hey, you might also want to look at Martha Stewart’s Cookies, which also covers all the bases with 175 lip-smacking recipes in a classic cookbook that still holds up many years later. Evidently great cookies have no expiration date. Or at least, the recipes don’t.
And then there is pie. If, like me, you feel pie is the only right thing to serve for holiday dessert, grab a copy of The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. This book from the celebrated Brooklyn-based bakery is brand-spanking new. If the recipes turn out pies at home even half as good as the ones sold at their shop, you’ve just hit the pie jackpot. And: there is a recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Pie.