Both of these sturdy, beautifully-photographed books can serve not only as cooking companions in the kitchen, but as coffee table centerpieces for conversation and visual enjoyment. The Country Cooking of Ireland won this year’s James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook, as well as the overall award for Cookbook of the Year. If you’re under the impression that there’s not much you’d want to know about Irish cooking, this book may change your opinion. Colman Andrews sets out mouth-watering recipes, each accompanied by notes on historical context, all documented in an extensive bibliography. Recipes include Colcannon, Watercress and Almond Soup, Potato-Oat Cakes, and Roast Pike with Lamb Sauce, Lovage, and Bacon. Eaters looking for hearty recipe ideas, as well as culinary and cultural historians with an interest in Ireland, should take note of this book.
Ad Hoc at Home is this year’s winner in the General Cooking category. Author Thomas Keller, best-known as chef/proprietor of The French Laundry and per se, is also the head chef at Ad Hoc, a family-style restaurant in Yountville, California and the basis for the recipes in this book. According to Keller’s introduction, here you’ll find “a big collection of family meals and everyday staples, delicious approachable food, recipes that are doable at home. No immersion circulator required. No complicated garnishes. I promise!” He follows through with home-style favorites like Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Braised Beef Short Ribs, Green Bean and Potato Salad with Mission Figs and Ibérico Ham, Scallion Potato Cakes, and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Most recipes include photographs, and some have step-by-step photographic depictions of processes like how to cut up a chicken, how to truss a chicken, and how to roll out and cut dough for soup crackers. The beginning of the book offers tips on equipment, ingredients, and some pointers on how to become a better cook. If you’re looking for an instructive volume of non-fussy recipes from a master chef, this might be the book for you.
Curious about what other books won James Beard Awards this year? Check out the complete list of award winners (pdf).
– Anna Craft, nonfiction selector