Just got Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Starting with sauces and working my way in.
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I have somewhere between 50 - 100 cookbooks taking up precious shelf space in my kitchen. Most them have been gifts from dinner guests who know I enjoy cooking, and are seldom if ever used.

I think over the years, the three that have proven most valuable to me have been, in no particular order, From Julia Child's Kitchen, The Silver Palate Cookbook, and The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. The latter is taped together and, after 20 years, needs to be replaced.

There's a huge amount of information about cooking techniques and recipes available today online and on television, but those three books are the sources I turn to most often when I need a question answered or I just want a clear description of exactly how to do something.
The most reliable cookbooks I have (i.e. the ones most likely to produce great results from following the recipe directly) have been from the Le Cordon Bleu Institute. I have a dozen or so different cookbooks from them and they are my bibles for when I want to try something new.
Well, you've got to have a copy of Joy of Cooking I think, if only for nostalgia's sake.

The only cookbooks I use regularly are Pierre Franey's "60 Minute Gourmet" series, from his column in the NY Times in the 70s. After my dad died, I inherited the Franey cookbooks and they have never once failed me. Truly superb for quick yet gourmet cooking. Definitely worth seeking out, not sure if they are still in print.
Most widely used book is the Culinary Institute of America textbook.
After that, plenty of other books I use for inspiration/ideas but not necessarily on a regular basis.

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