IN THE KITCHEN: Cookbooks — the gifts that just keep on giving the pokks


By Faith Bahadurian Special Writer
    With hundreds of cookbooks already in my collection, I have to admit I pay scant attention to most new ones Sure, I hear about the blockbusters, but I’m not a big fan of most celebrity chefs, or reality TV, which seems to be how most new cookbooks originate these days.
    But there is always the occasional title that catches my interest, and the following is a very arbitrary rundown of just a few.
    For the last several years, readers of The New York Times Sunday Magazine have enjoyed the “Recipe Redux” columns by Amanda Hesser. She finds an old recipe from the Times’ archives, turns it over to a chef to update, then publishes the two versions side by side. All that delving has resulted in The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, and more than a little heckling from the sidelines about what was or wasn’t included. The Publishers Weekly starred review states: “Hesser … offers a superb compilation of the most noteworthy recipes published by the paper since it started covering food in the 1850s.” The commentary is wonderful, but at 932 pages, it should be available on e-readers for those who want to read and reminisce, rather than read and cook.
    A few cookbooks show up on my doorstep each year, compliments of a publicist taking a chance on my broad (some would say erratic) tastes. Thus the recent arrival of Shinin’ Times at The Fort by Holly Arnold Kinney. This landmark Colorado restaurant near Denver, a replica of the 1883 Bent’s Fort, is a huge attraction which I somehow never visited when I lived in Aspen. (It wasn’t like you would drive across the Continental Divide for dinner.) Open since 1963, The Fort serves updated versions of the foods of the Old West. The place has become a cultural treasure and institution, driven by Ms. Kinney’s late father, Sam Arnold. I just love the book’s Western theme and graphics, to say nothing of the recipes, like Buffalo Empanadas with Sweet Chile Sauce, or the Charbroiled Quail with Red Chile Honey, below. Perfect for your inner cowboy or Indian.
    Also evocative of a different place, Brunetti’s Cookbook is based on the celebrated (and cerebral) Donna Leon crime series starring Venetian police detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, the new love of my life. The cookbook obviously grew out of the popularity of the series, but what can I say? I ran across the cookbook on my home page, and now I’m hooked on the series. Fans can read Ms. Leon’s commentary and excerpts as they cook the same dishes Brunetti enjoys in the bosom of his loving family and in the restaurants of Venice.
    More locally, Rutgers University Press has published some great food titles over the years, and Celebrity Chefs of New Jersey by Teresa Politano continues that tradition. These are our home-boy (or -girl) chefs — my kind of celebrity — and I am beguiled by Ms. Politano’s interviews, accompanied by gorgeous photos of the chefs and, of course, recipes. They are divided into sections, like “The Legends” (Craig Shelton and David Burke among them), “The Stars” (Elements’ Scott Andersen, James Laird from Restaurant Serenade, etc.), and “Chefs to Watch” (Kara Decker of A Toute Heure, for instance). And in “A Sweet Finish,” a profile of Diane Pinder, whose Donna & Company chocolates have held me in thrall since I met her at the Chocolate Show in New York several years ago. I’m trying to pretend I don’t see her recipe for my favorite, pistachio brittle with sea salt, in there.
    Also of local interest, the Canal House Cooking seasonal series from the Lambertville studio of Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer continues to delight me. I’m going to write about their newest volume, “The Good Life,” in my next column, so won’t go on too much here, but an annual three-volume subscription makes a great gift.
    The ultimate foodie cookbook, maybe for the entire 21st century, isn’t quite published yet, because the rigors of meticulously proofreading the six volumes delayed the expected holiday release to March 2011. So you’ll have to pre-order Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet, instead.
    Mr. Myhrvold, who holds Ph.D.s in mathematical economics and theoretical physics from Princeton University, was the first chief technology officer at Microsoft. Now he’s pursuing his lifelong interest in food and food science. “Modernist Cuisine” promises to be the bible of the molecular gastronomy movement, as it covers topics like sous vide cooking, gels, foams, etc. But it also explains (in great detail, one assumes) the science behind classic cooking processes and techniques. Complete with recipes adapted from today’s top cutting-edge chefs, of course!
Adapted from
“Shinin’ Times at The Fort,”
Fur Trade Press LLC
4 servings.
1 rounded tablespoon pure ground New Mexico red chile (Dixon is recommended)
    1 cup honey
    8 partially boned quail
    Canola oil
Simmer the chile in the honey for 10 minutes to combine their flavors. Brush the quail with the oil and charbroil them over a slow grill for 3-5 minutes per side. (Allow 6-8 additional minutes if your quail are not partially boned.) Brush both sides with glaze when nearly cooked. If you glaze them too soon, the honey will burn. After placing the quail on the plate, brush with more glaze.
Diane Pinder
From “Celebrity Chefs
of New Jersey”
4 servings
5 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder
    6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
    2 tablespoons sugar
    2 cups milk
    Chili powder (optional)
Place the cocoa powder, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the milk in a saucepan and heat until the sugar melts, stirring well to remove any lumps. Boil and add the remaining milk. Heat to steaming, always whisking to incorporate the chocolate mixture. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir to melt the chocolate and let it sit. Reheat to serve, stirring well before before serving. Sprinkle with chili powder for a fabulous flavor.