Kitchen confident-ial


The holidays are the perfect time for at-home chefs to shine and display their enviable talents. After all, there's nothing that can impress a crowd quite like a delicious home-cooked feast. But this time of year can also be extremely daunting for those of us who are still trying to figure out the difference between broiling, braising, baking, and browning. Here are some cookbooks that truly start with the basics (how to boil water, anyone?) and include recipes that can make even the most novice cook more confident in the kitchen.

From the creators of the popular Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn websites comes "The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens & Tips to Inspire Your Cooking," a how-to manual packed into the beautifully-photographed pages of a cookbook. The authors, Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan and Faith Durand, have separated the book into two parts.

Part One, "The Kitchen," covers everything from setting up and caring for your kitchen to stocking the correct tools and a daily cleaning plan. Advice on how to make an extra-small space work or renovating on a budget will come in very handy. You will also find images of real kitchens to inspire you in choosing and/or designing your own. Part Two, "How to Cook Well," offers pantry-stocking instructions and 50 essential cooking skills, from how to boil water to how to braise meat and vegetables. 150 elegant yet uncomplicated recipes follow, to test out your newly acquired skills. The final chapter allows you to take the leap from cook to host or hostesses, with tips for how to throw a great party, from menu choices to lighting options and more.

One of the biggest uncertainties in cooking is not knowing if a dish looks the way it is supposed to look at each point throughout the process. In "What To Cook and How To Cook It," Jane Hornby, a trained chef, food writer, and recipe tester, has compiled a step-by-step guide to cooking 100 recipes that will take your menu-planning up several knotches. For every recipe, the preparation is broken down into manageable steps, with a corresponding photo illustrating what the ingredients should look like at that very moment so that you can continue on with confidence. You will totally be able to impress your dinner guests with meals like homemade eggplant parmigiana and coq au vin!

Finally, a novice home cook's library cannot be complete without a Mark Bittman book (or a few). In addition to being a voice for sustainability and healthful eating, Bittman, the popular food columnist for The New York Times, takes the guesswork out of conquering recipes, one ingredient at a time. His popular How to Cook Everything series of cookbooks offer basic and more complex recipes, along with every kind of variation possible for changing up the dish. Don't really want to serve that pizzaz-less rice pilaf to your dinner guests? Bittman says you don't have to, because here are 15 ways you can make the dish memorable and delicious. Bored by your morning bran muffin? Try these 10 variations on a single muffin recipe. What a wonderful feeling to never be intimidated by an ingredient again.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Enric Martinez.


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