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The Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019 – Eater

We may not need cookbooks these days, with the seemingly infinite supply of cooking newsletters, recipe apps, and SEO-bait recipe blogs out there. But surveying the new slate of cookbooks each fall remains one of the best ways to consider the current moment in food: the regional cuisines getting mainstream attention, the chefs whose stars are rising, the techniques and traditions that remain (or finally find themselves) at the forefront of restaurant and home kitchens.

This season, icons like Diana Henry, Fuchsia Dunlop, and Nancy Singleton Hachisu return, while others are transforming their food-world fame into inaugural cookbooks (oh hey, Antoni and Questlove). Two of the most anticipated restaurant books happen to represent spots in Los Angeles; elsewhere, the bounty of the coastal South gets its due. These books, from on-the-rise and veteran chefs alike — and at least one recipe writer whose work consistently dominates Instagram — are the ones worth adding to your shelf this year.

For a look at the most-anticipated shows and restaurants this season, see our fall entertainment preview and fall restaurant preview.


Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen

Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock
Chronicle Books, October 1

Cookbooks can be precise documents of a restaurant’s point of view, treasure troves of traditional recipes, or personal memoirs, but very rarely are they all three. In Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen, chef Josef Centeno and writer Betty Hallock pull off this trifecta with ease, speaking to their skill as collaborators and the deeply personal nature of Centeno’s restaurant at the heart of the book, Bar Amá.

A San Antonio native who built one of the finest collections of restaurants in Los Angeles, Centeno made his name with playful, pan-Mediterranean cooking at Baco Mercat (also the subject of his first cookbook). In Amá, he writes that he spent his younger years trying to escape the food of his deep-rooted Tejano family, only to return to this cuisine with fresh eyes and renewed appreciation as an adult. Family recipes (including flour tortillas, carne guisada, and an essential range of salsas) are mixed with family stories: One great-grandfather had a cup of hot chocolate shot out of his hand during the Mexican revolution, and a great-grandmother stubbornly presided over the opening of the family supermarket despite her broken leg.

But while Centeno’s take on Tex-Mex is informed by this vivid history, Bar Amá is also the most innovative Tex-Mex restaurant in America, and the cookbook breaks with many other fine Tex-Mex cookbooks in its playfulness. Centeno’s contribution takes full advantage of Tex-Mex’s irreverent yet delicious flexibility, reworking Escoffier’s lobster thermidor with crema, tortilla chips, and Monterrey Jack cheese, and creating a queso recipe that blends Brebirousse d’Argental with Velveeta. Few cuisines have been more influential and less appreciated than Tex-Mex; Centeno and Hallock’s book is the best case yet for embracing Texas’s founding rancho cuisine with not just reverence, but joy. — Meghan McCarron

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American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta

Evan Funke with Katie Parla
Chronicle Books, September 24

At his LA restaurant Felix, Evan Funke has earned a reputation as a pasta master. The chef spent years studying the art of shaping pasta under master pasta makers, called sfoglini, in Bologna. American Sfoglino, his first cookbook (written with Rome-based food writer and Eater contributor Katie Parla), is of course no substitute for years of apprenticing under sfoglini Alessandra Spisni and Kosaku Kawamura. But it does offer the interested hobbyist a master class in making pasta by hand.

American Sfoglino starts with “the fundamentals”: the equipment the aspiring pasta maker will need (including the directive: “Fuck your pasta machine”), as well as the recipe for four pasta doughs, complete with helpful step-by-step photos. The bulk of the book is devoted to pasta shapes — Funke instructs on standards, like pappardelle and tagliatelle, and less common varieties like the bright green balanzoni on the book’s cover (it’s a stuffed pasta traditionally made for Bologna’s winter Carnevale). For each of the 15 pasta shapes, Funke gives the reader a brief history and short lessons on how these artisan techniques impact taste and texture. His method for folding farfalle, for example, involves letting water flow evenly around the bowtie’s pinched middle, “ensuring a universally tender piece every time.” And of course, he tackles the sauces that best accompany each shape, like a sausage, cream, and sage sauce for the balanzoni, and strozzapreti with rabbit ragu.

American Sfoglino makes it clear that becoming a sfoglino, American or otherwise, is no casual undertaking. But if you pick up this book, you’ll be inspired to try. — Monica Burton

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Antoni in the Kitchen

Antoni Porowski with Mindy Fox
Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 9

Barely 18 months after Netflix’s Queer Eye catapulted the new Fab Five to star status, food guy Antoni Porowski is debuting his first cookbook. In line with Porowski’s keep-it-simple approach on the show, Antoni in the Kitchen (written in tandem with food writer Mindy Fox) is a fittingly homey affair — the book, which covers everything from baked goods to salads to party-friendly hors d’oeuvres, is eminently approachable and refreshingly light on recipes that call for dozens of ingredients and multiple visits to specialty stores. Plus, for those looking to ogle Queer Eye’s resident pretty boy, there are about as many photos of Porowski sporting printed graphic tees as there are of the food.

Despite aspersions cast on Porowski’s culinary abilities by certain Queer Eye viewers his book does go beyond guacamole and mac and cheese, with recipes like an Alsatian tarte flambée and more than a few nods to his Polish heritage. Seasoned cooks might find some parts of Antoni in the Kitchen a little obvious, such as the tip to add chocolate and beer to chili. While there could be a few more challenging recipes thrown in to satisfy that crowd, the book is well-rounded with low-stress-but-still-tempting recipes, making it a helpful resource for weeknight cooking. — Tim Forster

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Food Artisans of Japan: Recipes and Stories

Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Hardie Grant, November 5

Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s fourth title, Food Artisans of Japan, is not so much a cookbook as a portrait of the chefs and artisans who form the essential food landscape of Japan: a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Hokkaido, the potter who never signs his work, and one of the “nicest chefs in the business.” It’s by design that this tome feels like a continuation of the James Beard Award-nominated author’s previous works. “I see the compendium of books I write as a never-ending story,” Hachisu writes. Her first volume was intimate; her second, specific; and her most recent, encyclopedic in its breadth. But Food Artisans of Japan follows the same singular focus on ingredients and culinary traditions core to Japan, with a spare aesthetic that’s as familiar as it is elegant.

The book is also a culmination of the bonds Hachisu has formed throughout the course of her travels while writing her previous titles. Relationships — between the author and her subjects, as well as between the artisans and their handiwork — are the connective tissue here. That’s evident in both the artisans’ profiles as well as their recipes, a wide-ranging, eclectic collection that mixes tradition (soba with fresh wasabi) with the unexpected (sweet fish risotto squares with broth). Fans of Japanese cuisine, but more importantly the people who make it, will revel in this book. — Jenny Zhang

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From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes That Look After Themselves

Diana Henry
Mitchell Beazley, September 19

Diana Henry describes herself as a cook who loves words, and her cookbooks are especially beloved by those who are happiest sitting with a book or standing over a stove (or wish they were doing those things as they hunch over their phone instead). A wildly prolific writer and recipe developer based in London, Henry writes a weekly recipe column in the Telegraph; this is her 12th book. Her cooking relies on flavor combinations informed by a wide range of global cuisines, as well as a well-stocked pantry, to create fresh approaches to familiar home cooking techniques. If you’re the kind of cook who loves to impulse-buy smoked paprika and rice wine vinegar and preserved lemons but often gets stuck in the rut of roasting yet another tray of chicken thighs, Henry’s books will inspire you, even on a Wednesday night.

Her latest book, From the Oven to the Table, is one of her most approachable, revolving around fairly simple, often one-dish meals that can be roasted for a relatively quick but immensely satisfying weeknight dinner or a casual dinner party. There’s an entire section entitled “Chicken Thighs Forever,” which reinvigorates the most eminently roastable meat with combinations ranging from plums, honey, and pomegranates to miso, sweet potatoes, and scallions. Henry’s approach is one of constant iteration, where every variation sounds better than the last. Other small yet potent revelations include cabbage topped with XO sauce breadcrumbs and a savory tomato clafoutis.

Interspersed throughout are thoughtful short essays on what it means to put good, homemade food at the center of a household, and your larger social life. Henry is a realist — one especially welcome essay acknowledges that a great deal of painful things in family life happen around the table, too — but she’s a hopeful realist, one attuned to the value of repeating the same small, meaningful acts of cooking, eating, and gathering day after day, until it becomes a life. As the temperature drops and turning on the oven becomes palatable once more, this book is the perfect inspiration to build more of your own life that way, too. — Meghan McCarron

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Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African-American Cooking

Toni Tipton-Martin
Clarkson Potter, November 5

With Jubilee, food journalist and activist Toni Tipton-Martin continues her work uncovering the history of African-American cuisine and challenging our assumptions about it in the process. While her previous book, The Jemima Code, focused more on the recipes of black women and Southern cooking, in Jubilee, Tipton-Martin expands on what should be considered “black food,” collecting historic recipes from home cooks and restaurant chefs, slaves and businessmen, the rich and the poor, from all over America. Yes, there are soul food classics here, like spoonbread and collard greens, but also sophisticated cocktails, a sweet potato-mango cake, and a Caribbean-inspired pork loin that I couldn’t stop picking at while it rested.

Since so many of the recipes are provided by home cooks, they’re designed for your average chef, but even those inspired by professionals like Leah Chase and Pierre Thiam feel doable. Through them all, Tipton-Martin lays out a history of black cooking, drawn from countless sources, including her own vast cookbook collection, that proves if any cuisine is American, it’s this one. — Jaya Saxena

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Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine

Maangchi with Martha Rose Shulman
Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 29

Maangchi, a cookbook author and a YouTube personality with over 4 million subscribers, has been building a community and teaching fans around the world how to make Korean cuisine for over a decade. With her charming smile and quirky personality, Maangchi stands in as a Korean mom to all, kindly instructing the masses on how to make kimchi, pick the right kind of gochujang, and prepare all kinds of banchan with fresh vegetables.

Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine is her second book, an even more comprehensive take on Korean home cooking than the first — think Julia Child’s iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but with bibimbap. Sixteen chapters cover everything from ingredient shopping to Buddhist temple cuisine, lending the book an encyclopedic, but still approachable, heft. Through each recipe, Maangchi shares personal stories as well as the photos she took herself, shots achieved with non-pretentious food styling and lighting. The result is an accessible recipe collection that reads like it was curated by someone who’s incredibly knowledgeable and intimately honest — someone who (if you’re like me) you’d like to have as a member of your own family, prepping meals that taste like home. — James Park

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Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking

Lior Lev Sercarz with Genevieve Ko
Clarkson Potter, October 15

Lior Lev Sercarz, chef and owner of New York City speciality spice shop La Boîte, has one goal with Mastering Spice: to help home cooks make restaurant-worthy weeknight meals by simply adding or changing the spices used. In more than 200 recipes contained here — including one for an herb-braised chicken with dried apricots and a blend of garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and green peppercorns — Sercarz and his co-author, former Good Housekeeping and Gourmet editor Genevieve Ko, transform familiar favorites into new and exciting dishes.

Every single one of Sercarz’s recipes begins with a spice blend, and many are accompanied by alternatives; a recipe for poached salmon with garlic, basil, white peppercorns, and fennel seeds, for example, is followed by five more takes on poached salmon, each with different seasoning. The model makes Mastering Spice an accessible guide for both inexperienced and longtime cooks: Once you start regularly cooking with these blends, you’ll have the courage to mix and match and, eventually, create your own combinations. Armed with just the ingredients in your pantry, you’ll find the book transforms cooking into a delightful (and manageable) game of choose your own adventure. — Esra Erol

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Mixtape Potluck: A Cookbook

Questlove
Abrams, October 15

Questlove, as his name would suggest, probably has amorous feelings about many things. But the Roots frontman reveals his strongest allegiance in his Instagram handle @questlovesfood, hence his latest project: a collaborative cookbook in which he calls upon his many famous friends to contribute recipes to a metaphorical potluck meal. The concept is inspired by his real-life dinner parties, “food salons” to which he invites the country’s top chefs to cook and with guests spanning “all the different worlds that I’m lucky enough to be in,” as he writes in the intro. (His previous book about food, something to food about, was similarly collaborative, built around conversations about creativity with chefs across America.)

Mixtape Potluck’s contributors also run the gamut, from music to comedy to literature to technology, starting with a foreword from hostess extraordinaire Martha Stewart. Readers can try Natalie Portman’s spinach pie, Maya Rudolph’s chocolate chili (made with actual chocolate chips), or the hard-to-resist “Easy Veggie Party Quiche That Will Blow Everyone’s Mind” from Amy Poehler. Alongside the big-name celebs are those with serious food-world cred, like chefs Nyesha Arrington (sweet potato kimchi pancakes), Andrew Zimmern (spicy sweet and sour chicken with lemongrass), Dominique Ansel (cinnamon rolls with honey mead icing), and Mashama Bailey (Country Captain Chicken), among many others.

The recipes cover a ton of culinary ground but feel accessible without being basic, thanks to voice-y, informative headnotes and clear, vibrant photography. Each recipe is accompanied by a song, selected by Questlove, fulfilling the book’s premise as a hybrid potluck guide and mixtape. Rounding out the recipe chapters are tips for constructing the ideal playlist and how non-culinarily-gifted guests can still contribute. Even with its many flashy co-authors, Mixtape Potluck never wavers from its earnest stated intent: to help readers plan the best possible dinner party. With friends like his, Quest is one to trust. — Ellie Krupnick

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Natural Wine for the People: What It Is, Where to Find It, How to Love It

Alice Feiring
Ten Speed Press, out now

Natural wine is clearly having a moment on domestic wine lists right now, but the entire genre remains debated by those who make it, import it, sell it, and drink it. What makes a wine “natural”? How is that category different from biodynamic wines? Does natural wine contain sulfites? How does organic come into play? There isn’t a writer better disposed for the task of answering those loaded questions than Alice Feiring, who’s written seven books about wine and dedicated her career to distilling her decades of wine knowledge to those eager for a taste.

Less a lecture on why you should be drinking natural wine — though avoiding highly processed and additive-laden wines is surely one reason — and more an education, Natural Wine for the People is broken down into three parts: what natural wine is; tips on how to taste and appreciate it; and the go-to producers, importers, global wine fairs, and domestic wine shops for seeking these wines out. Taking a trip and want to visit some natural wineries? Feiring has tips for that, too. The author is confident that just as farm-to-table became an expectation among a certain style of restaurant, natural wine will stop being called “natural” in a few years and merely be viewed as, well, wine. In the meantime, this book is the perfect guide to shepherd us through. — Patty Diez

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Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over

Alison Roman
Clarkson Potter, October 22

If you’re reading this roundup, you probably know Alison Roman from her smash debut cookbook, Dining In; her recipes in the New York Times; her column or past recipes in Bon Appetit; or her Instagram. If none of that’s ringing a bell, think of Roman as the person who cooks the way you wish you did, equal parts “I just threw this together” and “I have my shit together enough to cook well.”

Roman’s latest is a collection of recipes and tips designed to help you entertain — though, as she rightly notes, that word is stuffy. What I want when I entertain, as I think many people do, is just to feel better about having people over for food I’ve made, and for that food to ideally be interesting, impressive, and still manageable. For that, there’s no one whose advice I’d rather have than Roman’s. Grilling a whole fish or serving a leg of lamb is not terribly intimidating once Roman explains how in chatty headnotes, and I’m definitely going to give her DIY martini bar a try.

Nothing Fancy’s recipes are on-trend but unpretentiously so, as if they were found on a menu at your favorite small-plates spot or natural wine bar. Most relevant of all is Roman’s attitude toward hosting: that all of us can do it, that we should embrace the imperfections of our plans, and that it’s more fun to try than to stress. Nothing Fancy delivers what those of us hoping to up our dinner party game are looking for: It’s utterly current and distinctly doable. — Hillary Dixler Canavan

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Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen

Adeena Sussman
Avery, out now

Adeena Sussman is a force to be reckoned with. Not only has she written for Food & Wine, Taste, and Gourmet (may it rest in peace), to name a few, she has also co-authored 11 cookbooks, including Cravings and its follow-up, Hungry For More, with Chrissy Teigen. In Sababa, Sussman brings the culinary wonderland of Israel to life with more than 100 recipes reflecting the experience of Jewish and Arab residents. And as the book’s title hints — “sababa” is Hebrew-meets-Arabic slang for, simply, “everything is awesome” — readers are in for a treat.

Sussman begins with a crash course in spices, from baharat to za’atar, and iconic regional condiments like schug and harissa. The exhaustive chapters that follow cover everything from breads, soups, and salatim (small plates and salads) to pasta, meat, fish, desserts, and even cocktails, drinks, and frozen treats; enjoyably, the recipes blend classics (shawarma, kugel Yerushalmi) with delightful twists (hello, chewy tahini blondies). Sababa beautifully reflects the dishes Sussman makes from the ingredients she finds right outside her Tel Aviv kitchen, in the bustling shops of the Shuk HaCarmel. And with its vast selection of easy-to-tackle recipes, any home cook can bring those flavors home. — Esra Erol

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The Food of Sichuan

Fuchsia Dunlop
W. W. Norton & Company, October 15

Nearly 20 years after the publication of her seminal opus on Sichuanese cooking, Sichuan Cookery (known in the U.S. as Land of Plenty), Fuchsia Dunlop, one of the West’s foremost experts in Chinese cooking, revisits the book that introduced many English-speaking audiences to the cuisine of Sichuan for the first time. Her aim, she writes, is to create a revised and updated version to “reflect the evolution of Sichuanese cuisine” over a decades-long period of immense culinary change — in Sichuan itself, as well as the English-speaking world’s appetite for the province’s flavorful and fiery dishes.

The Food of Sichuan features 200 recipes — 50 of them new — as well as Dunlop’s reliably comprehensive, approachable writing about the cultural history of Sichuan and the key elements to its cuisine. Both poetic and practical, this book offers something to both novices and connoisseurs of Sichuanese food, with recipes for the ubiquitous mapo tofu sitting alongside lesser-known dishes like “phoenix tails” (tender tufted lettuce leaves) in sesame sauce. It is, in a word, phenomenal. — Jenny Zhang

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The Jewish Cookbook

Leah Koenig
Phaidon, September 11

Cookbook author and documenter of Jewish cookery Leah Koenig brings contemporary recipes from around the world within the grasp of home cooks in her latest work, The Jewish Cookbook. It’s a lofty title that matches her ambitious goal: to record and introduce readers to the full range of flavors in the Jewish diaspora. The Jewish Cookbook shows an appreciation for heritage cuisine. Koenig deftly zips between Ashkenazi Jewish Passover staples like gefilte fish to Sephardi- and Mizrahi-style sweet and sour okra with tomatoes to braided, yeasted pumpkin bread and German-style beef and spelt stew, with notes establishing each dish’s provenance and its regional nuances.

The enormous volume features photography that’s beautiful yet utilitarian in a way that complements the accessible recipes. Koenig encourages her audience to stretch themselves with dishes contributed by renowned chefs like Michael Solomonov, Michael Shemtov, and Alon Shaya, though she doesn’t shy away from opinionated stances on foods she deems better remembered for their place in history than prepared for a modern table, such as p’tcha (pickled calves’ feet). With recipes that span the globe, The Jewish Cookbook will empower readers to try something new on a whim rather than feeling overwhelmed by an ingredient list — and maybe even learn a little Jewish culture along the way. — Brenna Houck

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The Saltwater Table: Recipes from the Coastal South

Whitney Otawka
Abrams, October 22

It’s easy to miss, but Cumberland Island, the largest of the Sea Islands off Georgia’s Atlantic coastline, has been around for centuries. Its marshy terrain, replete with loggerhead sea turtles, feral horses, gnarly oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and rows of springy palmettos, is a side of Georgia too many don’t get to see. Chef Whitney Otawka moved there in 2010, leaving Atlanta’s dining scene in search of a new adventure: She and her husband, fellow chef Ben Wheatley, found just that at the Greyfield Inn, an exclusive hotel estate where she now serves as executive chef (Wheatley is chef de cuisine). In The Saltwater Table, Otawka presents her own colorful and bright interpretation of the coastal food culture she has studied and is inspired by — a food culture developed by the enslaved West Africans who were brought there to work in service of European industry titans.

In this gorgeous collection, Otawka blends her formative years as a California native with broad culinary influence marked by Hesperia (the desert town where she grew up), her travels to France and Mexico, and a decade of experience cooking in Georgia, where she began to understand the layered history of Southern cuisine. In the coastal South, resourcefulness is king, and Otawka hopes you catch the spirit, whether it’s building a fire to grill, hosting an oyster roast, or learning to pack a picnic. She wants you to see what the great outdoors offers; seasons run the show.

From creamy steamed clams tossed with fennel and lemon to ricotta dumplings with sweet peas and carrots, dishes in this book evoke the spirit of leisure, even when the cook might be pressed for time. Otawka kindly educates the uninitiated that this region, in its geographical and cultural complexity, has ever more to offer, and she reminds those in the know that these traditions are to be celebrated, if not outright cherished. This is a book the South deserves. — Osayi Endolyn

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Andrea D’Aquino is an illustrator and author based in New York City.
Listen to a breakdown of the season’s most exciting new cookbooks on Eater’s Digest:


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