Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Favorite Holiday Cookbooks

I can never resist a holiday-themed cookbook. I don't know why. I could just as easily assemble menus from my huge cookbook collection. But there's something about having the whole shebang in one place giving me inspiration and lots of time-saving tips. Some of these books are written by writers I'm friendly with. Others I admire from afar, and still a few others are books I've actually worked on. I don't make it a habit to write about those titles, but these are wonderful backlist titles and well worth your seeking them out. All of them are available either online or through a bookstore that specializes in backlist titles such as Powell's Books in my new adopted city of Portland, Oregon.

THANKSGIVING 101 (Broadway Books). Rick Rodgers is a friend. Because of his long-time Thanksgiving 101 cooking classes all over the country, Rick is affectionately known as "Mr. Thanksgiving" or "The Turkey Meister." THANKSGIVING 101 is the classic work on the subject and has been the bestselling cookbook on Thanksgiving for many years. Rick is a superb teacher and his easy-manner and breezy style take all the fear out of facing this big feast. With this book, all questions are answered, tips dispensed, and delicious recipes written with gusto. Understanding that Thanksgiving food rituals are sacred (Rick relates a story about his family preferring canned canned, jellied cranberry sauce over "that fancy stuff," he had prepared for the Thanksgiving feast). So tucked among the many fine recipes are classics such as Spiced Cranberry Jello Mold, and Green Bean Bake with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, frozen cut green beans, and canned French fried onion rings (served on 20 million American tables every year). I've returned to Rick's book for stuffing recipes for years. All the turkey recipes are foolproof, whether brined or deep fried. Rick covers the entire meal from menu planning to leftovers with luscious desserts to end the big meal. This definitive guide is likely to remain the unchallenged leader of holiday cookbooks for years to come.

SERIOUSLY SIMPLE HOLIDAYS: Recipes and Ideas to Celebrate the Season (Chronicle Books). I confess that I worked on this superb cookbook. Diane Rossen Worthington is a cookbook writer of imagination and big skills. In this beautiful, ambitious work, she takes on the entire fall holiday season from Rosh Hashanah and Halloween to Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Football New Year's Day. Surpremely organized, Diane provides invaluable tips for setting up the holiday bar, stocking the pantry, suggesting menus for the big dinners, brunches, cocktail parties, holiday luncheons, and much more. There's a really nifty section on gift foods, plus a section on Pairing Holiday Wine and Cheese. There are lots of sensational recipes that feel like great holiday food, but my absolute favorite recipe in the book, and one that I've made quite a few times is a crowd-pleasing Baked Pasta with Tomato, Red Pepper, and Sweet Italian Sausage Sauce. This delicious main dish is festive looking and swooningly good. It can be assembled ahead and is perfect for a casual dining during this hectic season. Diane's Balsamic Glaze is a great gift to give, but it's also a terrific condiment for soups and sauces. A must-have book!

I originally planned to review six books in this feature, but I've tried over and over again to put in the Amazon connections for each title and it refused to work. So in frustration, this will be in segments. Here are the first two titles.

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