Ezra compiled a list of his favorite cookbooks, just in time for holiday shopping.
Here are my favorites from my embarrassingly large collection. These are real workhorses that I use all the time. I tend to prefer cookbooks with extended discussions of ingredients and techniques.
The Joy of Cooking, 1997. It know, it's fashionable for foodies to dis the later editions of Joy--because they've eliminated the recipes for whale and squirrel and because they have only 3/5ths as many recipes for scalloped potatoes as previous editions.
The Joy's basic flaky pie crust recipe is still unsurpassed when you make it by hand with lard. Great pancakes, great baking powder biscuits, and foolproof advice for cooking live crustaceans.
Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless. The enchilada and ceviche recipes are outstanding.
Classic Indian Cooking, by Julie Sahni. Highlights: Chickpeas with tamarind, chickpeas with tomato and onion gravy.
The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine. The turkey stuffing recipe is the best I've ever tasted. I never even liked stuffing before I tried this version. Try the butternut squash soup and the pad thai recipes.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Yoshiki Tsuji. Worth buying for the discussions of bonito and seaweed based broths alone. Sounds weird, but trust me. Your Japanese dishes will start tasting a lot more Japanese. Good recipes for ponzu sauce, fish baked in salt, and other delicacies.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Favorite recipes: Pink shrimp sauce with cream, tomato sauce with carrots, onions, and celery in olive oil, and simple tomato sauce with onion and butter.
Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer. Contains quite simply the best pizza dough recipe I've ever tried. Good advice on techniques for replicating artisan bakery style breads with a home oven and instant yeast.
Like Ezra, I can't say enough good things about Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking. The ma bo tofu is a standout.