The Best Local Cookbooks of 2015

From groundbreaking charcuterie tomes to giftable picnic handbooks, these are the year’s must-read Portland recipe collections.

By Benjamin Tepler, Karen Brooks, and Kelly Clarke December 15, 2015

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    Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales from an American Charcuterie by Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson

This was the undisputed cookbook of the year, Portland’s national contender, and a groundbreaking new textbook on charcuterie at home. For those up for the adventure, Olympia Provisions is one of the most impressive cookbooks in recent years, in a class with Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and David Chang’s Momofuku. Thorough in its processes, comprehensive in its grasp of the subject, and beguiling as a piece of travel literature, it brings strange worlds to life, both in words and photographs. And critically, it’s one of the most digestible charcuterie books written for the English language—a tall order for a craft that’s more science than cooking. 

  1. Bitterman's Field Guide to Bitters & Amari: 500 Bitters; 50 Amari; 123 Recipes for Cocktails, Food & Homemade Bitters by Mark Bitterman

In the category of “Best Cookbook on a Single Subject,” Bitterman’s Field Guide is a shoo-in. Mark Bitterman knows more about bitters than anyone on the planet. Surely, certainly, no human cares more, or writes more vividly, about bitters—the world’s most mysterious flavor extracts and soulful cocktail ingredient. It’s the first book to telegraph this growing force in America’s cocktail culture and argue a place for bitters at the food table. (Fernet flan, this is your moment.)

  1. Heartlandia: Heritage Recipes from Portland's The Country Cat by Adam and Jackie Sappington

Heartlandia is the restaurant cheat sheet that Portland has wanted since The Country Cat opened in 2007, holding the secrets to the city’s best Americana comfort food. Challah French toast with Maker’s Mark custard. Perfect buttermilk biscuits. What’s the secret to the Country Cat’s coveted skillet-fried chicken? (buttermilk brine and beef suet). Want at taste? You can find their recipe for rich, custardy, pecan spoonbread right here

  1. Pasta by Hand: A Collection of Italy's Regional Hand-Shaped Pasta by Jenn Louis

There’s more to Italian pasta than spaghetti. Lincoln Restaurant’s Jenn Louis spent the better part of five years researching Italy’s lesser-known family of pasta dumplings, including gnocchi, for her new recipe collection, Pasta by Hand, the first American-penned cookbook devoted entirely to the little dough nubs. Louis traveled through Italy’s 20 distinct regions, scouring each village for its own secret nonna-approved formula. You can find the recipe for the easiest fresh pasta recipe of all time, frascarelli, right here.

  1. Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer by Jacob Grier

When bartender Jacob Grier sees a bottle of farmhouse saison or hoppy Oregon IPA, he doesn’t just see a beer—he sees the beginning of a beautiful cocktail. As affable and inquisitive as its creator, the book ping-pongs from arcane, centuries-old recipes like eggnoggy curdled-cream-and-ale possets to contemporary beer cocktails gathered from bar pros around the country. A Breakside Brewery IPA, for instance, lends froth and bitter tang to a tiki classic or cuts the cachaça sweetness of a Brazilian “Caip-beer-ihna,” while Mexican lager branches out from the michelada to mingle with serrano-infused mescal and pineapple shrub. The takeaway is clear: it’s time to liberate beer from its bottle.

Honorable Mentions 

The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson

The Picnic is the brainchild of the Portland Picnic Society. Think of them as a local chapter of “ladies who lunch”—just replace the socialites with 20 of the city’s top chefs, bakers, and wine aficionados, mounting their own elaborate picnics in city parks each summer. Their book includes tips and tricks for al fresco dining, including “99 Ways to Use a Mason Jar,” and simple, foolproof recipes, like this one for frozen, fruity paletas. 

Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Brew Lovers by Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker 

Given equal weight as wine pairings in Portland, Beer Bites offers 65 international recipes, from appetizers to main courses, along with recommendations for beer styles and must-try brews for each. Local beer savant, Portland Monthly contributor, and Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery owner Christian DeBenedetti teams up with Portland cookbook author Andrea Slonecker for this breezy beer-lover’s accessory.

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