My favorite cookbooks of 2012: the first installment

Lori Midson
Michael Symon's Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers, by Michael Symon. $25; hardcover; 256 pages. Star chef Michael Symon, whose unpretentious, entertaining approach to cooking makes an amateur feel relaxed and inspired, shares more than 100 recipes in this cookbook aimed at carnivores who want to cook beyond the ubiquitous cuts -- and get up close and personal with their butchers. His testosterone-charged homage to meat celebrates rabbit and ribs, lamb and venison, goat and pig, and the recipes are incredibly easy to follow, not to mention flavor-bombed. Buy one for yourself and a second for a bona fide flesh eater.

Lori Midson
Haute Potato: From Pommes Rissolees to Timbale with Roquefort, 75 Gourmet Potato Recipes, by Jacqueline Pham. $18.95; hardcover; 192 pages. If you're not a potato head, stop reading. But if you're as obsessive about the humble spud as I am, then this cookbook featuring 75 recipes, all of which involve the underappreciated tuber, is a must-have. The simple recipes zigzag from sweet mashed potatoes with roasted bananas and maple syrup to a peppy shrimp and potato salad. What I like most about Pham's cookbook is the fact that she traverses through a multitude of countries, dispensing potato recipes from all over the globe, including India, Vietnam, Peru and Africa. And if you simply want a great recipe for scalloped potatoes to pair with a spiral ham, she offers that, too.

Lori Midson
Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes, by Diane Morgan, Antonis Achilleos and Deborah Madison. $40; hardcover; 432 pages. "Definitive" is an understatement. Everything about this dedicated cookbook, resource guide and reference book that spotlights the attributes of well-known (and unfamiliar) root vegetables is extraordinary. It's the kind of complete cookbook that not only offers creative, seasonal recipes that will appeal to both timid home cooks and chefs wanting to branch out beyond beets, parsnips, potatoes and carrots, but each chapter also contains pertinent storage and prep information, along with the history of each vegetable; the photos are truly gorgeous, too. Plus, who knew that carrot tops make an excellent pesto?

Lori Midson
Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks from America's Greatest Cooks, by Adam Roberts. $27.95; hardcover; 386 pages. Adam Roberts, author of the popular blog, spent a year traveling across America, cooking knuckle-to-knuckle alongside professional chefs and home cooks. His adventurous escapades in the kitchens of José Andrés, Susan Feniger, Michel Richard and Alice Waters (that's the very short list) resulted in a killer cookbook that's chock-block with clear, concise, international recipes that won't intimidate, "Kitchen Know-Hows" from in-the-know chefs who share their techniques, tips and tricks, illuminating chef backstories and plenty of lovely food photography to make you moan.

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Thousands of remarkable cookbooks?!? Really? Thousands of - not just cookbooks - but remarkable cookbooks? Embarrassing statement. 

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