Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For the Food
This book is the first and foremost teaching manual for knowing the hows and the whys about things that happen when cokoing. I'm just here for the food follows the exact same quirky, comic style that Alton's show Good Eats has been using for years now. It is a wonderful blend of recipes, chemistry, physics, and narrative that help the reader really understand and enjoy basic processes like steaming, frying, and braising. Mine's an autographed edition, by the way. (toot toot)
This is a big, bulky cookbook, but it is good. I have read it cover to cover and consider myself much more knowledgeable than before I read it. It is a very colorful book with large illustrations that help narrate Brown's explanations for the layman. There's even a two page spread dedicated to an drawing of what happens to the molecules of fat when heated to deep fry food. It's simple; it makes sense. This is much more than I could ever say about Kitchen Sense.
Brown has written two other books, including I'm Just Here For More Food (aff), the definitive baker's edition; and he's written Gear For Your Kitchen (aff), the guide to getting the best out of your kitchen gear.
I'm Just Here For the Food is laid out by methods of cooking rather than recipe groups. There's frying, water basics, grilling, and roasting. Each cooking method is accompanied by illustrations, stories, and recipes. It's quite a clever way to organize a cookbook. Searching for recipes requires a bit of a shift in your thought process, much like a person buying his first Macintosh computer after years of slavery to the Windows operating system. But I think the intended audience of the book is those who wish to learn how to make food rather than follow a recipe.
On October 1, 2006, Alton is releasing the 5th anniversary edition of this book, entitled I'm Just Here For the Food, The Director's Cut. It's also being termed the 2.0 version. How very web 2.0 of him! The new book will include everything from the original release plus 10 new recipes, 20 pages of additional material, a jacked that folds out to make a poster, plus a removeable refrigerator magnet.
You can pre-order this book on Amazon.com (aff) or just wait for the release date. I'm betting this will make a wonderful Christmas present.