Five great books for Christmas

Just in time for Christmas, I've finished the fifth and final installment of my "cookbooks for hunters and anglers series" with a look at "Salt Fat Acid Heat," by Samin Nosrat. There's no particular hunter/angler emphasis in this book, but Nosrat breaks down the four main elements of cooking in an easy, understandable way. If you're learning to cook, or even if you consider yourself an old hand in the kitchen, you'll learn a ton reading "Salt."

My favorite tidbit of "Salt" inspired insight: socarrat is the word for the crisp, brown rice crust that forms on the bottom of a pan of properly prepared paella. Though I haven't made paella in decades, I'm quite familiar with socarrat. I make a version of tomato rice a couple of times a month when I'm cooking Mexican/Tex-Mex grub. By accident I learned to create a socarrat crust in my tomato rice, though that's not the way it's normally served, and until I read this book, I didn't know that's what it is called. I make my rice crusty every time now.

By the way, I called these columns reviews, but I don't mean review in a clinical, break it down, chapter-by-chapter sense. These are more impressions rather than thorough critiques. The books were fun to read, though you don't really read cookbooks cover to cover (at least I don't). I'll be thumbing through these titles for as long as I'm cooking, leaving fatty thumbprints on all my favorite recipes.

“Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing,” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

“Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Birds and Small Game from Field to Feast,” by Hank Shaw with photos by Holly Heyser

“The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game, Volume 1: Big Game,” by Steven Rinella

“Hook, Line, and Supper”: New Techniques and Master Recipes for Everything Caught in Lakes, Rivers and Streams, and at Sea," by Hank Shaw with photos by Holly Heyser

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