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15 Essential Cookbooks From Famous D.C. Chefs and Recipe Writers

Resources for recreating restaurant dishes at home and picking up skills from big-name cookbook authors

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 7: Jose Andres is pictured at Jaleo d
Jose Andres has cookbooks that show off vegetable-centric dishes and tapas
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has led D.C. to impose a moratorium on dining out, and even when the city reopens, plenty of frequent diners will continue to prioritize home cooking. While many restaurants are still open for takeout and delivery, regulars may have to turn to their own kitchens to reproduce flavors from some of their favorite D.C. personalities. Well-known chefs like José Andrés, Patrick O’Connell of the three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington, and Cathal Armstrong of Kaliwa and now-closed Restaurant Eve all have cookbooks full of recipes ranging from accessible to highly ambitious. This guide shares their work, alongside tomes unlocking the secrets to Rasika’s famed palak chaat, Edward Lee’s fried chicken and waffles, and more.

Vegetables Unleashed: A Cookbook

  • $36

Prices taken at time of publishing.

José Andrés is more than one of D.C.’s most prolific celebrity chefs. He’s also the founder of nonprofit World Central Kitchen, currently providing over 160,000 meals a day (and counting) to communities in need and medical workers. Andrés’s most recent cookbook, Vegetables Unleashed, explores the namesake ingredient by season. Conversational cooking lessons come with riffs about food philosophy and kitchen anecdotes. The chef’s Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America has tips about now-classic recipes that put him on the scene, including his spins on pan con tomate and paella. 

Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration Of African American Cooking

  • $30

Prices taken at time of publishing.

The acclaimed Sweet Home Café, housed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, immerses visitors in African-American culinary history. Learn to cook recipes like peanut soup, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, smoked pork shoulder, chow chow, banana pudding, and more.

Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington 

  • $50

Prices taken at time of publishing.

The Inn at Little Washington is the only D.C.-area restaurant with three Michelin stars. This is the most recent of chef-owner Patrick O’Connell’s two cookbooks, offering a taste of haute American cuisine for ambitious home cooks. The recipes segue from a risotto with shrimp, oyster mushrooms, and country ham to a warm Granny Smith apple tart.  

Rasika: Flavors of India

  • $35

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This cookbook, from restaurateur Ashok Bajaj and James Beard Award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam, teaches home cooks to make many of the elegant, “Indian with a modern twist” dishes that make Rasika one of the best Indian restaurants in the country. The must-have palak chaat — with fried baby spinach, sweet yogurt tamarind, and date chutney — is in there, as are the chef’s chicken tikka masala, naan, condiments, fried cauliflower, and much more. 

Fabio Trabocchi: Cocina of Le Marche

  • $25

Prices taken at time of publishing.

With the exception of Sfoglina, Fabio Trabocchi’s restaurants (Del Mar, Fiola, Fiola Mare) are known as power-dining destinations full of decadent — and often wallet-busting — Italian fare. Back in 2006, Trabocchi published a cookbook exploring the rustic food from the Italian region he calls home, Le Marche. Not all of the recipes are accessible for home cooks (one calls for sourcing fresh hay for smoked turbot). But the cookbook does take readers on a bit of a trip into northwest Italy.

Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen

  • $30

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Edward Lee made a big entrance in D.C. when he left Louisville to open Succotash at the National Harbor in 2015, following that with a Penn Quarter outpost two years later. Lee’s classic Southern food integrates influences from his Korean heritage and other Asian flavors. Part cookbook, part memoir, Smoke and Pickles features dishes like adobo fried chicken and waffles, collards and kimchi, and braised bacon rice. Also worth noting: The chef’s nonprofit Lee Initiative is doing generous work right now, providing daily free meals to out-of-work hospitality industry workers.  

Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration

  • $27

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This book from D.C.-area resident, chef, and TV host Carla Hall thoughtfully traces soul food through its African and Caribbean roots. Recipes include Ghanaian peanut beef stew, smothered chicken with coconut, peas and ham, and sweet potato pudding. 

Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery

  • $25

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Oprah and Obama are fans of Brian Noyes’s rural Virginia bakery. Though Red Truck is temporarily closed, the cookbook lets readers flex their baking skills with recipes that reproduce the bakery’s sweet and savory pies, buttermilk biscuits, casseroles, cakes, and more.

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve

  • $35

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Restaurant Eve, chef Cathal Armstrong’s celebrated fine dining spot in Old Town, closed in 2018. This cookbook has a few classic recipes from the luxury establishment, along with recipes from the Dublin native’s Mam, Da, and Nana (aww...). Armstrong covers everything from hearty Irish breakfasts to “President Obama” chicken stew to family celebration meals. 

Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking

  • $27

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Born and raised in Mexico, Pati Jinich is now a District-based chef with two cookbooks and a James Beard Award-winning show that airs on PBS and streams on Amazon Prime. In Pati’s Mexican Table and Mexican Today, she offers specialties she learned from her mother and grandmother, along with some creative takes on regional classics.

Cooking with Nora: Seasonal Menus from Restaurant Nora

  • $34

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Restaurant Nora, billed as the first certified-organic restaurant in the country, stood on a quiet corner in Kalorama for nearly 40 years before it closed in 2017. Many of the restaurant’s beloved (if ambitious) recipes, such as roast leg of lamb and peaches in red wine with mint, live on in Cooking With Nora.

Happy in the Kitchen

  • $50

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Famed French chef Michel Richard died in 2016, but downtown D.C. restaurant Central carries on his legacy, as does his cookbook. Happy in the Kitchen reflects his jovial personality and his love of American food made in a whimsical, French-inflected way. 

Cooking With Patrick Clark

  • $55

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Chef Patrick Clark ran the kitchen at the Hay-Adams Hotel for several years in the 1990s, serving innovative New American cuisine to D.C. luminaries and power brokers. He won a James Beard Award there in 1994, and the Clintons invited him to be White House chef (he declined). Clark died in 1998 at age 42 of a blood disease. His contemporary Charlie Trotter created a cookbook to honor his legacy, with all proceeds going to his widow and five children.

King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World

  • $35

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Award-winning cookbook author Joan Nathan is one of the country’s leading authorities on Jewish cooking. The D.C. resident has 11 cookbooks, including the globally oriented King Solomon’s Table and the IACP Award-winning Jewish Cooking in America. Learn to make her famous challah, as well as other favorites like sufganiyot (Israeli jelly doughnuts), matzo ball soup, and international dishes aplenty.

Washington, D.C. Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Nation’s Capital

  • $25

Prices taken at time of publishing.

The Chef’s Table cookbook gathers recipes from many of the D.C. region’s most popular restaurants, making it a one-stop shop for some iconic local recipes. Featured restaurants include Baked & Wired, Comet Ping Pong, Ben’s Chili Bowl (the slaw), Boqueria, Fiola, Blue Duck Tavern, Estadio, Jaleo, Rosa Mexicano (the guac), and more.

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