Since everyone is cooped up at home, finding ways to keep busy as we stifle our desperate cravings for restaurants and bars has been a challenge. One nifty way to scratch that itch and support local businesses is by purchasing cookbooks from our restaurants and chefs—it's a win-win! Seeing as Chicago is one of the foremost dining cities in the world, it’s no surprise that it has bred its fair share of chef-driven cookbooks, covering a wide range of topics, from Korean barbecue and ice cream to Southern heritage cookery and vegetarian comfort food. Here are 10 Chicago-based cookbooks to check out.
Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces
By Bill Kim and Chandra Ram
The restaurant: Urbanbelly
If you’re like me, you’ve been missing chef Bill Kim’s Korean barbecue since he closed BellyQ in the West Loop. Fortunately, there’s still his beloved noodle destination, Urbanbelly, which is offering takeout and delivery at the moment, and there’s also a handy cookbook centered on the fragrant art of Korean ’cue. His book draws upon his Korean homeland and Midwestern upbringing, featuring flavorful and accessible recipes fusing both Korean and American ingredients and techniques. Anchored by a collection of seven “master sauces,” the book delves into recipes like kimchi potato salad, spiced chicken thighs, honey-soy flank steak, and yuzu edamame.
The New Chicago Diner Cookbook
By Jo A. Kaucher
The restaurant: The Chicago Diner
I’ve been a huge fan of the Chicago Diner since I first moved to the city in 2006. Even though I’ve never been a vegetarian, I always find myself drawn to playful vegetarian dishes, especially those riffing on classic comfort flavors, and that’s precisely what makes this Boystown institution such a timeless classic. I’m also the proud owner of The New Chicago Diner Cookbook and can attest to its many wonders. Courtesy of chef Jo A. Kaucher, the book is filled with fan favorites like the Radical Reuben Sandwich, tofu scrambles, and meatless fajitas, among many others.
Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream
By Dana Salls Cree
The shop: Pretty Cool Ice Cream
Dana Sells Cree is a veritable Willy Wonka of ice cream, as exemplified by the colorful and oft-whimsical flavors she serves at her Logan Square shop, Pretty Cool Ice Cream. Although at-home ice cream can seem intimidating, the esteemed pastry chef breaks it all down and serves up a book of 100-plus recipes that are at once fun, educational, and surprisingly accessible. Whether you’re looking to try your hand at classic flavors like chocolate or vanilla, or you’d like to get creative with more exotic styles of custard, sherbet, or frozen yogurt, it’s all here. Cree has recipes for add-ons and mix-ins, too, so you’ll be well equipped for DIY sundaes.
Photo by Kelly Allison Photography/Courtesy of Pretty Cool Ice Cream
The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie
By Paula Haney
The bakery: Hoosier Mama Pie Co.
Since opening Hoosier Mama Pie Co. in 2009, Paula Haney has cemented her status as Chicago’s pie queen. Her bucolic West Town shop is a cozy haven for wholesome slices of classic pies (apple, pumpkin, banana cream), inventive novelties (German chocolate cake pie, cereal pie), and savory pot pies and quiches, as well. With her cookbook, The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie, she finally collects all of her most beloved recipes in one colorful and beautiful book. True to form, they spotlight seasonal and locally sourced Midwestern ingredients, along with tips on techniques and even some fascinating pie history.
The Big Jones Cookbook: Recipes for Savoring the Heritage of Regional Southern Cooking
By Paul Fehribach
The restaurant: Big Jones
If you’ve been yearning for the soulful Southern cooking at Big Jones, which is adorably renaming itself Little Jones for its temporary takeout and delivery makeover, then The Big Jones Cookbook should tide you over at home. Chef Paul Fehribach is one of the most gifted writers of any chef I’ve met—he’s a double threat! And it shows in his cookbook, which dives deep into regional Southern history along with recipes that highlight heirloom crops, heritage livestock, and locally sourced ingredients. The book is categorized by region, with plenty of enlightening context and background to accompany dishes such as gumbo ya-ya, crispy catfish, sweet potato biscuits, spoonbread, Sea Island benne cake, and even cocktails like the mighty Sazerac. For the adventurous eater/cooker, there’s even a recipe for pickled pigs feet!
Photo courtesy of Big Jones/Facebook
Cooking for Good Times: Super Delicious, Super Simple
By Paul Kahan, Perry Hendrix, and Rachel Holtzman
The restaurants: Blackbird, Avec, the Publican, etc.
Paul Kahan is more than a chef; he’s a veritable culinary demigod. One of the foremost restaurateurs in the nation and co-owner of iconic dining temples like Avec, Blackbird, Big Star, and the Publican, his food is some of the most sought-after in Chicago, bar none. Which is what makes his newest cookbook, Cooking for Good Times: Super Delicious, Super Simple, such a perfect fit. First of all, the name alone is uplifting and joyous, which is something we all need right now. Second, the book is chock-full of simple, wholesome, and beautifully photographed dishes, many of which you’d expect to see on his menus. These include pizza with whitefish, kale, and garlic cream; roasted chicken with smashed potatoes; farro with roasted cauliflower and orange; and steak with radicchio and honey-roasted squash. Added bonus: Kahan goes the extra mile with wine and beer suggestions for each dish.
The Adventures of Fat Rice
By Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo, and Hugh Amano
The restaurant: Fat Rice
As anyone who has had the pleasure of dining at Fat Rice can attest, the Logan Square restaurant is not only one of the most convivial and exciting eateries in town, it’s a transportive experience that whisks you away taste buds–first to Portugal, Hong Kong, India, and—most notably—Macau. This bustling and prominent Chinese city takes the spotlight on the Fat Rice menus, which owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo have painstakingly researched and now feature in their vibrant cookbook. At a time when we all are in need of a sense of culture, community, and adventure, this book delivers with its quintessential Fat Rice spirit and recipes for dishes like po kok gai, a Portuguese-style chicken curry with olives; minchi, a Macanese-style meat hash; and arroz gordo, the restaurant’s namesake rice dish brimming with curried chicken, char siu, beef, prawns, tea-brined egg, and Portuguese olives.
Courtesy of Fat Rice/Facebook
Girl in the Kitchen
By Stephanie Izard
The restaurants: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat, Duck Duck Goat, Cabra
One of Chicago’s most renowned celebrity chefs and the owner of the city’s hottest eateries, Stephanie Izard is here to liven up your home cooking with her very own cookbook. Girl in the Kitchen is the perfect companion piece to Izard’s restaurants, which are all beloved for their boisterous environs and dishes that skew playful and quirky—not to mention wholly original. Izard’s food is the type of jaw-dropping fare that never ceases to dazzle and surprise. And her book is filled with it, too.
By Grant Achatz
The restaurant: Alinea
The most lauded and awarded restaurant in Chicago has a cookbook that’s not really a cookbook, unless your home kitchen is stocked like a science lab with enough gizmos and gadgets to make elaborate tasting menus and edible art. That said, Alinea is a deeply fascinating read, and especially considering how gorgeous it is, it makes for a nice coffee-table fixture. The photos, unsurprisingly, are stunners, and it’s amazing to learn about the meticulous detail and thought that goes into each dish from the legendary Grant Achatz.
Photo courtesy of Hot Chocolate/Facebook
By Mindy Segal and Kate Leahy
The restaurant: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
Quarantine is a time for comfort food, and few things provide endless comfort like cookies. This is why you need Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love in your life. Equal parts cookbook and coping mechanism, the dessert tome features a dizzying lineup of cookie recipes from Chicago’s reigning queen of dessert. Much of the book consists of recipes rooted in classic American flavors and sweets, whipped into modern and fun interpretations like fleur de sel shortbread with vanilla halvah, peanut butter–peanut brittle cookies, peaches and cream thumbprints, and much more, categorized into different styles like sandwich cookies, shortbread, bars, drop cookies, and beyond.