Thursday, May 30, 2024

Everything You Need to Host a Cookbook Club (2024)

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I can’t seem to contain my cookbook collection. Cake tomes are fighting with my coats for closet space, ramen manuals are hiding out under my bed, and the latest releases are always stacked on my coffee table. But the truth is, I rarely unearth one to try a new recipe. Like so many cooks, most nights I end up throwing dinner together as quickly as possible, improvising with whatever ingredients I have on hand.

I’ve been lucky to make friends who love cooking as much as I do, though—and have a similar habit of acquiring new titles. So I saw an opportunity to put my languishing books to better use—and have a good time with fellow food lovers—by starting a cookbook club.

These cookbook dinners have become a regular opportunity for me and my friends to expand our culinary skills, try new dishes, learn about more cuisines, and gather together over homemade meals that one person didn’t have to prep from snacks to dessert. The great thing about a cookbook party is that you don’t have to be an expert cook, just a curious one. After all, everyone is following a brand new recipe, and sometimes the dishes you’re nervous about attempting become the favorites of the night. Even those who aren’t confident in the kitchen will come away with some seriously improved cooking chops after attending regular meetings.

If you’re ready to start a cooking club or you want to throw a one-off party themed around your favorite book, here’s what you need to host a cookbook dinner that’s worth repeating.

1. Choose a book and plan the menu

The first step in planning a cookbook party is to round up the group and land on a title. Selecting the time and date to meet can be a feat in itself, but a quick poll in a group chat usually does the trick. I’ll throw out a few date options and whichever gets the most likes wins.

To choose a cookbook, you can ask the group for a long-time favorite that’s guaranteed to be full of stand-out recipes. Or give everyone an excuse to splurge on a new title from a beloved celebrity chef.

If you’re a group of bakers, go all-in on a dessert-only book and host an afternoon of tea and cookies. It’s also fun to choose a cookbook dedicated to a specific cuisine or cooking style, which can become your party theme.

A few of my favorite books for hosting dinners include the Woks of Life Cookbook (try the mapo tofu), Six Seasons (great for summer produce), and Asada, which is full of great grilling recipes. But you can also start from this list of BA’s recommended recent titles, or any brand-new book that gets you excited.

Once you have the book in hand, it’s time to plan your menu. I send around a Google spreadsheet that doubles as an invitation. It includes the party date, time, and location, with space for guests to add their names, claim a dish, and note any dietary restrictions we should keep in mind. To help keep the menu balanced between apps, sides, entrées, and desserts, it’s helpful for guests to note the type of dish they’re bringing too.

Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico

Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables

Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling

2. Prep your dish

No party host wants to be scrambling around the kitchen while guests are arriving, so it’s a good idea to do most of the prep work for your dish ahead of time—even if you finish it à la minute just before sitting down.

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