Taking a note from Catherine, I must focus on creating a list to distract me from my bitter disappointment in USC's loss to Texas last night. So, here we go.
Top 3 Cookbooks That I Love & Actually Use (listed in no particular order)
The Dean & Deluca Cookbook. This one is a winner. There are no photos, and only a few sketches, so it doesn't qualify as "food porn," but this is a hard-working, solid cookbook. I've made just about every pasta sauce in here and absolutely loved all but one (an unbalanced tomato & onion recipe with WAY too much onion). The book is more than sauces, though. I've made pork chops, steak & chicken recipes, too, from this tome. David Rosengarten, the author & Food Network celeb, offers really informative about food origins, and the differences between types of ingredients. I love this book. It has to be top on my list of books to gift people.
La Belle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About. Who knew Patti LaBelle could cook? Well, to the doubters out there, she can. Beware, this is not a "lite" cookbook (apparently, Patti does have a "lite" cookbook, but I can't vouch for it -- yet). Every recipe is loaded with butter (real butter), and many include cream, cheese, and even alcohol. But everything is divine. This was one of the first cookbooks I bought for myself as an adult. It's not something I would havr bought, except that I went to a dinner party given by my friend, Allison, and she used this cookbook's recipe for rum cake, Scandalously Rich Rum Cake, I think it's called. And it was to die for. And having made several of the recipes in this book, (including the most wonderful homemade macaroni & cheese) this is a keeper.
You're Cookin' It Country by Loretta Lynn. Look beyond the fact that I looove Loretta Lynn. Pay no attention that I bought my (autographed) copy of this book at Hurricane Mills, Loretta Lynn's plantation home in Tennessee. This is a good cookbook. Obviously, I love Southern cooking (see Patti LaBelle), but this is a great cookbook for quality basic recipes and stick to your ribs cuisine. My two favorite recipes from this book are the stuffed baked potatoes (twice baked with blue cheese & bacon) and the fudge pie, which is so rich & creamy, it's like slightly undercooked brownies in a crust. And how can you resist the stories that Loretta writes of her mother's banana bread, her own award-winning canning abilities, and of course, the famous chocolate (salt) pie that brought her & Doolittle together (as shown in the best film ever, Coal Miner's Daughter).
So those are my three favorite cookbooks. I've recently purchased some new ones that have potential: It's All American Food: The Best Recipes for More Than 400 New American Classics, by David Rosengarten, and The Les Halles Cookbook, by Anthony Bourdain (which, by the way, is the most entertaining cookbook I think I've ever read), but I haven't made enough of the recipes to give a full recommendation.