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Side Dish 

Even working chefs aren't immune to the lure of those celebrity-chef cookbooks

Pappardelle with osso buco sauce or Stone Cold's rattlesnake-rib rub? How to decide? The two best-selling cookbooks at Amazon.com the week of Thanksgiving were the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook and the World Wrestling Federation cookbook, churlishly titled Can You Take the Heat? With the glue-gun set pitted against the crossbow crowd, choosing a cookbook this holiday season may be a dicey business. But a few St. Louis chefs have helped us winnow the field of entries. Celebrity-chef cookbooks are as appealing to these professionals as they are to home cooks. Sue Dill, of the Sidney Street Café, enjoys pairing what her fishmonger brings her, such as scallops or red snapper, with various complementary sauces from the Charlie Trotter's Seafood cookbook ($40). Larry Fuse, of Lorenzo's Trattoria, on the Hill, often finds inspiration for his nightly specials in Mario Batali's Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages ($26). Of course, chefs appreciate recipes that reflect the cuisine they serve in their own restaurants. Lisa Slay, of Remy's Kitchen and Wine Bar, recently picked up The Wine Lover's Cookbook ($18), by Sid Goldstein. "It's educational," she says. "I like the wine suggestions, the wine quotes and the great pictures." At Cravings Bakery and Restaurant, pastry chef Bill Clayton refers to The Cake Bible ($28), by Rose Levy Beranbaum, when he's looking for unique icings or flavorings. His attention to fundamentals is echoed by Andy Ayers, the chef at Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, who collects 19th- and early 20th-century cookbooks. He recommends searching the Web (www.alibris.com is a good place to start) to track down a worn, splattered copy of The Joy of Cooking, first published in 1931 by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. "The new edition tells you how to cook a chicken breast," he explains, "but the old editions tell you how to pluck a chicken." The All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking ($28), the book's sixth edition, was overhauled by Irma Rombauer's grandson, Ethan Becker, and contains 3,000 recipes, including many that require grilling, microwaving and other newfangled food-preparation techniques. But the next time you need to kill and dress a chicken, you know where to go for instructions.

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