5 Minnesotan cookbooks that will save your ass this holiday season

Let the experts show you how it's done.

Let the experts show you how it's done. Courtesy of authors

If you’re freaked out about preparing a big meal for a crowd this holiday season, you’re not alone.

Thankfully, your fellow Minnesotans have your back in the form of cookbooks that'll help you craft the perfect menu and walk you through its preparation. Whether you prefer your food fancy or farm-to-table, sweet or savory, complicated or one-dish, there’s someone in the land of 10,000 cookbook authors who will keep you sane in the most stressful of culinary moments.

The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen

Thielen knows Midwestern cooking like few others do. At age 22, she moved to an electricity-free cabin in northern Minnesota with her boyfriend, where her curiosity about regional food began to brew. After moving to New York City for culinary school and getting some firsthand experience cooking in fine-dining restaurants, she returned to the cabin and began to truly experiment with the foods that make the Midwest home. In this mammoth cookbook, she shows readers how to make all-natural, hyper-local, seasonal recipes that reflect the culinary heritages of Minnesota’s indigenous, Scandinavian, and European immigrant populations. Among the perfect holiday party eats: Old-Fashioned Pounded Cheese with Walnuts and Port Syrup, Beet-Pickled Eggs with Hot Mustard Dust, Seven-Layer Russian Salad, Buttered Milk Peas, and Crispy Cheese Curd Risotto Cakes.

Chowgirls Killer Party Food by Heidi Andermack and Amy Brown

When you plan your next party, don’t forget to invite the Chowgirls. The catering company founded by Heidi Andermack and Amy Brown has grown from a simple partnership to a team of over 100 during the 13 years they’ve been slingin’ organic, locally-sourced party foods. In their first cookbook, published last year, Andermack and Brown organized their approachable recipes for food and cocktails by season. Let your guests feast on flavor-packed cold-weather eats like Iron Range Pasties, Beets and Burrata, Local Beer Fondue, and Italian Beef Sliders in between sips of Pop’s Eggnog or a Hot Rod Toddy. All recipes are labeled according to dietary restrictions and include entertaining and preparation tips the Chowgirls learned in the catering trade.

The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Herzberg, M.D., and Zoë François

Herzberg and François are responsible for several best-selling bread bibles. We chose to focus on this healthful version because you really should save your calories, fat grams, and bad carbs for the truly indulgent edibles in your holiday meal. The five-minutes-a-day promise isn’t just a gimmick; you can indeed prepare homemade bread in that little time once you’ve practiced enough, so long as you keep a bowl of The Master Recipe dough ready to go in the fridge. (The baking time takes far longer than five minutes, however.) For a hearty holiday spread, we recommend the Pain au Potiron (Peppery Pumpkin and Olive Oil Loaf), Whole Grain Garlic Knots with Parsley and Olive Oil, Wreath Bread, or the 100-percent Whole Wheat Christmas Stollen. If you’re hosting a cocktail party instead of a sit-down dinner, try the Grissini (Olive Oil Bread Sticks) or the Seeded Cracker recipes.

Smashed, Mashed, Boiled, and Baked (and Fried, Too!) by Raghavan Iyer

There’s a whole world of taters out there, and you’d be remiss to exclude them from your holiday feast. Kick that boring ol’ sweet potato casserole to the curb and let James Beard Award-winner Raghavan Iyer show you how to make 75 recipes from around the world with tubers as the main ingredient. Impress your guests with Potato-Stuffed Gougères, turn your taters into comfort food with Grandmother Ida’s Russian Potato Salad, go hog wild with Twice-Baked Potatoes with Bacon, or upgrade basic mashed potatoes thanks to Burning Love (Danish mashed potatoes with onions and pork belly). You can even incorporate potatoes into the dessert course à la Chocolate Sweet Potato Pound Cake.

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer

It doesn’t feel like the holidays unless you eat enough dessert to get a proper sugar buzz on, and Sarah Kieffer of the Vanilla Bean Blog offers seven chapters’ worth of ways to treat yourself in this cookbook. Whatever you’re craving -- cookies, cake, pie, ice cream -- Kieffer can help you make it with minimal fuss and real (if not exactly healthy) ingredients. Wow your loved ones with Cherry-Rhubarb Crisp with White Wine, Chocolate Meringue Pie, or Cardamom Cake with Coffee Buttercream. Better yet, send them off with a stack of Kieffer’s New York Times-famous Chocolate Chip Cookies or a box of Vanilla Cupcakes with Berry Swirl Buttercream.