I missed the cookbook thread below but I wanted to throw in two cents for my favorite cookbook writer, Raymond Blanc, who runs the Michelin-two-star Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons near Oxford, England. His three books, "Cooking for Friends," "Blanc Mange," and "Recipes from Le Manoir" feature exceptionally subtle and sophisticed (and sometimes difficult) recipes. As far as I know, "Recipes from Le Manoir" is unique among cookbooks released by Michelan-grade restauranteurs insofar as it's in no way dumbed down for the home cook. There may not be much here that winds up on your kitchen table, but the chance to eavesdrop on the mechanics of top-tier cooking is fascinating. For more information see: www.blanc.co.uk.
I am also a fan of the various books on patisserie by Michel Roux ("Desserts," "The Roux Brothers on Patisserie") and Gaston Lenotre (can't remember the title -- it's something innocuous like "The Art of Pastry"). These too seem non-dumbed down and are correspondingly fascinating.
I'm displeased with with my hero Francois Payard for simplifying the recipes in his recent cookbook (as he admits to doing in the preface). I'd rather fail in the attempt to make the real thing than succeed in the attempt at something less.
Does anyone know any other books that hew particularly closely to actual kitchen practice?