This was a banner year for cookbooks, especially by Southern authors. Here are a few of 2016’s best cookbooks, just in time for holiday gift-giving.
The Southern Vegetable Book: A Root-to-Stalk Guide to the South’s Favorite Produce
Buy It: $19; amazon.com
Vegetables are an integral part of the Southern table and this is a great resource for knowing what’s in season, and what to do with it. Author Rebecca Lang profiles 30 different types of vegetables, from Southern favorites like tomatoes and okra, to lesser-known ones like ramps, and includes imaginative recipes for each (Balsamic Corn Salad, Spring Pea Orzo, Georgia Shrimp and Radish Salad). You’ll never look at a farmers’ market or roadside farm stand the same way after reading this book.
Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day
Buy It: $18.07; amazon.com
The South is known for hearty breakfasts, and so is chef John Currence, owner of Big Bad Breakfast, his two restaurants in Birmingham, AL and Oxford, MS. Currence’s lively cookbook has something for everyone: sweet breads (Rum Raisin and Orange Scones, Buttermilk Cake Donuts), breakfast sandwiches (Fried Chicken Cathead), breakfast for dinner (Shrimp and Grits), “eye-openers” (Grapefruit Mimosa, BBB Bloody Mary) and more.
Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen
Buy It: $21.08; amazon.com
Fans of chef Katie Button’s award-winning Asheville, NC tapas bar—or of Spanish food in general—will want to lick the pages of this lavishly photographed cookbook. The book includes 125 recipes for classics like Tortilla Espanola and Chicken Paella, as well as Southern-meets-Spanish dishes such as Cheese-Stuffed Fried Pork Chops. Unlike many books written by restaurant chefs, this one is extremely user-friendly for home cooks.
Deep Run Roots
Buy It: $25.47; amazon.com
In this weighty, beautifully photographed book, chef and PBS TV star Vivian Howard has written the definitive cooking guide to her native eastern North Carolina. Howard is a pro at giving classic Southern dishes a fresh spin (like Sweet Corn Vanilla Souffle with Blackberries, Pork Chops with Pickled Peanut Salad, and Blueberry BBQ Chicken) but what’s most surprising is her talent for writing. Throughout the book, she weaves in personal stories about her journey from Deep Run, her small town, to New York City, and back again.
Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner
Buy It: $26.63; amazon.com
There are diners in every pocket of the United States, but there’s no place quite like Poole’s, in Raleigh, NC. Chef Ashley Christensen has created her own brand of warm hospitality and Southern-style comfort food that has drawn customers (and rave reviews) from across the country. This cookbook is a collection of the restaurant’s greatest hits: Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Hot Honey, Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie, and Cornbread Crabcakes. Don’t skip Christensen’s lovely introduction in the book, where she shares her evolution as a chef and the story behind the restaurant.
Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes
Buy It: $21.56; amazon.com
Appalachia is an oft-overlooked part of the South, and journalist and Southern food writer Ronni Lundy aims to change that perception. Through excellent storytelling, Kentucky native Lundy shares the people, places, and ingredients that make the mountain South special. The book includes 80 recipes (Sorghum Butter, Skillet Fried Chicken and Milk Gravy, Kil’t Greens with Bacon Jam), showcasing the region’s diverse range of cuisine. You’ll enjoy reading this book as much as cooking from it.
The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients that Speak Volumes
Buy It: $22.72; amazon.com
Short Stack Editions pairs notable food writers with everyday ingredients, resulting in a colorful library of comprehensive, creative, single-subject cookbooks. The publishers behind the series decided to collect them in one large single volume of 150 recipes, which was released this fall. Several Southern voices are included here, including Southern Living columnist and chef Virginia Willis.
My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India Into a Southern Kitchen
Buy It: $26.96; amazon.com
Chef Asha Gomez has made her mark on Atlanta’s dining scene by deliciously fusing Southern food with the food of her native Southern India at her award-winning restaurants Cardamom Hill, The Third Space, and Spice to Table. In her new cookbook, she shares 125 recipes from her “two Souths” including Three Spice Carrot Cake and Black Cardamom Smothered Pork Chops.
Recipe Revival: Southern Classics Reinvented for Modern Cooks
Buy It: $27.95; amazon.com
Since this is Southern Living’s 50th anniversary year, we wanted to release a cookbook that paid tribute to the past five decades of recipes from our Test Kitchen—a tall order, to say the least. And former food editor Mary Allen Perry delivered, writing a book that not only captures the evolution of the magazine’s food pages, but also Southerners’ changing eating habits. The book is divided by decade, with “old” recipes and “new” takes on them, like Lowcountry Seafood Boil and Shrimp-Boil Potato Salad, or Delicious Banana Pudding and Banana Pudding Cheesecake. It’s an essential book for any Southern Living fan.