Here's your holiday gift guide for foodies

December 3, 2013 

No matter how many recipes are online, people still want printed cookbooks to hold, to flip through and to search for inspiration. This year brought a particularly excellent crop by Southern food writers.

Many of them bring different perspectives, such as Edward Lee’s Korean-tinged Southern cooking in Kentucky and Matt and Ted Lee’s insight as New York transplants to Charleston, S.C. Here's a sampling, brought to you by food writers Kathleen Purvis and Andrea Weigl.

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes From My Three Favorite Food Groups (And Then Some)

By John Currence (Andrews McMeel, $40)

When Southern food fans started trooping to Oxford, Miss., for the annual Southern Foodways Symposium, they also discovered chef John Currence, owner of the restaurant City Grocery. Today, Currence and his alumni run a half-dozen restaurants in Oxford. His cookbook digs into Southern classics with as much energy and appetite as the man himself. Great touch: Every recipe includes a music suggestion (James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn” with the recipe for Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque). KP

Smoke & Pickles

By Edward Lee (Artisan, $29.95)

The title of chef Edward Lee’s cookbook is an homage to the culinary intersections of his life: his Korean heritage and his Southern home. Smoke permeates the Korean grills of Lee’s childhood and the barbecue tradition in his adopted home in Louisville, Ky. Of course, nothing cuts the fat of smoky meat better than a pickle. His recipes hopscotch between Asian and Southern food traditions, offering refined and homey riffs, including a Chicken and Country Ham Pho. AW

The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen

By Matt and Ted Lee (Clarkson Potter, $35)

Southern food experts Matt and Ted Lee have long called Charleston, S.C., home. But their latest cookbook explores the recipes and food history of a place that they thought they knew well. This book offers recipes for chainey briar, a vine found growing in the sand dunes, the bony fish known as shad and even guinea squash, aka eggplant. Delightful essays about the town, its food traditions and the recipes are sprinkled throughout the book. AW

The Southern Pie Book

By Jan Moon and Southern Living (Oxmoor House, $22.95)

A former test kitchen expert for Southern Living and now the owner of Dreamcakes Bakery in Birmingham, Ala., Moon put together a sweet collection, with quirky categories like Whipped Together (cream and meringue pies) and Pie Aplenty (really big pies). Not all are Southern in provenance – there’s nothing particularly regional about Cherry Cobbler. But when they’re this good, does it really matter? KP

Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

By Adrian Miller (UNC Press, $30)

Not all food books are cookbooks. Writer and attorney Adrian Miller used his own curiosity to write a very readable and personal book about the origin of soul food. There are recipes, but the real reason to read this is Miller’s insight into how the food of black America evolved and adapted. KP

Southern Fried

By James Villas (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99)

In his latest volume, Charlotte native James Villas calls us back into the kitchen to take up our slotted spoons, tongs and wire-mesh spiders to perfect the art of Southern fried food. There may be no better teacher about frying food than a Southerner such as Villas. As he notes, Southern home cooks have such strong opinions about fried foods that “passions are intense, convictions are rigid, and judgments can be brutal.” The recipes, such as Sassy Shrimp Puffs and Carolina Okra Beignets, are sure to entice. AW

Callie’s Biscuits and Southern Traditions

By Carrie Morey (Atria Books, $30)

Carrie Morey started Callie’s Charleston Biscuits in 2005 with her mother, Callie White. When her mother retired, Morey took up the biscuit mantle, having not really mastered biscuits before. She tapped into that culinary learning experience to create a cookbook that attempts to take the intimidation out of making biscuits, throwing cocktail parties, even pulling together an oyster roast. We loved the comforting simplicity of her recipes labeled “Condolence Food,” including Tuna Casserole and Ham Salad and Biscuits. AW

Homemade “Duke’s” Mayonnaise From “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey,” by John Currence. Why would you make Duke’s when you can just grab a jar? Why would you read “Don Quixote” when you could just skim the CliffsNotes? You learn more when you experience the real thing. 3 large eggs’ yolks 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 2 teaspoons sugar 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 1/2 cups peanut oil 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar Salt and freshly ground white pepper

USING a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the yolks, dry mustard powder, onion powder, sugar and lemon juice and whisk on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the yolks are creamy.

DRIZZLE the oil into the yolks in a slow, steady stream until the mixture forms a thick emulsion. Blend in the vinegar and a good pinch each of salt and white pepper and combine well. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Transfer to a clean container, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

YIELD: 4 cups. Mississippi Honey-Battered Fried Chicken From “Southern Fried,” by James Villas. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour 1/2 teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1/2 cup honey 3 tablespoons fruit-flavored vinegar 1/2 cup lard 1/2 cup peanut oil 1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces

COMBINE the two flours, salt, pepper, honey and vinegar in a bowl. Stir until well-blended and let the batter stand for 1 hour.

ADD the lard and peanut oil to a large cast-iron skillet or electric frying pan and heat to 365 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer. Stir the batter again, dip the dark-meat pieces of chicken into the batter to lightly coat, and fry in the fat until golden and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes on each side, turning once with tongs.

DRAIN on paper towels, then repeat with the remaining chicken pieces. Do not cover to keep warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings. Chicken and Country Ham Pho From “Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen,” by Edward Lee (Anitean, 2013) 2 onions, halved A large knob of ginger, about 3 inches by 1 inch, thinly sliced 4 cloves 2 star anise 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 tablespoon black peppercorns One 2- to 3-pound chicken, quartered and skin removed 3 quarts water 2 tablespoons fish sauce 1 tablespoon sugar 6 ounces rice noodles 2 cups fresh bean sprouts 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves 2 serrano chile peppers, thinly sliced 4 slices country ham or prosciutto 4 lime wedges Hot sauce for serving

PREHEAT broiler. Place onions and ginger on an aluminum-foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat, turning once, until nicely charred, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a large stockpot.

TOAST cloves, star anise, coriander seeds and black peppercorns in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add to stockpot. Add chicken, water, fish sauce and sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer, skimming the foam from the surface frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot, leaving the broth to simmer, and transfer it to a large plate to cool slightly.

WHEN chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from breasts and legs. Transfer meat to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Return bones to the pot.

CONTINUE to simmer the broth gently until it is slightly reduced and flavorful, about 1 hour and 15 minutes longer. Strain broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and discard bones and vegetables.

PLACE noodles in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water, and let stand for 3 minutes; drain.

DIVIDE noodles and broth among four large bowls and garnish with chicken, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, chile and country ham. Or serve broth and noodles in bowls with garnishes on a plate. Add a squeeze of lime and a few drops of your favorite hot sauce to each bowl and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

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