G&G’s Favorite Cookbooks of 2021

The year was delicious in the kitchen for Southerners

Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, by Cheryl Day

In her deliciously thorough new book, the award-winning co-owner of Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery shares clever tricks (like her grandmother’s genius method for baking last night’s mashed potatoes into tomorrow’s dinner rolls), practical advice about butter temperature and rolling pin weight, and a complete roster of treats, from buttermilk waffles to savory oyster potpies to three entire chapters on cakes to, for the holidays, sweet boiled custard doused in bourbon. —CJ Lotz

Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day, by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie

Scott is the virtuosic pitmaster who opened Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina, after honing his craft at his family’s longtime joint. His World of BBQ is the first major cookbook by an African American pitmaster—a long overdue publication, to understate. Half memoir, half recipes, World of BBQ lets Scott’s disco-ball personality glitter while supplying home barbecuers with a recipe foundation—from whole hogs to that legendary sauce to mac and cheese—that’s as solid as it gets. —Jonathan Miles, in his review

Just a Few Miles South, by Ouita Michel

Between narrowing down her trove of recipes, testing each until foolproof, peppering in personal essays of a life spent with Kentucky food, and simultaneously running seven restaurants in and around Lexington, it took Ouita Michel six years to complete her first cookbook, Just a Few Miles South. “Just determining the table of contents alone took a year,” Michel says. But the labor paid off. The tome compiles more than 150 of Michel’s favorite recipes for classic, Southern staples such as fried chicken, biscuits, soup beans, and sausage gravy, becoming a one-stop-shop for the dishes that all Southern home cooks need to know. Read more here. —Caroline Sanders

Bales Farms Cookbook, by Aliceson Bales

This cookbook got “a big gold” star from none other than Dolly Parton, who writes in the foreword, “I personally am going to cook every recipe … Not only do I know it will be great, it will also make me feel close to two people that I love, respect, and admire.” The two people are Barry Bales, a bassist who has played on Parton’s records as well as on Alison Krauss’s, and Bales’s wife, Aliceson, who shares the dishes she makes on the family’s farm in Mosheim, Tennessee—chorizo hash, beer can chicken, and a zesty white cheddar pimento cheese. —CJ Lotz

Hook, Line, and Supper, by Hank Shaw

Hank Shaw counted them up: Over a lifetime of cooking, and most particularly for the research and writing of Hook, Line, and Supper, the latest in his phenomenally successful line of wild foods cookbooks, Shaw sampled close to five hundred kinds of fish and seafood. “And I swear,” he told G&G, “I had exactly one that I will not eat again: Menhaden. Every other fish I have been able to make, at the least, something worth eating.” In his new book, Shaw draws on a global array of techniques—see Vietnamese Claypot Catfish and Snapper Veracruz—and they’re all written in his signature approach that pairs the step-by-step with the why and the where, sprinkling history, culture, and personal experience throughout. —T. Edward Nickens

Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple, by Dorie Greenspan

Dorie Greenspan’s books are considered by many home cooks to be reliable, relatable, indispensable tools in their kitchen libraries. She’s the author behind the Julia Child classic Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers, a columnist for the New York Times Magazine, and in October, she released her fourteenth cookbook, Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple, a luscious but practical look at baked breakfast foods, cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, tarts, cobblers, crisps, and savory goods. There’s even a whole section on biscuits. We chatted with Greenspan about her voyages in the South, the reason she thinks baking is actually easier than cooking dinner, and, of course, her very best biscuit advice. Read more—and find a few recipes—here. —CJ Lotz

Taste the State: South Carolina’s Signature Foods, Recipes, and Their Stories, by Kevin Mitchell and David Shields 

This deep dive on eighty-plus South Carolina ingredients (as varied as Palmetto asparagus, Duke’s Mayo, mullet, and butterbeans) is what you might expect from a collaboration between a chef and a culinary historian: recipes dating back centuries, new riffs on Southern classics like hoppin’ John, and historical nuggets aplenty (have you heard of groundnut cake or pine bark stew?). “Food is attached to people, and we pay homage to the French, to the English, to African Americans and Native Americans,” Mitchell says of the book. “And I want people to get fired up, seek some of these ingredients out, and get in the kitchen.” —Lindsey Liles

Southern Ground, by Jennifer Lapidus

With at-home breadmaking encountering a sort of renaissance during the pandemic, Jennifer Lapidus’s book could not have come at a better time. In her book, Lapidus, the founder of Carolina Ground Flour in Asheville, North Carolina, walks the reader through some of the best craft bakeries in the region, sharing recipes such as porridge bread from Owl Bakery in Asheville, scones from Levee Baking Co. in New Orleans, and galettes from Sunflower Oven in Jackson, Mississippi, all the while telling the stories kneaded into every loaf. —Caroline Sanders

Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer, by Matthew Raiford

“When I was eighteen, I swore off ever going back to the South,” says the farmer Matthew Raiford in an interview with G&G. Thankfully, he did come back, and this cookbook is his homage to the roots of Gullah Geechee cooking and farming in the region. “There were things inside me that I discovered when I started farming. Mother Nature has taught me that the more I think I know, the more I need to ask her to partner with me.”

Hot Little Suppers: Simple Recipes to Feed Family and Friends, by Carrie Morey 

Carrie Morey, the founder of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (first in Charleston, South Carolina, and now with a few locations in the South and a booming mail-order business), released her second cookbook in November. She showcases the dishes she whips up for family dinners beyond biscuits, such as a tomato rice bake with smoked sausage and fried squash with pimento cheese. “This cookbook is an authentic journey into my daily life,” Morey told G&G. For the cold-butter-and-buttermilk crowd, don’t worry, biscuits abound, too, including a biscuit casserole, biscuit crackers, and this guaranteed winner, cinnamon biscuits. —Lindsey Liles

How Wild Things Are: Cooking, Fishing and Hunting at the Bottom of the World, by Analiese Gregory

A lifelong forager, explorer, hunter, and fishing enthusiast who grew up on a dairy farm in coastal New Zealand, the chef Analiese Gregory’s life story sounds something like a real-life cross between Island of the Blue Dolphins and Little House on the Prairie, but with kangaroos and wallabies. When she hit pause on her restaurant career and moved to rural Tasmania, she began working on her beautiful and evocative cookbook, the backstory of which she shared here—along with a few recipes. —CJ Lotz

Rice, by Michael Twitty

If cotton was king of the historical South, Michael Twitty considers rice to be its queen. The James Beard Award–winning author’s first book, the critically acclaimed The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South, braided his personal journey of self-discovery with the culinary history of Southern dishes with African diasporic identity. His latest work, Rice: A Savor the South Cookbook, contains fifty-one recipes featuring and supporting the grain—including jollof rice, curried rice salad, and Carolina pilau. Read an interview with Twitty about his work here. —Latria Graham 

The Modern Larder, by Michelle McKenzie

“People get really excited to use up what they have, and to try new things,” the author Michelle McKenzie told G&G. “It’s no big deal to swap in something new or use an ingredient in a different way.” In her beautiful, practical, and inspiring cookbook The Modern Larder, McKenzie, who grew up in Tennessee, shares tons of ideas for recipes that make new uses of pantry staples and odds-and-ends ingredients, including the preserved lemons that brighten these easy and savory roast duck legs. —CJ Lotz

Black, White, and the Grey: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship and a Beloved Restaurant, by Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano

“Neither of us had opened a restaurant before, we were not from Savannah, and we had a very young and inexperienced staff,” writes Mashama Bailey in the riveting memoir of sorts she coauthored with John O. Morisano, her partner at the celebrated Grey restaurant. “Thank goodness we never stepped back to view it from 10,000 feet.” Each chapter ends with a personal recipe, including some from their grandmothers and one for the Paper Plane, the Grey’s perfect bourbon-based aperitivo. —CJ Lotz