Side Dish: Southern cookbooks worth a toast

“Bourbon: a Savor the South cookbook” by Kathleen Purvis.

University of North Carolina Press.

$18, 102-page hardcover.

“Biscuits: a Savor the South cookbook” by Belinda Ellis.

University of North Carolina Press.

$18, 133-page hardcover.

Bourbon and biscuits are the topics of the latest little cookbooks (each is 83/4 inches by 51/2 inches) from the University of North Carolina Press’ delightful “Savor the South” series that looks at the favorite foods and culinary traditions in the American South.

“Bourbon” by Kathleen Purvis and “Biscuits” by Belinda Ellis each open with a short history of their subject. Ellis also includes some baking tips while Purvis discusses how bourbon is made. Bourbon has to be made in the United States from corn, but the corn can be combined with other grains, she explains.

Purvis’ book features 54 recipes for “bourbon cocktails and other imbibe-ables,” appetizers, main dishes and sides, and desserts. They range from Smoked Bourbon and Frozen Mint Julep to Pork Tenderloin With Mango-Bourbon Sauce and Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream.

Ellis’ book includes 55 recipes for classic biscuits; flavored biscuits; biscuit meals or what she calls “excuses to have biscuits for dinner” such as Chicken Pot Pie With Cheddar Biscuit Topping and Heirloom Tomato Pie; sweet biscuits and desserts; and biscuit toppers such as Grandma’s Gravy and Strawberry Freezer Jam.

Recipes in the books are clearly and concisely written and easy to follow. However, they don’t include any nutritional information nor do they have any photographs of completed dishes.

What each of the books does have is a terrific collection of recipes, and both will make welcome choices for the cooks on your holiday gift list.

Advocate-tested recipe

Hot Toddy

Makes 1 drink. Recipe is from “Bourbon, a Savor of the South cookbook,” by Kathleen Purvis, who writes, “It may sound old-fashioned, but on a cold night, a toddy is a comforting thing, especially if you have a chest cold — or just think y you feel one coming on.”

2 ozs. bourbon

4 ozs. hot water

1/2 tsp. light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. honey

1 lemon slice

1 clove

1 cinnamon stick

1. Place the bourbon, hot water, brown sugar and honey in a mug and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Add the lemon slice, clove and cinnamon stick and serve. (If it’s not hot enough, microwave it for 30 seconds.)

Gongonzola, Walnut and Cranberry Biscuits

Makes about 24 biscuits. Recipe is from “Biscuits, a Savor the South cookbook,” by Belinda Ellis, who writes, “These sweet, salty, tangy, crispy bites are colorful, easy-to-make little drop biscuits. I add whatever I have on hand. Use a srong-flavored cheese, nuts and raisines or other dried fruit to create your own combinations.”

2 cups soft wheat self-rising flour

11/2 tbls. sugar

51⁄3 tbls. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks and chilled for 15 minutes

8 ozs. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 cup diced dried cranberries

3/4 cup whole buttermilk, plus more if needed

Melted butter for brushing the tops

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. 2Use a nonstick cake pan or baking sheet.

2. Whisk together the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the cold chunks of butter and toss them in the flour to coat. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, break up the chunks until they’re about the size of peas.

3. Stir in the cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Starting at the sides of the bowl, use a spatula or wooden spoon to toss the flour over the buttermilk. Continue to work in the flour from the sides of the bowl, just until the dough comes together.

4. If the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the of the bowl and sticks to your fingers, you have the right amount of buttermilk. If there are dry spots and the dough isn’t sticky when you touch it, add more butttermilk.

5. Using a small cookie scoop or heaping teaspoon, drop the biscuits onto the cake pan or baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Bake the biscuits in the center of the oven until they’re light golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Brush the tops with melted butter.