Cookbook Promotes Variation on a Theme
"Down Home with the Neeleys: A Southern Family Cookbook"
By Patrick and Gina Neely
With Paula Disbrowe
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, $27.95
"Soul food" does not appear on the cover of "Down Home with the Neelys: A Southern Family Cookbook," by Food Network personalities Patrick and Gina Neely, owners of Neely's Bar-B-Que in Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.
Semantics, however, don't alter the just plain fabulous recipes drawn from African-American classics.
Barbecued ribs may be center stage, but the supporting cast includes gumbo, collard greens, sweet potato pie, peach and blackberry cobbler with biscuit topping, fried catfish sandwiches, banana pudding, "get yo' man" chicken, perfect rice, black-eyed peas with pork, seasoned kale, creamed corn and pound cake.
Photographs border on aromatic. A platter of fried chicken jumps off the page. Some show the finished product while others - like how to cut collard greens - provide instruction.
Commentary on Neely family history brings recipes to life.
"When I was growing up in the South there were soul food restaurants on every corner," Patrick Neely writes. "One entree was served in them all ... fried chicken, of course."
Gina Neely adds: "To this day, in spite of our occasional diets, fried chicken is ... hard to resist. When you've had a hard day at work there's something about coming home to good fried chicken. It's a Southern tonic."
For the Neelys, -flavor rules. Flavor means seasonings and, unapologetically, fat. But few recently published Southern cookbooks make the calories seem so worthwhile.
For contrast, the Neelys stray to dishes like lamb souvlaki with yogurt sauce; barbecue spaghetti; spinach salad with bacon, blue cheese, pecans and cranberries; kitchen sink omelet; and turkey burgers.
Makes you want to book a flight to Memphis. Or ditch resolutions, dig out the iron skillet, buy a pound of butter and invite the gang.
- Deborah Salomon
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