Side Dish: Neelys offer down-home delights

“Back Home With the Neelys: Comfort Food from Our Southern Kitchen to Yours” by Pat and Gina Neely with Ann Volkwein

Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95

212-page hardcover

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In their third book, “Back Home With the Neelys,” Pat and Gina Neely share family stories and their updated versions of the Southern comfort recipes they were raised on.

In the introduction, the Neelys write that when you’re born and raised in the South, “your entire life revolves around Southern food.” So, when you’re cooking, those “Southern techniques and attitudes become deeply embedded in your cooking style.”

The restaurateurs and hosts of the Food Network’s “Down Home with the Neelys” television program write that their appreciation of down-home cooking and fresh ingredients goes back to growing up in Memphis, Tenn., when their grandparents had backyard gardens and cooked with fresh produce. Today, they continue to use local ingredients in their own cooking and to adapt the familiar recipes of their childhoods.

The book’s 100 recipes are divided into 10 chapters from Jams, Preserves, Breads and Biscuits to Gina’s Southern Cocktails. Among the recipes are Small Batch Strawberry Jam, Bourbon French Toast, Gina’s Quick Confetti Collards, Broccoli Slaw, Old School Braised Oxtails, Hot Honey Peach Chicken, Smoked and Spicy Chicken Wings, Chicken Pot Pie, Gina’s Favorite Black-Eyed Pea Hummus with Pita Chips, Summer Fruit Cobbler and Blackberry Limeade.

Many of the recipes are illustrated with beautiful full-color photographs by Alex Farnum.

The Neelys recently opened a restaurant, Neely’s Barbecue Parlor, in Manhattan where New Yorkers will have the opportunity to taste the Memphis couple’s Southern-style cuisine.

For those fans who can’t make it to Memphis or Manhattan, “Back Home With the Neelys” offers them a chance to recreate some of the Neelys’ family favorites and to create some culinary memories of their own.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Skillet Corn Bread

2Serves 8 to 10. Recipe is from “Back Home With the Neelys” by Pat and Gina Neely with Ann Volkwein (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014). Gina Neely says, “Skillet corn bread has always been my go-to-comfort food, and my mom used to make it for me as a treat when I was younger. I do this for my girls now whenever I think they need a little love. The trick to really good corn bread is preheating the skillet, then baking the corn bread right in the hot skillet, so you build a crispy crust. This recipe is our version of the classic hot-water corn bread we grew up on, which was made by mixing cornmeal with hot water until it felt like mashed potatoes, then frying it in a skillet with oil and bacon grease.”

2¼ cups ground yellow cornmeal

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tbls. sugar

2 tsps. baking powder

2¼ tsps. kosher salt

1¾ cups buttermilk

1 (8¼ -oz.) can creamed corn

2 large eggs, beaten

5 tbls. unsalted butter, melted, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375˚ F. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet on the center rack while it heats.

2. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, creamed corn, eggs and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.

3. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter, swirling to make sure it reaches all the edges of the skillet. Pour in the batter, and spread evenly across the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Best when served fresh and warm.