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Down Home with the Neelys:
A Southern Family Cookbook
By Patrick and Gina Neely; with Paula Disbrowe
ISBN: 0307269949
Publisher: Knopf
Publication date: May 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
List price: $27.95 
Type: Ethnic: Southern
Sample recipes: Broccoli Cheddar Cornbread, Spicy Fried Chicken, Neely's Barbecue Seasoning
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: This book needs two reviews: one for those who love the Neelys and their show on the Food Network, and one for the people who haven't met them yet.

If you're in the first camp, you'll love their new book. In fact, you might as well stop reading right here. Well, even you will want to know that the book contains two secret recipes – the barbecue seasoning and barbecue sauce – that have been the bedrock of the Neelys' family restaurants in Memphis for quite a few years. And the seasoning and sauce are used liberally in many other recipes in the book.

Even if you don't know Patrick and Gina Neely and have never seen them on TV, they (and ghostwriter Paula Disbrowe) have produced a darn good cookbook. Recipe chapters feature soups and stews, salads, side dishes, entrees, sandwiches, desserts, breakfasts, and drinks.

Some of these recipes are clearly "nouveau Southern," as the cooking trends of our day are hidden in many of the recipes – trends towards faster and spicier, at least a nod toward leaner, and certainly a more international approach than you'd expect. Recipes include such ingredients as Chinese five-spice powder, Japanese panko crumbs, and Spanish paprika, and there are such recipes as Lamb Souvlaki, Grilled Gorgonzola Toasts with Sweet Peppers, and Turkey Brie & Cranberry Panini – not exactly traditional Southern fare.

There is some exaggeration here and there to make some dishes sound a little more traditional. One recipe mentions "plenty of chopped pork" but calls for only a half cup – and it serves 10 to 12 people. As far as we're concerned, that's barely a garnish; it doesn’t begin to approach plenty!

To those who do not yet know the Neelys, there is a lot of biographical material, and some of the folksy comments in the book will come across as juvenile or sappy (occasional breast jokes when they're clearly just talking about poultry) or too personal ("as sweet as my Gina," and "only my man knows for sure"). But apparently that's what sells on television and why change a winning formula?


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