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?