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Monday, June 14, 2021

Patrick’s in the kitchen with Gina

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They hail from the great state of Tennessee, are known for their succulent barbecue, and every sprinkle, slice and stir of their dishes is done with love.

America, meet Food Network’s newest addition to down home cooking — Patrick and Gina Neely. Although they are brand spankin’ new to hosting their own show, members of the Neely family are “seasoned” veterans when it comes to preparing classic dishes such as macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper recently spoke with the couple (who are very much in love with one another, might I add) about their passion for satisfying taste buds and their new TV show.

Are you excited to have your own show on Food Network?

Patrick: We’re excited and happy. We’re enjoying the show and the feedback we’re getting from the African-American community has been phenomenal. We’re very proud and we understand we have an obligation and responsibility to do well. Hopefully we can continue to produce a great show and open doors for others someday. Gina and I feel a huge sense of responsibility to do well and represent our community in a powerful and productive way.

How long have you two been in the kitchen?

Gina: Wow, since I was a little girl. I think about my great-grandmother, so really all our lives.

Patrick: Food is such a big part of our lives. We both come from humble beginnings. When you didn’t have a whole lot, you cooked more; you didn’t dine out. Out to dinner was mama bringing home a bucket of chicken and that was when times were really good. Lo and behold we go into the restaurant business and now we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary. What people are seeing on “Down Home with the Neely’s” is something we’ve been doing for a long time.

Your show seems to be centered around family. What’s it like being a part of a large family that cooks and gathers together?

Gina: It’s like a big party!

Patrick: It’s like going to a convention!

Gina: It’s like a nightclub. We eat, we drink, we dance, honey, we just have a good time right at home. Everybody gets along.

Patrick: It’s great because Gina has four siblings, I have five and our house, for whatever reason has become the center for where everybody comes. Any holiday, they always end up at our house. What’s great about it is both our families get along so well. Our families are so intertwined, there’s almost no such thing as an in-law. People think we’re unique, but this is a way of life, we have a blast.

What’s the theme of your show?

Gina: It’s food, family and fun.

Patrick: I couldn’t have said it better myself!

What’s your favorite food?

Gina: I’d have to say my collard greens. I always crave those when I haven’t had them in a while. Fried chicken. I’m a Southern girl, you can give me some fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, some candied yams, corn bread and some sweet tea. That’s it. I don’t have to have a gourmet meal.

Patrick: We cook so many dishes, but I love chili over rice in the winter. Overall, I’m a steak and potato man. I love a great steak and a salad. I love grilled asparagus. And I love everything Gina cooks for me, but she does a braised cabbage and carrots with bacon. If she wants something out of me, all she’s got to do is cook that cabbage. When you’ve been in food all your life like us, it’s hard to just say one thing.

How do you provide a healthy mix of African-American classics with some of the newer techniques and knowledge of current health issues facing the Black community?

Gina: I don’t know if we’d ever learn to eat, as you say, better. We grew up eating those things and I feel relatively good. I grew up using ham hocks for seasoning, but I try to do things in moderation. I don’t think I could ever cut it out, honestly. We’re way too Southern for that. It’s our roots. It’s what we know and what we do.

Patrick: One of the things that I tell people when they watch our show, you can take one of our recipes and change it so it’s healthier for you and it’s still a good meal. Don’t take everything Gina and I say as law. If we’re using butter, use a low-fat butter; if we’re frying pork chops, bake them; if you want to substitute Splenda for sugar, do it. If you are already on that type of diet it’s going to taste good to you just that way. We cook the way we like it and fortunately we don’t have any health issues and we exercise.

You two have great chemistry on camera and it’s like you’ve been on TV for years; could you have done a show like this with anyone other than your spouse?

Gina: That’s the compliment of it all. Pat and I have so much in common and we know how to play off each other, our chemistry is so in place. It would be difficult to try to sell that if it wasn’t true. We’re very authentic people. I think that’s why it shines through so well; we’re just real people. You can’t create that, you either have it or you don’t.

Patrick: I think I could have done it with my brother and partner, Tony who has been in the restaurant business for 20 years. The question is, if I had my choice to do it with one person who would I want to do it with, that’s my wife. I tell her all the time, the best thing about this whole venture is I’m doing it with her. When you’re on the road and, it’s not hard for me to leave home when she’s on my arm. If I did it with one of my brothers, I’d miss my wife like crazy. Unfortunately I still have to leave my daughters, now and then, but it makes it sweeter when I’m doing it with Gina. We travel together, talk together, spend time together. She is my true personal partner. Could I, yes, would I, no; I’ve loved this girl all my life.

Why should people tune in?

Gina: What I always tell people about the Food Network, does anybody need another pound cake recipe? I want it to be entertaining, I want people to take a minute out of their busy day, sit down, have a little fun, laugh, get some great recipes and spend some time together with your family. I hope people take some things that Pat and I do and cook with your spouse or kids. Hang out, let it entertain you, and just laugh. I haven’t had anything yet that makes you feel better than laughter.

Patrick: First, there’s going to be some great dishes you can cook and share with your family. But, there is a story there that you can get in the kitchen with your spouse. It’s bigger than the recipes although the dishes are there. There’s a side of socialization with your loved one and bonding in the kitchen. It’s about two people that love each other. Even though they have a busy schedule and they work, they’re able to find a few hours out of the day they’re able to do together. We hope it inspires, teaches and brings some families closer together. If that’s accomplished from our show, then we’ve been successful.

You can catch “Down Home with the Neely’s” Saturdays at 11 a.m. EST and Sundays 1 p.m. EST.

Pat’s Spicy Fried Wings

Recipe courtesy The Neelys

Spicy Chicken Seasoning Ingredients:

1 tablespoon seasoning salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

6 whole chicken wings, cut in 1/2 at the joint

Spicy Chicken Batter:

2 eggs

2 tablespoons hot sauce

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil, to fry

Dipping Sauce, recipe follows

In a small bowl whisk together seasoning salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, cayenne pepper, poultry seasoning, and lemon pepper. Reserve 2 tablespoons in a separate bowl.

Rinse chicken wings in cold water and place into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the wings evenly with the seasoning, and let them marinate, covered and chilled, for 1 hour.

Whisk eggs, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and cayenne pepper into a medium size mixing bowl. Reserve. Put the flour into a shallow dish or pie plate.

In a large deep-fryer or large Dutch oven heat oil to 350 degrees F on a deep-fat thermometer.

Dredge chicken wings into the egg mixture then into the flour. Place wings 3 at a time into the hot oil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until cooked through and golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined sheet tray. Make sure oil returns to temperature before adding the next batch. Sprinkle the wings with the reserved seasoning for extra-hot wings.

Serve with dipping sauce.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour

Ease of preparation: easy

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons horseradish

1/4 tablespoon chili sauce

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Macaroni and Cheese

Recipe courtesy The Neelys

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups milk, warm

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dash salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dash hot sauce

Dash Worcestershire sauce

3 cups shredded Cheddar

1 pound cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente

1 cup crushed potato chips

5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large saucepot over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the warmed milk and bring to a boil, continue to whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken as the heat increases. Continue to stir while adding

the dry mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, salt, pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Stir in the 3 cups of Cheddar until it melts.

Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and add to a 3 quart casserole dish.

Sprinkle the chips, bacon and Parmesan on top and bake for 35 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Ease of preparation: Easy

Braised Cabbage and Carrots

Recipe courtesy The Neely’s

1 large head (about 3 pounds) green cabbage

4 slices extra-thick bacon, cut into 1-inch squares

1 cup water

2 tablespoons Smash Seasoning, recipe follows

1 (10-ounce) bag baby carrots

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Core cabbage and chop into 2-inch pieces. Clean thoroughly and let drain.

In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon halfway through. Cook’s Note: It will release its fat and be lightly browned, but still moist.

Add the cabbage, water and Smash Seasoning. Cover and reduce to a simmer and steam 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. Drain water from pot and add carrots. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes, until carrots are tender. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Ease of preparation: easy

Broccoli Cheddar Cornbread

Recipe courtesy The Neely’s

2 (8.5-ounce) boxes corn muffin mix

1/2 cup whole milk

2 cloves minced garlic

1 (8-ounce) container cottage cheese

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Cheddar

1 stick unsalted butter or margarine

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed but not drained

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix together all ingredients except 2 tablespoons Cheddar to create a batter in a bowl.

In a cast iron skillet melt butter. Saute onions and broccoli until soft. Pour batter over the vegetable mixture and sprinkle top evenly with remaining cheese.

Bake in oven until golden, 30 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ease of preparation: easy

Creamed Collard Greens

Recipe courtesy The Neely’s

4 pounds collard greens (4 bunches), tough stems and ribs removed

1/2 stick unsalted butter

3 large shallots, minced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 cups heavy cream

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 pound Parmesan, grated

Bring a very large stockpot of water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Add half of the collard greens to the boiling water, a little at a time, and push them down into the water. Let the water return to a boil, then cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the greens to a bowl to reserve. Repeat with the remaining greens. Drain the greens very well and squeeze them dry in a kitchen towel, then finely shred.

In a very large skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add the greens to the cream and toss until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Season generously with nutmeg and salt and pepper. Add to serving dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings

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