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Pat and Gina Neely, the beloved husband-and-wife team and authors of the New York Times best seller Down Home with the Neelys, are all about lettin’ the good times roll. It takes family, friends, and ample good food, and in their new book, they share their recipes and secrets for entertaining year-round, dishing up new spins on seasonal classics, and suggesting occasions to celebrate that most of us haven’t thought of ourselves. Along with menus for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter Sunday, and every known holiday in between, here are all the fixings for a year of down home celebrating, 120 recipes including Hoppin’ John Soup and Deep-fried Cornish Game Hens for New Year’s Day; Smothered Pork Chops and Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes for “Welcome Home, Baby”; One-handed Turkey Burgers and Mint Tea for “Spring Cleaning.” The Neelys believe that life should be celebrated, holiday or not. With this mouth-watering collection of recipes you have everything you need to Neely-tize your table far beyond the holiday season.
1. Gina’s Hoppin’ John Soup [GINA] Ever since I was a little girl, my mom has bee telling me that if you don’t eat black- eyed peas on New Year’s Day you’ll have a bad year ahead of you. Now, when I was younger I didn’t care a bit. I was going through that awkward stage anyway—how much worse could it be? But as I got older, I learned to love that black- eyed pea tradition, convinced that my year was going to be fantastic! And you know what’s funny? I tell my girls the same thing. Who says traditions and superstitions aren’t effective? Not to mention that black- eyed peas are rich in calcium and vitamin A. What could be bad about that? Of course, this being a Gina recipe, I added in my favorite collard greens. . . .Mmm, even better.
SERVES 4 TO 6
1 small bunch (about 1 pound) collard greens 2 tablespoons olive oil 6 ounces smoked ham steak, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes 1 medium onion, chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 medium carrot, chopped 1 stalk celery, chopped 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red- pepper flakes Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 cups low- sodium chicken broth One 15.5- ounce can black- eyed peas, drained and rinsed One 15- ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices 1 cup cooked long- grain white rice 1 dried bay leaf Dash of hot sauce, preferably Tabasco Dash of Worcestershire sauce Parmesan cheese, grated, for topping
Remove the stems and center ribs from the collard greens. Stack about six leaves on top of each other, roll into a cigar shape, and slice into thin ribbons.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, toss in the ham, onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, roughly 4 minutes.
Sprinkle in the red-pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.
Add the collard greens, and saute until they begin to soften.
Pour in the chicken broth, the black- eyed peas, and the can of tomatoes with their juices.
Bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Stir the rice into the soup to warm. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
Spoon into bowls, and sprinkle each bowl with Parmesan cheese.
2. Pat’s Sweet and Spicy Grilled Wings With Smoky Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
[PAT] I absolutely love making my smoky grilled hot wings. Gina calls me the grill master: I’m a grill kinganda wingman. There is nothing better than wings with a smoky grilled flavor mingling with a sweet, spicy, and creamy dipping sauce. One of the best things about living in Memphis is that we can grill year- round, even on a 35-degree day (which is the normal temperature on Super Bowl Sunday). Grilling wings can be completed in a 10- minute period outside, so even if it’s chilly out, you can stand it!
WINGS 3 pounds chicken wings, cut at the joint, washed, and dried well 1⁄4 cup canola oil 2 tablespoons lemon- pepper seasoning 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons honey 1⁄4 cup hot sauce, preferably Tabasco 1 tablespoon apple- cider vinegar 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder Dash of Worcestershire sauce Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons sliced green onion, for garnish (optional) 1 scant cup smoky blue- cheese dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Toss the chicken wings with the oil, and sprinkle with lemon- pepper seasoning, salt, and chile powder in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes, letting the flavors marry together while you prepare the grill.
Heat your grill to medium- high direct heat, using charcoal. Once it’s hot, grill the wings for 7 to 9 minutes per side, until crisp and completely cooked through.
Combine the butter, mustard, honey, hot sauce, vinegar, chile powder, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Taste for seasoning, and add more chipotle if you want it spicier. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
Once the sauce is simmering, cut the heat and add the wings, and toss thoroughly in the sauce. Remove to a large platter, sprinkle with green onion, and serve with the smoky blue- cheese dipping sauce.
SMOKY BLUE CHEESE DIPPING SAUCE MAKES 1 SCANT CUP
1⁄4 cup crumbled Danish blue cheese 1⁄4 cup buttermilk 1⁄4 cup sour cream 2 teaspoons apple- cider vinegar 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Mash the blue cheese with a fork into the buttermilk and sour cream in a small bowl, thoroughly breaking it up. Pour in the vinegar, paprika, and green onion and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, so the flavors can marry.
3. Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownie Bites
[GINA] Can you imagine life without these two amazing ingredients? Who would want that? It would be like having fabulous shoes without a great handbag. Having chocolate and peanut butter is heaven on earth. If you think I talk a lot, give me chocolate and peanut butter and you won’t hear another word out of me!
MAKES 36 SMALL BROWNIES
BATTER 3⁄4 cup (11⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided 1⁄2 cup all- purpose fl our 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder 1⁄4 teaspoon table salt 1⁄3 cup packed light- brown sugar 1⁄2 cup granulated white sugar 2 large eggs 2 large egg yolks 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
PEANUT BUTTER SWIRL (“GET YO SWIRL ON!”) 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 1⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar 3⁄4 cup smooth peanut butter 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Pinch of table salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust a rack to the center of the oven.
Line an 8- by- 8- inch baking pan with parchment or foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang over the edges. Cover the pan with some nonstick cooking spray.
Melt the butter and 1 cup chocolate chips together in a heavybottomed saucepan set over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Whisk together the fl our, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Once the chocolate is slightly cool, stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla into the saucepan until smooth. Stir the flour mixture into the saucepan until thoroughly combined. Pour in the remaining cup of chocolate chips.
To make the peanut- butter filling: beat together the butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Pour the chocolate batter into the prepared pan. Spoon large dollops of the peanut butter mixture evenly across the top of the batter.
Use the tip of a knife or a toothpick to make pretty swirls with the peanut butter throughout the chocolate.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and let cool completely on wire rack before cutting into squares.