We recently spoke with Gina Neely, co-host of the Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys. She gave us two recipes for fabulous Thanksgiving side dishes!
What is it that drew you to cooking? Was there anyone early on who encouraged you to pursue it?
Growing up, we lived with my great-grandmother, Callie. She would spend all day Sunday cooking a big meal and you’d better be there, or you were going to get it. A lot of us have moved away from that tradition, but we try to continue it with our daughters.
You and your husband and co-host Patrick were high school sweethearts and now you host your show together. What is it like to work together?
It’s on the job training every day. We’ve grown a lot since we met – we were kids then, now we have our own family. In terms of the show, we never have a script. We’re just laughing, making faces, being silly.
You’re a member of the Women’s Empowerment Summit for the Memphis Housing Authority and you won the Girls Inc. Bold Award. Why is it important to you to promote women’s empowerment?
Women and girls see too many negative images in the media. The way girls think about themselves worries me. I want to get involved in my community and use the show as a platform to promote a better message.
What have you tried to teach your daughters about building a fulfilling career?
I’ve always told them to own who they are and do what they care about, regardless of what other people tell them. And I encourage them not to be afraid to experiment with new things. My oldest daughter is in PR/marketing and she’s an amazing writer. My youngest just started college.
Neely’s Holiday Cornbread Stuffing
3/4 pounds bacon, cut into chunks
2 large onions, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 cups chopped pecans
2 (16-ounce) bags dried corn bread stuffing mix
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 stick butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Turn heat down and add onions and celery; saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the thyme and sage and saute until fragrant. Stir in pecans.
In a large bowl, add the cornbread mix, bacon and vegetables, and stir in the chicken broth. Add to a 13 by 9 by 2-inch casserole dish. Add butter slices to the top of the casserole and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes then remove foil and cook until top is crisp, about 15 more minutes.
Holiday Wreath Rolls
1/2 cup butter, melted, plus 4 tablespoons, melted, for brushing
1 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 (7 1/2- ounce) cans store-bought buttermilk biscuits
Adjust the oven racks to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a 12-cup Bundt pan liberally with 4 tablespoons melted butter.
Combine the cheese, garlic, and herbs in a small bowl. Set aside.
Open the biscuit cans and separate each biscuit. Roll the biscuits into balls. Dip each ball into the 1/2 cup melted butter, then into the cheese-herb mixture, making sure that the whole ball is covered. Place into the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining biscuits until you have filled the pan with butter-and-herb-covered balls of dough. The balls of dough will overlap.
Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Cool in the pan then turn out onto a cake pedestal. Allow guests to use their hands to break off a roll to enjoy.