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Family Is a Key Ingredient in Neelys' BBQ Success

Grandma Jean's potato salad. Grandma Rena's deep-fried pork chops and quick vegetable soup. Aunt Faye's chicken with scallion dumplings. Momma Daisy's peach and blackberry cobbler. Mamma Neely's Sock-It-to-Me Cake. And Memphis-style barbecue ribs.

Those family recipes have been passed down to the Food Network's saucy stars Patrick and Gina Neely and are included in a new book they're touring the country to promote, Down Home With the Neelys (Knopf, $27.95). More than 120 recipes, leading off with their famous barbecue seasoning and sauce, are introduced with a bit of family history, photos and humor.

"We're no different from the typical family from the South," says Pat, 44. "There, everybody can tell you about a dish that their grandmother, mother and aunt made.

"We were home-schooled in cooking," he says.

The Neelys are best known for their barbecue, prepared "dry," with a mixture of spices rubbed onto the meat, or "wet," basted with a sweet and tangy sauce — and sometimes both — in their three restaurants in Memphis and Nashville.

Tony Neely, Pat's brother, offers tips in the book for backyard barbecuing this summer. Most important: Go low and slow, cooking away from the fire using indirect heat. When seasoning meat, earlier is better, he says, even the night before. And if you throw a slab of ribs on the grill, cook them curl-side up to allow juices to gather in the center of the curl. Flip once, halfway or three-quarters of the way through cooking.

Pat and Tony's ribs won a contest for the best in Memphis in 1997, which led to their appearance on the Today show. But the Neelys' barbecuing isn't limited to traditional ribs, chicken and another Memphis favorite, pulled-pork sandwiches. Pat and Gina have shared recipes for barbecue spaghetti on CBS' The Early Show and barbecue nachos on ABC's Good Morning America.

But pairing food and family, which includes Pat and Gina's daughters, Spenser, 20 (from Gina's previous marriage), and Shelbi, 14, is more important than being famous, says Pat: "Food is the centerpiece of relationships."

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