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Paula Deen's boys, Bobby Deen and Jamie Deen, 'Take It Easy'

Interviewing Bobby Deen and Jamie Deen on the phone is a bit like playing pinball. Every question rolls back and forth between them, each answer launched in that softly distinctive Georgia drawl. • Luckily, the Deen brothers know how much they sound alike in interviews and are accustomed to saying their names before they speak. Otherwise, determining who said what would be impossible.

The sons of Paula Deen, the Food Network's down-home darling, have a third cookbook out on Tuesday. The Deen Bros. Take It Easy (Ballantine, $25) includes 125 recipes that reflect the way a lot of us cook today. There's a bit less butter than Mom uses and a whole lot more convenience items (bottled salad dressings for marinades and bastes, plus Bisquick and prepared pie crusts).

"This is Jamie. I think it's a great book for the times: affordable and quick, real family friendly," he says.

Jamie is into family friendly these days. His son Jack turned 3 last month — Grandma and everyone else in the extended clan made a big fuss — and there's a chapter in the book of his favorite foods (Baked Hush Puppies, Mini Macaroni Pies and Panfried PB&J). The day we talked, Jamie was tussling over what to make for dinner and settled on shrimp and grits, a favorite of his son. He admits he's an indulgent dad.

"I am embarrassed to say that I've just gotten all the boxes and wrapping paper out of the house from his party four days ago," Jamie says.

The recipes that accompany this story include the brothers' recommendations for a Labor Day get-together at the park or poolside. The orzo salad is especially good for a potluck, and the grilled jalapeno poppers would be a show-stopping appetizer. Both are easily doubled.

The Deens insisted that the ingredients in the recipes be readily available across the United States. They did the testing and writing, with an assist from food writer Melissa Clark, in Savannah, Ga., their hometown and the corporate headquarters for Paula Deen's growing empire, which now employs 350 people. If they could find the ingredients in coastal Georgia, they figured anyone in America could buy them in their local markets.

Of the two brothers, Jamie, 42, is the entertainer and Bobby, 39, is the support crew, lending a hand where it's needed.

"Bobby here. If I was to rank us as cooks it would be No. 1 Mom, No. 2 Jamie and No. 3 me. I like to watch them cook but when Jamie cooks for a group of people he tends not to eat."

"It's Jamie. There's a lot of tasting going on when I cook. If something takes an hour and a half, then there's that much eating."

Paula Deen's enormous success on the Food Network and with her Savannah restaurant, the Lady & Sons, has opened doors for her sons. But, they are quick to point out, the success came after a lot of hard work and hard times.

"Restaurants are a business that people struggle at," Bobby says. "It's one of the toughest businesses you can go into.

"We've had countless 15-, 16-, 17-hour workdays. Jamie was 21 and I was 18 when we started, but I am so happy we did it because life is getting better every day."

The Deens have just signed a deal to appear on 20 of 36 upcoming episodes of Paula's Home Cooking. Their own show, Road Tasted, is in reruns on the Food Network, and there's been talk of another program featuring them.

"We're looking for a happy medium," says Jamie, who doesn't want to be on the road and away from his son too long.

A grilling and tailgating cookbook will be published next spring and "there's always the restaurant," where they spend a lot of time.

"I am just hoping Bobby gets married next year and has a baby," so that Jack has a cousin, Jamie says.

"Bobby here. I have a girl that I am crazy about, so it's probably doomed."

Time to crack open Take It Easy and make something that will win her heart. Ten-Minute Blackberry Cream Pie would do it for us.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>easy

Mediterranean Chicken and Orzo Salad With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

8 ounces (1 1/4 cups) orzo

1 cup diced, cooked chicken

1/2 cup chopped, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/3 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain well.

In a large bowl, combine the orzo with the chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, olives and pine nuts.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Recipe can easily be doubled.

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: Make as is for a potluck party or serve over ice-cold chopped Romaine for a weeknight dinner salad.

Source: The Deen Bros. Take It Easy by Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen (Ballantine)

>>easy

Grilled Chicken Breasts With

Brown Sugar Pineapple Rings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup bottled Italian salad dressing

1 (20-ounce) can pineapple slices, drained

1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon

Prepare a medium-hot grill or preheat the broiler. If using the broiler, line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil.

While the grill or broiler is heating up, season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and coat with the Italian dressing.

In a bowl, toss the pineapple slices with the brown sugar, bourbon and a pinch of salt.

Place the chicken on the grill or, if broiling, place on one of the prepared baking sheets. Grill or broil, 4 inches from the heat, turning once, for 16 to 20 minutes total, or until the chicken is slightly charred and the juices run clear when it is pricked with a fork.

Place the pineapple on the grill or, if broiling, place on the second prepared baking sheet. Grill or broil, turning once, for 8 to 10 minutes total, or until the pineapple is slightly charred and the sugar has caramelized. Serve the chicken with the pineapple on the side.

Serves 4.

Source: The Deen Bros. Take It Easy by Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen (Ballantine)

>>MODERATE

Grilled Bacon and Cheese Jalapeno Poppers

1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

8 large jalapeno peppers

8 strips bacon

Prepare a medium-hot grill or preheat the broiler. If using the broiler, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Soak 16 wooden toothpicks for at least 1/2 hour.

In a small bowl, mix together the Monterey Jack cheese and cilantro.

Using a paring knife, cut the top off the peppers and reserve. Scoop out the veins and the seeds, discarding both. Stuff the cheese mixture inside the peppers, packing it tightly. Replace the cap on each pepper.

Using a toothpick or skewer (depending on the size of your jalapeno), skewer the peppers lengthwise from the bottom through the cap. Wrap a slice of bacon top to bottom around each pepper, covering the cap and secure with a toothpick. Place the peppers on the grill or, if broiling, place on the prepared baking sheet. Grill or broil, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes total or until the bacon is crisp and the peppers are tender.

Serves 4.

Source: The Deen Bros. Take It Easy by Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen (Ballantine)

>>easY

Ten-Minute Blackberry Cream Pie

1 (10-ounce) package fresh or frozen blackberries (thawed if frozen)

3 tablespoons blackberry jam

1 (8-ounce) tub Cool Whip whipped topping

1 (9-inch) store-bought graham cracker crust

Place the blackberries in a bowl and mash with a fork until broken up. Add the jam and mix until combined.

Spoon the blackberry mixture into the crust. Top with Cool Whip and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

Source: The Deen Bros. Take It Easy by Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen (Ballantine)

Paula Deen's boys, Bobby Deen and Jamie Deen, 'Take It Easy' 09/01/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 5:30am]
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