The Way to a Man or a Woman's Heart (By Way of the Stomach)

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On Valentines Day, romance usually starts once the food is on the table. Couples will go out to a special restaurant and gaze into each others' eyes over someone else's cooking. But what about bringing the romance into the kitchen?

That's what Pat and Gina Neely do everyday. They're high school sweethearts, restaurant owners, and co-hosts of the Food Network show "Down Home with the Neelys." 

They offer us tips for making cooking romantic instead of a chore. They also share recipes that are best suited to getting to a man or woman’s heart (by way of the stomach), and offer warnings about what kinds of recipes are best avoided if you want to win that special someone’s affections.

Gina's "Courting Pat" menu is below. For more recipes from the Neelys, check out, "Down Home With the Neelys: A Southern Family Cookbook."




  •     * 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •     * 6 chicken thighs, skinless
  •     * 1 teaspoons salt
  •     * 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  •     * 1 medium onion, sliced
  •     * 1 cup chicken stock
  •     * 1/2 cup white wine
  •     * 1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  •     * 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  •     * 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
  •     * 1 tablespoon lemon-pepper
  •     * Hot buttered rice
  •     * 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves


Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.

Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, meat-side down first, and turning once, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate to reserve.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan.

Add onion to the pan and saute until tender, roughly 3 minutes. Add the stock and wine and stir, scrapping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to high and reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the dried herbs and lemon pepper. Add the chicken thighs back into the pan.Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 40 minutes.

Remove chicken from liquid and serve on hot buttered rice. Ladle the sauce on top and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.




  •     * 8 ears corn, husked
  •     * 2 tablespoons sugar
  •     * 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •     * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •     * 1 cup heavy cream
  •     * 1/2 cup cold water
  •     * 2 tablespoons bacon grease
  •     * 1 tablespoons butter


In a large bowl, cut the tip off cob. Cut the kernels from cob with a small paring knife. Using the back of the blade, scrape against the cob to press out the milky liquid.

Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt and pepper, to taste. Combine with corn. Add the heavy cream and water. Mix.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat bacon grease. Add corn mixture and turn heat down to medium-low, stirring until it becomes creamy, about 30 minutes.

Add the butter right before serving.





  •     * 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.

Smash Seasoning:

  •     * 1 teaspoon cayenne
  •     * 1 teaspoon celery seed
  •     * 1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper
  •     * 1 tablespoon garlic powder

Mix ingredients thoroughly and keep in a tightly sealed container for up to 6 months.




  •     * Butter, for greasing pan
  •     * 1 (21-ounce) box brownie mix
  •     * 3 large eggs
  •     * 1 cup chopped pecans
  •     * 10 chocolate-caramel covered wafers
  •     * Ganache, for brownie topping, recipe follows
  •     * Whipped topping, recipe follows
  •     * Fresh raspberries
  •     * Chocolate shavings


Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

Prepare brownies as directed on the box for "cake-like" brownies but add additional 3 eggs. Spread half the batter into an 8 by 8-inch prepared pan, top evenly with the pecans and chocolate caramel covered wafers.. Cover with remainder of batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the brownies are almost cooked through. Remove brownies from oven. Cool completely. Remove brownies from pan keeping square intact. Place on a baking sheet.

Top with ganache, whipped topping, raspberries, and chocolate shavings.


  •     * 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  •     * 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
  •     * 1/2 cup heavy cream warmed

Mix together syrup and chocolate. Pour warm cream over syrup and chocolate. Stir until melted.

Whipped Topping:

  •     * 1 cup heavy cream
  •     * 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  •     * 2 tablespoons cognac

Whip the heavy cream, adding the sugar and cognac.