They don’t mind being called mama’s boys. And why should they when they have one of the food world’s most popular cooking moms?
But Jamie and Bobby Deen, the offspring of Food Network phenomenon Paula Deen, aren’t simply satellites of a famous brand.
They’re a hot brand themselves. After helping their mother launch a business that started as lunch sandwiches and grew into an empire, the brothers could have sat back and watched the revenue flow in. But mama didn’t raise lazy boys. The brothers turned occasional appearances on Paula Deen’s television shows into their own exploration of the Southern foodways that is every bit as delicious as their butter-loving mother’s.
They’ve worked hard at crafting their own brand of Bubba food -- simple, honest, stick-to-the-ribs fare invested with homey practicality and dimpled Southern charm. The Deen Bros. have done so well at pleasing good ol’ boy appetites they’re now on their fourth cookbook, The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up, a tribute to the outdoor lifestyle of grilling, tailgating, and family picnics. Like honey, the cookbook is sweet and fairly drips with the joys of family togetherness and necessity of male bonding. It’s familiar, folksy stuff that have made the Deen Bros. stars.
We talked to them while they were on the road promoting the new book.
Q: In the book you advocate packing coolers and eating homemade food on the road rather than going to a fast-food restaurant. There’s something so back-to-basics about that.
A: Jamie: This morning, before going to the airport, I knew I had to be on the road all day so I made two sandwiches to take with me at 4:30 in the morning. When we were kids, if we’d go to a fireworks display or to Six Flags, we always packed a cooler. That’s just the way it was. That’s how we ate. It’s not the rule nowadays, it’s the exception.
Q: The recipes in the book are all about good, uncomplicated, honest American flavors. Is that what you were going for -- good, familiar food?
A: Bobby: We’ve always done what we know. This is our fourth book, and it’s our favorite. The food is right up our alley. When you grow up in southwest Georgia in the ‘70s, there was always plenty of food on the grill and a lot of food being made at home to be shared with family. It’s uncomplicated and inexpensive e_SEmD that always has to be a part or a component of what we do. We don’t do big drizzling towers. My mom says, “If I can’t pronounce it, I’m not going to cook it.” That’s us. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated.
Jamie: People can get overwhelmed when they prepare meals. The first thing about a recipe is you should be able to find the ingredients in a grocery store. We’re not trained chefs, and we don’t think that way. And there’s a lot more people like us with that same mentality.
Q: It looks like you did everything in the book in your shorts and polo shirts. Seriously, are you guys living the life or what?
A: Jamie: Just this morning at QVC someone said, “You’re so tanned.” We spend a lot of time outdoors. At home for us it’s been grilling season for six weeks now. We’re playing outside and cooking outside as much as we can. We really like it a lot.
Q: It sure looks like you did.
A: Jamie: In every picture we’re laughing and having fun. We’re so fortunate. Twenty-something years ago we started with nothing. Now we’re enjoying every second.
Q: Foodies are always looking for the next new thing and the most unusual flavors and preparations. You guys are the antithesis of cutting-edge. Is that OK with you? How would you describe the food you do?
A: Bobby: You know what? There’s a term we use for our food and that’s “dancing with the one that brung you.” This is our food; it’s what we know.
Q: Your mother puts a lot of love in her food. I know this sounds corny, but do you think that’s an important ingredient in cooking?
A: Jamie: For sure. Bobby and I have been raised to share our love with people through food. We were brought up in the South. If you get a new neighbor, you make them a cake. When someone passes away, you think about what you’re going to cook. I think it’s completely an expression of love when you cook for someone.
Bobby: I agree.
Q: You guys make it fun for men to cook. Even though guys aren’t shy about grilling, do you think you two have made it fashionable for guys to get in the kitchen?
A: Jamie: Let me tell you something: women are getting into grilling. And men are going back into the kitchen. I know a lot of men who are cooking and helping out with the family. With the economy, it’s natural. And it’s fun.
The Deen Bros. Grilled Low Country Boil
3/4 pound small new potatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for brushing
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 pound extra-large shrimp, shells intact
3 ears husked corn on the cob, cut crosswise in half
3/4 pound andouille sausage, cut crosswise into thirds
Place the potatoes in a pot filled with salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Drain well. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm.
Meanwhile, use the flat side of a chef’s knife to mash the garlic with the salt to form a paste. Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl and whisk in the olive oil and Old Bay.
Place the shrimp in a bowl and pour in one-quarter of the oil mixture. Toss to coat. Brush the remaining oil mixture over the corn.
Preheat the grill to high and brush the grate with oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer in a grill basket. Transfer the basket to the grill. Place the corn and sausage on the grill next to the basket.
Close the cover and cook, flipping the shrimp halfway through and turning the sausage and corn occasionally, until the shrimp are just opaque and the corn and sausage are golden, about 3 minutes per side. Add the shrimp, corn, and sausage to the bowl of potatoes and toss well. Turn the food out onto a few sheets of newspaper and have at it.
Yield: 4 servings
Source: The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up
Herb-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
Using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a knife, mash the garlic with 1 teaspoon of the salt until it forms a paste. Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, vinegar, sage, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
Smear the mixture all over the pork. Transfer the pork to a bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Let come to room temperature before grilling.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and brush the grate with oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Transfer the pork to the grill. Close the cover and cook, turning once, until a dark golden crust forms on the pork and the meat is just cooked through, 7 to 9 minutes per side. Let the pork rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Source: The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry white wine
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup green grapes, washed and halved
1 English cucumber, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 green apple, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 cup seltzer
In a large punch bowl or Mason jar, combine the white wine, brandy, grapes, cucumber, and apple.
Stir the mixture well, pressing the fruit to the bottom the bowl. Just before serving in cups with ice, add the seltzer.
Yield: 6 servings
Source: The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up