Collards & Carbonara From Andy Ticer And Michael Hudman

Cook a culinary mashup from the the Hog & Hominy guys

Some kids dream of gridiron greatness. Others wanna be rockstars. Memphis schoolmates Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman had different aspirations.

"We started talking about opening a restaurant together in eighth grade," Ticer says. "Freshman year, between classes, we'd sketch out floor plans."

Inspired by the home cooking of their Italian grandmothers, the two figured they'd improve the food of their hometown by bringing in the flavors of the old country.

But formative enthusiasms don't always lead to solid business plans. "We were gonna name it Inizio, which is Italian for 'the beginning,'" says Hudman with a chuckle.

Ticer: "The bar was going to be in the shape of the boot of Italy, with white neon running around it. How awful is that?"

Andy Ticer (left) and Michael Hudman (right) at our Test Kitchen

Happily, the boys let the idea percolate. They went off to culinary school, lived in Calabria and developed a gutsy, straightforward style that feels modern and Southern–yet, at the same time, solidly Italian. In 2008, they saw through their dream of opening Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis, followed by Hog & Hominy last year, earning them a shared spot on Food & Wine's Best New Chefs 2013 list.

Now they've released their first cookbook, Collards & Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots ($35). The twin influences of the book's subtitle play out in recipes such as a New Year's Day-inspired black-eyed pea tortellini with ham hock brodo and collard greens.

Hudman and Ticer stopped by Tasting Table's Test Kitchen and gave us an exclusive taste of their fried green tomatoes with crab, watermelon and Arnold Palmer vinaigrette (see the recipe)–a decidedly more Southern take on late summer.

You know what they say: When in Memphis...