Chef John Besh is a native son of southern Louisiana and he's dedicated to its culinary riches and its traditions.
He left his beloved South to train in France and Germany, but when it was time, he returned home and put down roots in New Orleans. And he became its most steadfast ambassador -- never more so than after hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005.
His talent and drive have made him one of the most respected and celebrated chefs in America today. He has twelve restaurants, including August, Luke, Domenica, and Shaya.
He is the author of four cookbooks, including his latest, "Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes."
In 2014, the James Beard Foundation inducted him into "who's who in food and beverage."
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
New Orleans Shrimp Etouffee
Rustic Fig Tart
Go-To Pie Dough (required for tart)
Go-To Chicken Stock (chicken stock needed for gumbo, seafood stock variation needed for etouffee)
Creole Spice Mix (needed for Gumbo)
Oysters w/ cocktail and mignonette sauces
Spending time in France just made me love our New Orleans way with classic preparations even more. Ravigoter means to refresh, and that's just what this sauce does to crabmeat (or shrimp). It is perked up with a touch of vinegar and bright lemon juice. We don't want it to be too spicy, but we want it to have some life. The rich and briny sauce holds together succulent lumps of jumbo blue crab. But I'll make the tangy sauce to serve with roast beef, too.
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 heaping tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
Big pinch cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pound crabmeat
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl except the crabmeat, salt, and Tabasco. Whisk until smooth. Gently fold in the crabmeat, then add the salt and a dash of Tabasco.
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
How you make your gumbo depends on where you come from. Those of us within eyesight of New Orleans like the rich, deep flavor of a Creole gumbo. We use tomatoes and/or tomato paste, which you'd never see in a gumbo from Cajun country. And for me, it's not a real gumbo without okra; fresh is better, but out of season, frozen is okay.
¾ cup chicken fat or canola oil
¾ cup flour
2 large onions, chopped
1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces
2 tablespoons from My Creole Spice Jar (page xi)
2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced 1⁄2 inch thick
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 quarts Go-To Chicken Stock (page 27)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 ounces andouille sausage, roughly chopped
2 cups sliced okra
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Salt and pepper
6 cups cooked white rice
Make a roux by heating the fat in a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot fat. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and continue whisking until the roux turns a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to medium low and continue stirring until the roux turns a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
Season the chicken pieces with the Creole spices and add the chicken to the hot roux. Once the chicken is well-seared, add the smoked sausage and stir well. Then add the celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Raise the heat to medium high, stir for another 3 minutes or so, then add the stock, thyme, and bay leaves.
Bring the gumbo to a boil while stirring, then reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo (moving the pot half off the burner helps collect the impurities).
Add the andouille sausage, okra, and Worcestershire, season well with Tabasco, salt, and pepper, and simmer for another 45 minutes. Skim the gumbo before serving with the white rice.
New Orleans Shrimp Étouffée
This succulent 'smothered' stew is often made with crawfish or crab instead of shrimp. Just make sure to add the shrimp at the end, so they stay plump and juicy. Making étouffée is all about building flavor: starting with a velvety roux, cooking the vegetables longer than you'd think, and scraping all those tasty bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. The sauce should be only thick enough to coat the rice.
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup flour
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced Pinch allspice
Pinch cayenne pepper
½ cup chopped tomatoes
2 ½ cups Shellfish Stock (page 27)
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound medium wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 green onion, minced Tabasco
Salt and pepper
4 cups cooked white rice
Make a roux by heating the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and continue whisking until the roux turns a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to medium low and continue stirring until the roux turns a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
When the onions have turned the roux shiny and dark, add the celery, garlic, allspice, and cayenne. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and stock and raise the heat to high. Once the sauce has come to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring often to make sure the sauce doesn't burn or stick to the pan.
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the butter. Add the shrimp and green onions. Season with Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Once the shrimp are heated through, remove the pot from the heat. Serve over rice.
Rustic Fig Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart
This dessert celebrates Louisiana's famed Celeste and Southeastern Brown Turkey figs in a brown butter custard that's so good it borders on sinful. I've been told that you can find figs just as succulent in other parts of the country.
9 tablespoons butter
1 disk Go-To Pie Dough (page 179)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting and rolling
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pints ripe figs, quartered or halved
Preheat the oven to 350 ̊. Butter a deep tart mold or cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter and dust with a bit of flour.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of 1⁄4 inch. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin, then gently fit the dough into the pan. Trim off excess dough.
Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it has a nutty aroma and deep golden brown color. Remove the brown butter from the heat.
Cream the eggs and sugar together in a mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the flour, zest, vanilla, and salt by hand. Slowly stir in all of the brown butter. Pour the mixture into the pan. Layer in all the figs, overlapping them in a circular pattern.
Bake until the crust is golden brown and the custard has nearly set in the center of the tart, 35-40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before serving.
Go-To Pie Dough
Makes 2 disks (for one 9-inch pie with a top and bottom crust or two single-crust pies)
No pie dough has stood the test of time in our kitchens as well as this one. I am proud to pass it along, with just one caveat: do not overwork the dough! I always make enough for two crusts, freezing one disk if I don't need it right away. When I want to use the frozen dough, I just thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons cold butter, diced, plus more for buttering the pan
About ½ cup ice water
W hisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour with 2 knives until it resembles cornmeal. Sprinkle in ice water as needed (up to 8 tablespoons) to help the dough come together.
Gather into two balls, press into round, flat disks, and wrap each one well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes or freeze for later use.
Go-to chicken stock
Making stock is not complicated. I freeze the carcasses from every chicken I roast and make stock when I have enough of them. I start by putting the carcasses in a stockpot. Often I'll brown some chicken and/or turkey wings in the oven (about 1 pound of bones total), and throw them into the pot as well. I then add a couple of chopped carrots and celery stalks along with a few cloves of crushed garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Then I pour in enough cool water to cover the bones by a few inches and bring to a boil. Then simply simmer for about 2 hours. Strain it all and you're done. (And remember, in a pinch, do as so many New Orleans home cooks do: use water.)
To make Fish Stock, use 1 pound fish heads and bones instead of the chicken.
For Shellfish Stock, use 1 pound shells from shrimp, blue crab, crawfish, or lobster.
For Shrimp Stock, use 1 pound shrimp heads and shells.
For Crab Stock, use 1 pound crab shells.
My Creole Spice Jar
I promised not to get too fussy with ingredients in this book, but in my heart of hearts, I really believe you need this simple spice mix to infuse your cooking with authentic flavor.
2 tablespoons celery salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
Mix it together in a small jar, shake it up well, and use it to season your gumbos (and soups and stews). It'll last for months.
Oysters with Cocktail & Mignonette Sauces
Makes about 1 cup
¾ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Dash of Tabasco
In a small bowl, mix together 3⁄4 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and a dash of Tabasco. Serve with raw oysters.
Makes ½ cup
1 small finely diced shallot
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Big pinch sea salt
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 small finely diced shallot, ½ cup red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, and a big pinch sea salt. Serve with raw oysters.
--From Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing