Well-deserved fanfare aside, what compels folks to stop on the street and say hello to Besh—who will gladly return the greeting—is that this charming native son never forgot his Louisiana roots. Through his non-profit John Besh Foundation, he helps preserve the culinary heritage and rituals of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, just likase he does every day through the thoughtful food made in his kitchens. Formative years spent attending crawfish boils and hunting through swamps had a lasting effect on Besh. Even more poignantly, they are all woven through tales of the mentors who set him on his own path to restaurant success. Chris Kerageorgiou, the Frenchman who originally ran La Provence—the restaurant Besh would usher into a new era as his own—was another profound influence. Before you love something, you have to respect it.
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John Besh has many restaurants in the New Orleans area. My husband read My New Orleans cover to cover first, and I almost stole it away from him before he finished.
As he was reading the cookbook, he read many of the stories and recipes from the cookbook aloud to me and would have my mouth watering every night right before bed. I probably dreamed of creole cooking for a week straight! I knew that this was going to be a cookbook I actually cooked from I cheated on the Besh batch because I pulled the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
For the Emeril batch, I used only thigh meat. The thigh meat was better, I think, but the recipes were really similar. The jambalaya was really good. It was a celebration of pork: bacon, andouille, ground pork sausage, and sliced smoked sausage.
I used crawfish tails instead of shrimp, and that added a yummy twist. I have some reservations on the King Cake recipe. The recipe said the baking temperature and time should be F for 30 minutes. I thought the temp was a little too high, and sure enough it turned out dry and a little too brown. I should have pulled it out of the oven earlier or baked it at F.
Next time I might try to roll out the dough, shake on some cinnamon sugar, and roll it up jellyroll-style so that there are swirls of cinnamon throughout the braids. So far, I love this cookbook. This should be handed down for generations as a classic cookbook of American literature. Of course, I am one of the people who thinks it is high time cookbooks were entered into literature anthologies.
The narrative voice, which is both down home and sophisticated at the same time, draws me in, time and again. I enjoyed the contemporary take on New Orleans food, which included fresh and organic locally grown delights.
It seemed to say this is how people in New Orleans have always cooked. Yet, it is a new take, with plenty of creativity proving it take more than a hurricane to wipe out these roots. There are pictures with people in their capris and shorts cooking and gardening with family and friends. The recipes are arranged so it is easy to make a menu plan.
My New Orleans: The Cookbook
The 10 Dishes That Made My Career: John Besh