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The August chef gives an insider look at where to eat and go in the Big Easy
The Daily Meal's Ali Rosen gets the inside scoop from chef John Besh, author of the cookbook My New Orleans on where to Eat in New Orleans.
From high-end to low-end Besh, says there are plenty of options for travelers, even those traveling with children. Trying a po'boy at Parkway Bakery is a must, but for a sit-down meal, Creole in king in New Orleans. Besh recommends Dooky Chase, an institution in New Orleans, and Commander's Palace.
For "the best fried chicken," Besh recommends Willie Mae's. For the ultimate Friday feast, Besh recommends Galatoire's where he says not to order off the menu but instead ask your waiter to "just feed me."
No trip to New Orleans is complete without strolling through Magazine Street's shops, and, if you're in town at the right time, attending New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest (the next one is April 26, 2013 to May 5, 2013) and the French Quarter Fest, according to Besh.
Lauren Mack is the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.
There is only one week left in Lent, which makes tomorrow is our last Friday of abstinence from meat. Next Friday is Good Friday, which is a day of fasting and abstinence.
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated one of my favorite feasts: the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. I wrote and talked about our deeply Sicilian traditions here in New Orleans of honoring St. Joseph by setting up St. Joseph Altars. Though the feast is celebrated as a Solemnity, which trumps any requirements of fasting and abstinence, it is still customary for there to be no meat on a St. Joseph Altar. Some say that is because the feast day always falls in Lent, others say that the tradition stems from the historical dependence of Sicily on seafood for sustenance. Either way, it is still a feast, so meat or no meat, the altars are covered in delicious food.
John Besh&aposs Mardi Gras Brunch Menu
"The thing with brunches that people hate so much," Besh notes, "is that you don&apost have a lot of lead time to cook and prep." He solves this problem with a roster of dishes that can easily be prepared in advance. With the exception of the eggs and grits, which can be promptly cooked just before serving, every dish can be at least partially made ahead. You&aposll have to fry the beignets to order, too, but as Besh explains below, much of the prep work can be done the night before. Here&aposs a do-ahead guide for each dish:
Prepare the beignet dough the night before, then cover it and place it in the refrigerator to rise slowly overnight. One hour before the party, roll out and cut the dough, then cover and return it to the refrigerator for another hour. Besh recommends frying the beignets just as guests start to arrive so you can greet them with a warm, sugar-dusted treat.
Slow-Cooked Veal Grillades
Like most stews, the grillades will benefit from being made a day or two in advance. To reheat: Place the grillades in a pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake in a 350ଏ oven until heated all the way through—this should take about 35 to 40 minutes. Alternatively, you can warm the grillades (covered and in a microwave-safe dish) in the microwave.
Green Onion Sausage and Shrimp Gravy
Make the sausage and shrimp gravy one day in advance, then warm it in a heavy-gauge pot over moderate heat. Follow Besh&aposs advice to avoid overcooking the shrimp: Instead of returning the shrimp to the pan (step four in the recipe), place them in an airtight container and refrigerate. Once the gravy is reheated, add the shrimp back in, cook for about five minutes, and serve.
Grandmother Walters&aposs Biscuits
Several days before the party, prepare the dough and cut out the biscuits, then place them on a baking sheet, wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap, and freeze. Bake the biscuits straight out of the freezer in a 425ଏ oven—they&aposll be done in about 15 minutes.
To limit stress, Besh recommends baking the King Cake the night before the party. In the morning, place the cake in a 350ଏ oven (or warming drawer) for a few minutes to "freshen it up." Quickly mix together the icing and spread it over the warm cake, then decorate with the traditional purple, green, and gold sugars.
Besh Knows Best: Chicken And Sausage Gumbo
New Orleans icon John Besh’s fourth and latest cookbook is a collection of family recipes for the home cook with a hankering for Cajun and Creole spice. With simple, hearty fare, detailed instructions and anecdotes that will make you feel like you’re right there in Louisiana, a hot (or really hot) meal is just a few ingredients away.
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.
Besh Knows Best: Chicken And Sausage Gumbo
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
- Level of Difficulty: Easy
- Serving Size: 10
- 3/4 cup chicken fat or canola oil
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces
- 2 tablespoons Creole spices
- 2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 quarts chicken stock
- 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
For the gumbo
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.
John Besh&aposs Mardi Gras Brunch Menu
T here are many ways to celebrate Mardi Gras, but for chef John Besh, a native of the area and celebrated local restaurateur, there&aposs nothing quite like a casual pre-parade brunch. In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, this type of party is common throughout New Orleans because it offers a laid-back way for friends and family to gather and eat before heading to the parade route.
When planning a Mardi Gras brunch, Besh says there are two things to keep in mind. First, you have to serve the quintessential New Orleans breakfast dishes—think biscuits, beignets, grits, and grillades (a Creole take on pot roast). Second, "it has to be something you can put together without a big mess." In other words, it can&apost be complicated. With this in mind, Besh created a Mardi Gras brunch that puts the easy in Big Easy. His menu focuses on authentic New Orleans breakfast dishes, but to keep things simple, he serves everything buffet-style and makes most of the dishes in advance. To help set the carnival mood, Besh offers music suggestions and super-simple decorating ideas. For Besh&aposs recipes, tips, and more, read on.
Cooking for My Family: Chef John Besh
New Orleans chef John Besh is making a batch of his mama&aposs seafood gumbo, dropping in smoked pork, sausage, and blue crab he picks from the bayou behind his house. It&aposs a special dish, and the one he prepares for his annual tailgate party at LSU. Besh owns 12 restaurants in or around New Orleans, one in Baltimore, and another in San Antonio. He&aposs also written four cookbooks, including Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes—out September 29. In New Orleans, Besh is a hero. He helped feed bereaved folks after Katrina and has made it his mission to preserve the city&aposs culinary history, one pot of jambalaya at a time. But in his new cookbook, he trades the meticulous technique of a professional kitchen for a more streamlined approach to food—the kind his mother and grandmother used to cook.
He talks of his wife, Jenifer, their four boys, and the daily meals that have become more precious to him over the years. "It all starts at the family table," he explains.
Besh didn&apost set out in search of fame. He took to the kitchen as a boy to help care for his father, Ted, a former pilot who was paralyzed by a drunk driver. He wanted to be able to make his dad breakfast. "My Dad was my hero," he says. "He came back from what happened to him, started another career, and cared for his family. That&aposs who I try to emulate."
Ted Besh died in 2014, but John keeps his dad close to his heart. And he talks to his mom, Imelda, every day. Losing his father last year and his sister Kathleen (in 2006) changed him, he says𠅊nd made him reconsider his priorities. With his oldest son in college at Notre Dame and three others, aged 10 to 14, growing up quickly, making the time to cook for his family, for them all to be present, has taken on a whole new meaning.
"We have a strict no-phone rule at the table," he says. "Even when we gather to enjoy simple meals, we&aposre going to look at each other."
When Besh was growing up, his father would take him out to eat at Mandina&aposs Restaurant on Canal before football games. It was a pregame tradition they followed religiously before heading to Tulane Stadium to cheer for the Saints. Now, apart from the annual party at LSU he hosts for longtime friends, tailgating at home in Slidell (40 minutes north of New Orleans) is much more his speed.
The menu remains fairly consistent. "With jambalaya, you can easily make enough to serve 50 to 100 people," he says. "And with gumbo and étouffພ, you can get a head start by prepping the broth in advance, adding oysters and shrimp later." He serves the food family style in his huge open kitchen, encouraging his guests to stir the pot between plays.
Nothing formal here. Just good food and football. "Tailgating is one way we share love with one another, regardless of the team. But I sure hope LSU wins."
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
14 tablespoons cold butter, diced, plus more for buttering the pan
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.
Beignets Recipe | Cook the Book
When it comes to eating, my policy can be roughly translated to carpe diem—I never want to miss out on a potentially delicious experience. Sadly, this was not the case when I visited New Orleans a number of years ago. I was a strict vegetarian then, and that meant that I missed out on almost all of the city's culinary offerings. I can't recall what I ate on that trip, but I can assure you it did not include gumbo, po'boys, or even red beans and rice for fear that there might be meat lurking somewhere in the mix.
The one and only eating experience that does resonate is beignets and chicory coffee at Café du Monde. The beignets were light, sweet, and incredibly messy from the heavy dusting of powdered sugar they were finished with. They were entirely memorable.
It had been a while since I thought about those ethereal beignets, and then I came upon John Besh's recipe in My New Orleans.
I decided to try Besh's version and see how they measured up to the beignets I had at Café du Monde. The dough was a simple affair, not too different from a yeasted dough used to make doughnuts. My attempt ended up a little less lacy and airy than the ones that I had eaten in New Orleans, but the flavors were all there and the beignets were crisp and almost caramelized on the outside and light within—just as messy and satisfying.
The Chew: John Besh’s Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya Recipe
The Chew’s Mardi Gras party would not be complete without John Besh, one of New Orleans’ most acclaimed chefs and restauranteurs. John’s food is a celebration of New Orleans culture, and what’s more traditional than a delicious, flavorful bowl of jambalaya? John headed into the kitchen with his friend Michael Symon to share his Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Jambalaya Recipe.
New Orleans chef John Besh shared his Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya Recipe.
The Chew Jambalaya Ingredients
- 1/2 pound diced Bacon
- 1 1/2 pounds diced Andouille Sausage
- 3 tablespoons Lard
- 1 pound fresh Pork Sausage (removed from casings)
- 4 skinless boneless Chicken Thighs (roughly cut into 1-inch cubes)
- Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
- 1 large diced Onion
- 2 Bell Peppers (seeded and diced)
- 3 stalks diced Celery
- 3 minced Garlic Cloves
- 2 cups converted Louisiana White Rice
- 1 teaspoon dried Thyme
- 2 dried Bay Leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Pimenton de la Vera or smoked Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Celery Salt
- 2 cups Canned Crushed Tomatoes
- 2 cups Basic Chicken Stock
- 1 1/2 pounds Louisiana White Shrimp (or other wild American shrimp peeled and deveined)
- 1 bunch chopped Green Onions
John Besh Jambalaya Directions
- Heat a large dutch oven over high heat until hot, then reduce the heat.
- Render the bacon with the sausages and lard in the hot pot, stirring with a long wooden spoon. Meanwhile, season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add chicken to the pot, stirring, and cook 5 minutes until chicken is golden brown.
- Then add onions and allow to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add celery, garlic, and bell peppers, cooking for about 5 minutes. Continue stirring so that ingredients cook evenly.
- Then add rice, thyme, bay leaves, pimenton, cayenne, celery salt, and salt and pepper. Stir often and cook for 3 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and add tomatoes and chicken stock, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, season with the shrimp with salt and pepper. Save along with green onions to be added at the last minute.
- When rice is done, remove the lid from the pot and add shrimp and green onions. Turn off the heat and let cook in the covered pot for an addition 10 minutes. Remove lid, fluff the jambalaya, and serve.
About Loren DiBlasi
After my childhood dream of achieving Olympic figure skating gold fell through, I moved on to Plan B: become a writer. I've been writing since I can remember, and consider myself lucky to be making a career out of it. I graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in 2011, and since that time, I have worked as a writer, editor and blogger. Luckily for this site, my love of TV borders on obsession.
He may own some of the finest restaurants in New Orleans, but Chef John Besh still makes a mean po'boy!
[image mediaId='1b0f2098-523d-4e31-b9d5-bd201805a664' loc='C'][/image]Specialty: Louisiana-Style Cuisine
Chef Besh grew up hunting and fishing on the Louisiana bayou, but an early interest in food eventually led him to formal training at the Culinary Institute of America. Afterwards, Besh spent time cooking in various hotels in Germany and France.
The chef's talent was noticed early in his career. Thanks to his work at Artesia, he was named one of the country's Top Ten Best Chefs of 1999 by Food & Wine. Among other accolades, Besh won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006.
Besh's booming career was abruptly interrupted when, as a noncommissioned officer of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, he was called upon to lead an infantry squad in combat during Operation Desert Storm.
Dedication to his country and community was further demonstrated when Besh served rice and red beans to relief workers after Hurricane Katrina. He also participated in "Po'Boy Power!," an event organized by chefs in Washington D.C. Thanks to the efforts of Besh and others, they raised over $27,000 in two hours for the hurricane relief effort.
Chef Besh opened a cluster of restaurants, including the elegant Restaurant August, stylish Besh Steak, and traditional Luke in New Orleans, which helped rebuild the city after the hurricane. La Provence in Lacombe, Louisiana, was acquired from his legendary mentor, Chef Chris Kerageorgiou.
An active spokesman for the Louisiana Seafood Council and a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, Besh has made close friends in the local farming and fishing communities. Thanks to those connections as well as his own farm, seasonal and local ingredients are showcased regularly in Besh's dishes. Currently the chef is also working on a line of artisanal butters.
Fun fact: John Besh and his chef friends go bullfrog hunting in the summer every other week &mdash extra frogs are delivered to the restaurants where they often appear as specials.
John Besh: Rachael Ray Grandmother’s Fried Chicken Recipe Directions
- Generously season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
- Combine flour with garlic powder and onion powder.
- Dip chicken in milk.
- Dredge chicken in flour mix to coat.
- Heat oil 2” deep to 350 F in a skillet.
- Fry chicken in batches, being careful not to add additional pieces too quickly.
- Wait a few minutes before adding each piece. Do not overcrowd the pan.
- Fry the chicken, covered, about 11 minutes.
- Turn pieces over and cook another seven to nine minutes.
- Drain on paper towels and season with salt.
About Pat Howard
Pat Howard is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. He was born with a remote control in his hand, and is grateful to finally have a haven at Recapo for his pathological love of daytime television.