As many of you might know, I spent several years in New Orleans, one cooking in the Quarter, even. New Orleans is a spectacular city -- so diverse, open, and interesting, with layers of influences that add special flavor to its architecture, language, and of course: food.
New Orleans is a city that lives and breathes food. From Johnny’s to Mother's, Domilise, Acme, Galatoires, Dooky’s, Mandina's, and of course Commander's, it’s a city with instantly recognizable restaurants that span from joints to fine dining. It’s a city characterized by nuanced foods that draw from myriad cuisines and yield a kitchen that truly is greater than the sum of its parts. But all that did not prepare me for the majesty that is John Besh’s My New Orleans: The Cookbook!
This is a tome; it’s a bible, with a bit of food porn thrown in for good measure. The recipes run from the required (Mom’s Redfish Cu-boo-yon!), to the expected (Shrimp Creole), to the I’ve gotta try that (Chanterelles, Chicken, and Dumplings)! I love this book. It’s a keeper and I look forward to working my way through the various chapters that group recipes (for oysters, for example) together for easy reference. Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Meet John BeshJohn Besh grew up in Southern Louisiana and his cooking is deeply rooted in the traditions and flavors of the Bayou. At an early age he learned the essentials of Louisiana’s rich culinary traditions working in commercial kitchens. He followed his palate around the world exploring the far-flung ingredients that now infuse his French cuisine at Restaurant August.
Buy My New Orleans: The Cookbook
Shrimp CreoleTraditionally a roux-and-tomato-based dish, Shrimp Creole in my new version has Vietnamese influences; it’s spicy and sweet, full of herbs and flavor. Any ultraripe tomatoes will work. The amounts given feed a typical Sunday supper at my house; for six to eight, halve the ingredients, but don’t worry too much: there’s a lot of forgiveness.
Click here for a PDF of the full recipe. Serves 12-15
5 pounds jumbo Louisiana or wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
½ cup olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bell pepper, red, green, or yellow, seeded and diced
5 pounds overripe Brandywine or other heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 2 branches fresh basil, chopped
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
6–8 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice
Put the shrimp into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then mix in the lemongrass. Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large deep skillet over moderate heat. Add the shrimp, stirring and tossing them with a spatula. Sauté until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside while you make the sauce. Into the same skillet with the oil and shrimp juices, put the remaining ¼ cup oil and the onions, garlic, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and when the sauce comes to a simmer add the bay leaf, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp back to the skillet along with the basil and mint. Cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tart, add a little sugar to balance the flavor. Remove the bay leaf. Serve over steamed Louisiana white rice.