Saturday, November 26, 2011

John Besh scores with new cookbook

            Chef John Besh, owner of seven acclaimed New Orleans restaurants, offers simplistic yet flavorful advice in his new cookbook, a tome to entice readers to enjoy fine foods at home. “My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking” is a gorgeous coffee table book filled with recipes, photos of John and his family, plus engaging food dishes. Besh’s reason for publishing a book that may keep people out of his restaurants is for Americans to return to the family table with simple but healthy meals, free from processed foods and hormones.
            “Our food world today is a cacophony of mass-produced this and instant that, of genetically modified vegetables and prepared, processed, point-and-click meals,” Besh writes in the book’s introduction. “I urge you to set aside manufactured convenience and to cook real food instead. You’ll be amazed at what this elemental act does — not only for the people you feed, but for you as well.”
            The “passionate plea” is evident when you open the book, greeted by a Norman Rockwell-esque holiday meal with John at the helm. Perusing these pages of “Sunday Supper” pecan-baked ham or learning how to cook potato chip-crusted drum with sambal mayonnaise accented by photos of South Louisiana living will make anyone want to relive a simpler time of slow food and good company. Interspersed in the recipes and photos are Besh’s reminiscenses of learning life lessons from grandparents, enjoying one-pot meals and teaching his son to cook.
            The bottom line, Besh stresses, is to make cooking for the enjoyment of all and not relegated to the elaborate creations of TV chefs.“If we as humans are to continue to evolve as a civilized society, we most certainly must find the time to slow down, to figure out how to make time to cook and eat with each other,” Besh writes. “This kind of communication is more fulfilling and more satisfying than anything that goes out through the airwaves.” Here’s a fun and easy recipe to try:

Marinated Crab Fingers
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Few pinches Zatarain’s crab boil or Old Bay seasoning
2 dashes Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound crab fingers
Directions: Whisk together all of the ingredients for the marinade and toss with the crab fingers about 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve.

I'll be reviewing cookbooks all this week so check back every day for a new cookbook review and recipe!

Book events this week
The UL Press Annual Holiday Book Sale will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the UL Alumni Center, 600 E. St. Mary Blvd. on the UL campus, and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at Bourque’s Social Club, 1109 St. Mary St. in Scott. There will be new releases, clearance titles, signed copies and complimentary refreshments, tote bag and giftwrapping. Every title will be discounted by at least 20% off of the regular retail price.
Warren Perrin will sign copies of “Vermilion Parish” from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at New to You, 117 S. Main St. in Abbeville, as part of the Abbeville Christmas Stroll in Abbeville.
James Nolan will read from and sign his novel “Higher Ground” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave. in Metairie. He will also sign at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Latter Memorial Library in New Orleans.
Ken Meaux, illustrator of “Tout Bec Doux,” will share stories from the book in between acts at the “Rendez-Vous Des Cajuns” radio and TV show beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Liberty Theater in Eunice.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at