New Orleans Chef John Besh not only learned from the best in America, but from many experts in France and Germany. He highlights these mentors and his experience in their kitchens, along with delectable recipes I would love to spend hours creating, in his latest cookbook, “Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way” (Andrews McMeel).
Chapters run the gamut of “lessons”: creating a paella, cooking after a hunt, variations on a potato and making a proper bouillabaisse, among so many others. Readers travel to Marseille for mussels, for a delicate combination of salad ingredients in southern Germany and peaches with Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise from that Provencal town. It’s an admirable undertaking accented by gorgeous photography that would make every foodie on your list squeal with delight.
Besh will sign his cookbook, “Cooking from the Heart,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans and at noon Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Barnes and Noble Lafayette.
For something unique for the holidays, here is a recipe for shrimp, chanterelle and pumpkin risotto from the chapter “The Art of the Table.”
Shrimp, Chanterelle and Pumpkin Risotto
From “Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way” by John Besh
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 sprig fresh rosemary
5-6 cups Basic Chicken Stock
2 cups diced peeled fresh pumpkin
1 pound large wild Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups chanterelles or other wild mushrooms
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks
½ small bunch fresh chives, chopped
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
Directions: Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for another minute. Add the rosemary sprig, cover with 2 cups Chicken Stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add another cup or two of chicken stock and the pumpkin. Stir well, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the pot along with the mushrooms and the remaining chicken stock. Raise the heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Test the rice for doneness: It should be soft, with a slight bite in the center. Remove the sprig of rosemary and fold in the Parmesan, butter, and chives. Season with salt and pepper and scatter thyme leaves on top. Serve immediately.
Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana,” both from The History Press.