Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cookbook Thursday: Chef John Besh's new cookbook 'Besh Big Easy' a favorite at my house

            Heavens rejoice, New Orleans Chef John Besh has published a new cookbook!
Although you can certainly savor “Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes,” admiring the gorgeous photos of food, markets and long-time establishments such as Angelo Brocato’s, it’s also more cook friendly than his past coffee table productions. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
            I’m a cookbook lover, wallpapering my house with bookshelves of Louisiana cookbooks, fascinated by our unique techniques and styles, the fabulous photos and essays. Which my family finds quite humorous since cooking is not my forte. I can make a great gumbo, for instance, because I’m innovative with Cajun Power gumbo starter in a jar. I’m a wiz with those excellent frozen risotto packages from Trader Joe’s; add a few ingredients and viola! But open a John Besh cookbook and create with a massive list of ingredients? Not in my time-constrained life.
            Now, Besh is speaking my language. Apparently, he has the same issues with time now that he’s a dad.
            “I cooked at home like a chef, often bringing in hard-to-find ingredients from my restaurants, cooking delicious renditions of the traditional dishes of New Orleans, but with a deliberate, chef’s spin on them,” Besh writes in the introduction. “Today, I cook more like a scruffy, grizzly, bearded dad.”
            In other words, I’m going to actually cook from this book.
            Here’s some lagniappe to go with those 101 recipes: a list of “Big Easy ingredients” to have in your pantry, Besh’s advice accompanying every recipe, metric conversions and beautiful photos by Maura McEvoy. There’s even a handy index in back that explains where these brilliant photos were taken, places such as Central Grocery and Leidenheimer’s bakery. Talk about a great gift for the New Orleanian in your life! (Note: Christmas list!)
            Recipes include many Louisiana favorites, such as corn macque choux, wild duck and tasso jambalaya, gumbos, grandma’s fried chicken and those seafood dishes Louisiana is famous for. Many recipes require few ingredients to perfect a tasty dish, such as field peas in pot liquor or Creole stuffed bell peppers. And then there’s a few innovative dishes that set taste buds firing like Duck Camp shrimp and grits, seared venison with fig preserves and a luscious blueberry pie (you have to see the photo to truly appreciate why I included it here). Also, Besh’s new book includes plenty of great oyster recipes for Thanksgiving.
            Here’s a simple recipe that’s also healthy and delicious, one that even time-starved freelance writers like yours truly can accomplish. With all this great fall weather in Louisiana — not to mention football — it’s time to crank out the grill.

Grilled Redfish with Herb Garlic Butter
From “Besh Big Easy” by Chef John Besh
2 redfish filets, skin and scales on
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Herb garlic butter (recipe below)
            Directions: Heat a grill to medium high. Season the filets with salt and pepper on the flesh side. Place the filets skin-side down on the grill, cover the grill, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the flesh begins to lift from the skin.
            Slice the herb garlic butter and place over the fish filets in a very generous manner. Leave the fish on the grill for about a minute or two, until the butter begins to soften. Using two spatulas, transfer the filets to a serving platter. Carefully spoon the melted butter over the filets and serve.

Herb Garlic Butter
1/2 pounds butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
            Directions: Combine the butter, lemon juice, parsley, tarragon, green onion, garlic and pepper flakes in a blender and process until well combined. Wrap the butter in plastic wrap and roll it into a tight cylinder; chill until firm, at least an hour.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “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 also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at