My New Orleans

SEAFOOD GUMBO

Serving: 10

By: Chef John Besh

I’m a seafood gumbo snob! I look for two things: the first is a deep shellfish flavor, which I accomplish by allowing quartered crabs to cook for at least 45 minutes before I even think of adding any other seafood. Second, I’m looking for the seafood—shrimp, crabmeat, and oysters—to be perfectly tender (not overcooked) precisely as the gumbo is served. So plan ahead, and add the seafood accordingly.

For the Gumbo:
1 cup canola oil
1 cup flour
2 large onions, diced
6 jumbo blue crabs, each cut into 4 pieces
1 pound spicy smoked sausage links, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh okra, sliced
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
3 quarts Basic Shellfish Stock
2 bay leaves
1 pound medium Louisiana or wild American shrimp
1 cup shucked oysters
1 cup lump crabmeat
1 cup minced green onions
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Basic Creole Spices
Worcestershire
Tabasco
4–6 cups Basic Louisiana White Rice, cooked

Basic Creole Spices:
2 tablespoons celery salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Basic Shellfish Stock:
1/4 cup canola oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 leek, white part, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound shrimp shells
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Basic Louisiana White Rice:
1 tablespoon chicken fat, extra-virgin olive oil, or butter
1 small onion, minced
1 ½ cups Louisiana long-grain white rice
3 cups Basic Chicken Stock
1 bay leaf
1-2 pinches salt

FOR THE GUMBO
Make a roux by heating the oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the roux is a rich, dark brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the blue crabs and smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, garlic, and okra. Increase the heat to moderate and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, Shellfish Stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off any fat from the surface of the gumbo.

Add the shrimp, oysters, crabmeat, and green onions to the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, Creole Spices, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Serve in bowls over rice.

BASIC CREOLE SPICES
Makes ½ cup

Using this spice blend is truly the easiest way to consistently achieve the flavors I grew up with. Once combined, the spices will last for six months in an airtight container.

BASIC SHRIMP STOCK
Makes 6 cups

Heat the canola oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Cook the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic, stirring often, until they are soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. 

Add the shrimp shells, the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and 3 quarts water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until the stock has reduced by half, about 2 hours. 

Strain through a fine sieve into a container with a cover. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Freeze the stock in small batches to use later.

BASIC LOUISIANA WHITE RICE
Makes about 4 Cups

The recipe will work with most long-grain rices, including Popcorn Rice. Save some of the fat skimmed from your chicken stock to perfume the rice with many wonderful flavors.

Put the fat, oil, or butter and the onions into a medium saucepan and sweat the onions over moderate heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour the rice into the pan and stir for 2 minutes. Then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and salt.

Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.

 

MALLARD DUCK BREAST WITH PEPPERS AND BACON

SERVING: 4-6
By: Chef John Besh

We use this recipe with many meats, such as squab or venison. Be sure not to cook the duck beyond medium rare; it tends to be dry. Don’t cook the duck skewers in advance; have them ready for the grill, and cook when you’re about to serve.

From "My New Orleans: The Cookbook," by John Besh / Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC

1/4 cup sugarcane vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 shallots, minced
3/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons pecan oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 whole boneless, skinless mallard or Pekin duck breasts, sliced across the breast into strips about 1/2 inch thick
6–9 strips of thick-cut bacon, cut in half crosswise
3 pickled jalapeños, thinly sliced lengthwise
12 6-inch wooden skewers, soaked in water

Whisk the vinegar, sugar, and shallots together in a large bowl; gradually add the oils, whisking constantly. Season the marinade with salt and pepper. Add the strips of duck to the bowl and marinate for 30 minutes.

Lay a piece of bacon out on a work surface. Place a strip of duck on top of (and perpendicular to) the bacon and a piece of jalapeño on top of the duck. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap the bacon around the duck and jalapeño and slide a wooden skewer through to secure the roll. Repeat the process with the remaining bacon, duck, and jalapeños, seasoning each with salt and pepper. Discard the marinade.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Meanwhile, wrap the ends of the skewers with aluminum foil to protect them from burning while on the grill.

Grill the duck skewers until the bacon crisps and has rendered its fat, and the duck is medium, 5–7 minutes.

 

SALAD OF GRILLED BOBWHITE QUAIL AND CHANTERELLES

Serving: 6
By: Chef John Besh

"Be careful not to overcook the mushrooms; just heating them up will soften them considerably. Then toss them in the sherry vinaigrette. Use whatever wild mushrooms you can find, but nothing beats the woodsy, peppery aroma of dainty chanterelles."

From My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh / Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC6

Semi-boneless bobwhite quail
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Basic Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette (see below)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups small chanterelle mushrooms
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
1 handful chives, minced
2 cups bitter greens or other tiny lettuce leaves

For the Basic Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal chile paste
1-1/2 cups canola oil
Salt

For the Quail:
Season the quail with salt and pepper and brush on all sides with the Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette. Let marinate for 20 minutes or so. Light a charcoal or gas grill. When the coals have burned down to a moderate heat, grill the quail on both sides until brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium pan over moderate heat. Cook the shallots and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the chanterelles and cook for about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer the chanterelles to a mixing bowl.

Add the sherry vinegar, the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, hazelnut oil, sugar, thyme, and chives to the bowl; toss together until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the chanterelles from the bowl and divide equally between 6 salad plates. Place 1 grilled quail on each plate.

Add the greens to the same mixing bowl and toss to coat in the sherry vinaigrette remaining in the bowl. Divide the greens between the plates.

For the Vinaigrette:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until well combined.

BASIC SHELLFISH PAN SAUCE

SERVING: 1

By: Chef John Besh

Great cooking takes great planning, and my basic pan sauces give you a superbly flavorful way to finish a dish at the last minute. They can be made ahead of time and frozen, just as you'd do with stocks.

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced fennel bulb
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh tarragon
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 cup Basic Shellfish Stock
 

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil in a small skillet over moderate heat. Add the onions, garlic, fennel, and pepper flakes. Cook the vegetables, stirring often, for 3 minutes.

Add the thyme, bay leaf, cream, vermouth, and stock, increase the heat to high, and reduce the sauce by half, 10-12 minutes. Strain sauce.
 

VARIATIONS

Basic Chicken Pan Sauce
Substitute Chicken Stock for Shellfish Stock

Basic Fish Pan Sauce
Substitute Fish Stock for Shellfish Stock

Basic Oyster Pan Sauce
Substitute oyster liquor for Shellfish Stock

Basic Crab Pan Sauce
Substitute Crab Stock for Shellfish Stock

 

OLD-FASHIONED FIG PRESERVES

SERVING: 5-7 Pint Jars
By: Chef John Besh

I love using my granddaddy’s favorite Celeste figs, the most common in our neck of the woods, but just about any fig will work in these preserves. Larger figs should be quartered before the sugar is added.

NOTE: To sterilize the jars, bottles, and lids for all preserves, place them on a rack in a large canning pot, fill with water to the tops of the jars and bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes. Then, use tongs to carefully remove the jars and bottles. Drain them upside down on a clean kitchen towel until ready to fill.
 

INGREDIENTS

5 pounds fresh figs
5 pounds sugar

directions

Wash the figs, then trim off the stem ends. Put the figs into a large pot and cover with the sugar. Allow them to sit at room temperature for about 3 hours.

Heat the figs and the sugar, stirring constantly, over moderate heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to high and bring to a hard boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently boil for 40 minutes, stirring frequently.

The preserves are done when the foam that has formed on the surface dissipates and the syrup coats the back of the spoon. Ladle the figs and syrup into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then place sterilized lids on top and screw on the rings.

Put the filled jars into a canning pot and cover with water at least 2 inches over the jar tops. Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Use tongs to carefully remove the jars from the water; place on a kitchen towel. Allow the jars to cool completely before you move them.

 

SUGAR PLUMS IN SYRUP

SERVING: 8 pint jars

By: Chef John Besh

This is a very easy way to preserve sweet plums and then use them in many ways: I serve the tiny plums with everything from charcuterie to cheese and desserts, and I use the the syrup in a vinegar-based fruit reductions as a sauce for poultry.

NOTE: To sterilize the jars, bottles, and lids for preserves, place them on a rack in a large canning pot, fill with water to the tops of the jars and bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes. Then, use tongs to carefully remove the jars and bottles. Drain them upside down on a clean kitchen towel until ready to fill.

4-1⁄2 cups sugar
8–10 pounds sugar plums or other small plums

Put the sugar and 41⁄2 cups water into a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Pack the sugar plums into hot, sterilized pint jars. Ladle the hot syrup over the plums, leaving 1⁄4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then place sterilized lids on top and screw on the rings.

Use tongs to put the filled jars into a canning pot; cover with water at least 2 inches over the jar tops. Bring to a boil and boil for 20 minutes. Use tongs to carefully remove the jars from the water; place on a kitchen towel. Allow the jars to cool completely before you move them.

WATERMELON PICKLES

By: Chef John 

Between the dark green skin of a watermelon and its pinky flesh lies an often discarded, pale green rind that’s full of possibilities. Seasoned by aromatic spices in a quick boil, these pickles can be served the same way as other pickles, but they are especially fine with pork recipes.

NOTE: To sterilize the jars, bottles, and lids for preserves, place them on a rack in a large canning pot, fill with water to the tops of the jars and bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes. Then, use tongs to carefully remove the jars and bottles. Drain them upside down on a clean kitchen towel until ready to fill.

1 whole medium watermelon
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 star anise
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut the watermelon into manageable pieces. With a vegetable peeler, peel away the outer skin, trim away the pink flesh and save for granita or sorbet, and cube the white rind into 1-inch pieces.

Put 2 cups water, the sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, star anise, fennel seed, peppercorns, and salt into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the watermelon rinds and gently boil until the rinds become tender, about 10 minutes, then remove the saucepan from heat.

Let the watermelon rinds and syrup cool to room temperature in the pot. Pack them into a sterilized jar or two, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Serving: 8

By Chef John Besh

This is the dish I created for The Next Iron Chef at the ambassador’s residence in Paris. It might look complicated, but when you take each component separately, it’s as easy as making biscuits, marinating the berries, and freezing a sorbet.

For the Sauce
1 cup Creole cream cheese or fromage blanc
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
Seeds from half a vanilla bean
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 pinch salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced
3⁄4 cup whole milk 

For the Berries
2 pints strawberries, hulled and diced
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, minced
2 cups sorbet
Powdered sugar

For the sauce, put the Creole cream cheese, heavy cream, vanilla bean seeds, and granulated sugar into a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until well combined. Cover and refrigerate.

For the biscuits, preheat the oven to 400°. Combine 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the texture resembles cornmeal.

Gradually stir in just enough milk for the dough to form a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough, or the biscuits will be tough.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 3⁄4-inch thickness and cut out 8 disks with a 21⁄2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter.

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet at least 1 inch apart and bake until golden brown, 12–15 minutes. Set aside to let cool.

For the berries, toss the berries, granulated sugar, Grand Marnier, and mint together in a medium bowl. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours.

To assemble each shortcake, spoon 1–2 table- spoons of the sauce in the center of a dessert plate. Cut a biscuit in half crosswise and set the bottom half on the sauce, cut side up. Spoon some berries over the biscuit and scoop some sorbet on top. Dust the top half of the biscuit with powdered sugar and lean it jauntily on top of the berries.
 

MAYHAW JELLY

Serving:

By: Chef John Besh

Our Louisiana mayhaws don’t have much juice, and so it takes an awful lot of them to make jelly. (Crabapples are a good substitute.) If you squeeze the fruit juices through the jelly bag or cheese- cloth you’ll have better yield, but the juice will be cloudy. Either way it’ll taste great. Cooking pears are those hard varieties that are better cooked than raw.

NOTE: To sterilize the jars, bottles, and lids for preserves, place them on a rack in a large canning pot, fill with water to the tops of the jars and bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes. Then, use tongs to carefully remove the jars and bottles. Drain them upside down on a clean kitchen towel until ready to fill.

12 pounds mayhaws, halved
5 pounds cooking pears, quartered
5–6 cups sugar, approximately

Put the mayhaws, pears, and enough water to cover the fruit halfway into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over moderate heat until the fruit is very soft, at least 30 minutes.

Transfer the cooked fruit to a jelly bag or a cheese- cloth-lined strainer suspended over a bowl. Allow the juice to drip through the cloth for a couple of hours (or overnight). Measure the juice and pour it back into the cleaned pot. For every cup of juice, add 1⁄2 cup sugar.

Bring the juice to a vigorous boil over high heat. Boil until the juice thickly coats the back of a spoon, 10–20 minutes.

Ladle the jelly into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then place sterilized lids on top and screw on the rings.

Use tongs to put the filled jars into a canning pot of boiling water over high heat. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least 2 inches. Boil for 5 minutes. Use tongs to carefully remove the jars from the water; place on a kitchen towel. Allow the jars to cool completely before you move them.

PEACH JAM

Serving: 8 half-pint jars

By: Chef John Besh

Louisiana peaches are a sweet treat. To enjoy them year-round, my boys and I make this jam and slather it on French toast or roll it up inside a warm crêpe. Using liquid or powdered pectin is an effective shortcut.

NOTE: To sterilize the jars, bottles, and lids for preserves, place them on a rack in a large canning pot, fill with water to the tops of the jars and bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes. Then, use tongs to carefully remove the jars and bottles. Drain them upside down on a clean kitchen towel until ready to fill.

3 cups peeled, pitted, and chopped peaches
1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 cups sugar
6 ounces liquid pectin, or 1.75 ounces powdered pectin

Put the peaches, 11⁄2 cups water, lemon juice, and 5-3⁄4 cups of the sugar into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Mix the remaining 1⁄4 cup sugar with the pectin and stir into the hot jam. Boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat.

Ladle the peaches and juices into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then place sterilized lids on top and screw on the rings.

Use tongs to put the filled jars into a canning pot, and cover with water at least 1 inch over the jar tops. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Use tongs to carefully remove the jars from the water, and place on a kitchen towel. Allow the jars to cool completely before you move them.

LOUISIANA CITRUS POTS DE CRÉME WITH LAVENDER MADELEINES

Serving: 8

By Chef John Besh

 

The best way to eat these lovely custards is to dip into them with hot madeleines fresh out of the oven. Make the pots de crème a day or two in advance; wait until they are completely cooled, then wrap them tightly and store in the refrigerator.


Pots de Crème
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons
1/4 cup fresh orange juice, from satsuma oranges or tangerines
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks

The Madeleines
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
3 eggs
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms
1/2 cup clarified butter, at room temperature
Powdered sugar for dusting

For the pots de crème, preheat the oven to 325°. Put the cream, granulated sugar, citrus juices, orange zest, vanilla, and lemon oil into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often, then immediately reduce the heat to low.

Whisk the whole eggs and the yolks together in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Slowly pour about one-third of the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from curdling. Gradually add the remaining hot cream, whisking constantly.

Strain the custard into 8 pot de crème cups or other small ramekins. Set the cups in a pan and pour enough boiling water into the pan so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the cups. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake the custards until they are fully set, about 30 minutes. Remove the cups from the water bath and set them on a wire rack to let cool. Wrap the pots de crème well and refrigerate them until cold.

For the madeleines, preheat the oven to 450°. Grease the molds of a madeleine cake pan with some of the softened butter and dust the molds with some of the granulated sugar.

Beat the eggs, 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar, and lemon zest together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy and has tripled in volume. Stir in the vanilla. Gently fold in the flour, then the lavender, then the clarified butter.

Fill each madeleine mold two-thirds full with the batter and bake the cakes until golden brown, 7-8 minutes. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let them rest for a minute or two before tipping them out of their molds.

Prepare the madeleine cake pan again with more of the softened butter and granulated sugar and repeat the filling and baking process with the remaining batter, buttering and sugaring the molds with each batch, making approximately 40 madeleines in all.

Serve each pot de crème with a small plate of warm madeleines dusted with powdered sugar. 

GNOCCHI WITH JUMBO LUMP CRABMEAT AND TRUFFLE

SERVING: 6

By: Chef John Besh

 

It's very important to make these dumplings while the potatoes are still hot, so that their heat will cook the egg yolks ; this makes for lighter dumplings because they'll require less flour.  Use just enough flour to form the dough into a ball. Rolling the dough on a grooved board with your thumb makes those sauce-catching indentions on the surface of the gnocchi.

2 medium Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
Salt
1 pinch white pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 cup Basic Crab Pan Sauce
1/2 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
1 small black truffle, shaved
3/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Put the potatoes into a small saucepan, cover with
cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once
boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer
until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork,
about 20 minutes.

Strain the potatoes, return them to the pot, and dry
out the potatoes by shaking them over low heat for a
minute or two. Transfer the potatoes to a potato ricer
or a food mill and press the potatoes through into a
mixing bowl.

Add the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of the butter to
the warm riced potatoes and mix well. Next, fold the
fl our, a pinch of salt and white pepper, and the nutmeg
into the potatoes until a manageable dough is formed.
You may need more fl our or less, depending on the
moisture content of the potatoes.

Separate a fist-size ball of dough from the rest and
gently roll the dough with your hands on a lightly
floured surface until you’ve formed a rope about an
inch thick. Cut into 1-inch lengths, then roll each piece
into a ball. Continue until all the dough is used.

Working quickly, shape dumplings on a gnocchi
board, or gently press each piece with the tines of the
back of a fork to groove the gnocchi.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a gentle
boil over medium-high heat. Drop the gnocchi, in two
batches, into the simmering water. Once the gnocchi
float to the surface, allow them to cook for 30 seconds
more.

While the gnocchi are cooking, heat the Crab Pan
Sauce in a large skillet over moderate heat. Scoop the
cooked gnocchi out of the water with a slotted spoon
and transfer them to the skillet with the Crab Pan
Sauce. Now add the crabmeat, the remaining 2
tablespoons butter, and the truffle slices. Serve
immediately, topping each portion with a little shaved
Parmesan.