Monday, November 16, 2015

Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes by John Besh

There are a lot of things I like about living in Colorado but there are also quite a lot of days I find myself seriously homesick for Louisiana. Days like today, for example. As I write this (very late in the day thanks to things beyond my control) it's dark as night out (and has been for at least the past hour) and we're settling in for what the weather forecast is predicting will be an overnight blizzard.

Um, yeah.

Don't worry, though, we've got firewood AND gumbo ready for a cozy evening.

Yep, the only real way to get through nights like this - in my opinion - is to fix up a taste of home. Nothing cures a case of the blues or the Mondays like a good home cooked meal and I crave the ones I grew up eating. I do try to share the love and invite company over, but just as often I'm asked to recommend a good recipe or cookbook.

I've always had a very special place in my heart for John Besh. I've tuned in to his show (when it's been available here) and rooted for him in Top Chef Masters. I haven't made it to one of his restaurants yet but I do love being able to cook his recipes at home! So when his latest, Besh Big Easy, hit shelves I was pretty stoked. And it's joined the ranks of cookbooks I can honestly recommend to anyone looking to recreate southern Louisiana dishes in their own homes.

Dishes like Besh's Monday's Red Beans and Rice, Cajun Stuffed Pork Chops, and Andrew's Pan-Fried Pork Cutlets are literally the stuff of my childhood. And his Perfect Roast Pork Shoulder with Country Gravy is oh, so reminiscent of my dad's pork roasts! Trout Almondine, shrimp and grits, and stuffed peppers are newer favorites of mine, dishes I didn't try until I was almost in college but became fast favorites. Besh puts his own spin on each, creating versions that are definite winners for this Louisiana girl!

These are, of course, just a small taste of what's inside the book. Other classics like Bananas Foster, Cajun Crawfish Bisque, jamabalaya, and catfish courtboullion are also featured as are the not-to-be-missed New Orleans Shrimp Étouffée and the Quick & Dirty BBQ Shrimp (this is another new favorite and if you haven't had it, you're in for a treat!).

I should note that Besh's cookbook is, as the title says, a book of "New Orleans Recipes." Why the specification? Well I'm from Cajun country and things like gumbo (as Besh notes) differ a bit between the two areas. Mostly thanks to tomatoes: New Orleans gumbos include tomatoes and Cajun ones do not. Tomatoes aside, I can attest to the fact that even Besh's Chicken and Sausage Gumbo is not too far off from my family's recipe (I don't use Worcestershire).

Besh Big Easy is a love letter to New Orleans culture and cuisine. Most of the recipes feature full color photographs of the finished product as well as tips and notes on the recipes that range from childhood reminiscences and info on the dish or specific ingredients to substitutions (Greek yogurt for Creole cream cheese, any white flaky fish in place of Puppy Drum, etc).

I might be a bit of a fangirl for Besh. But it's because he represents my home state so very well! His advocates for Louisiana products, his food is amazing, and his recipes are definitely accessible for the home cook. If you love Cajun and Creole food but haven't tried cooking it yourself, or even if you're just curious about why we Louisianians can't shut up about our food, Besh Big Easy is a pretty darn perfect choice.

Rating: 5/5

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