Chef John Besh's new (and hefty) cookbook, My New Orleans, isn't what you'd call linear: Its 16 chapters jump from seasons and holidays to the seemingly incongruous "Chanterelles and Blackberries," weaving in tales of smoking with his priest and trolling for crawfish.
But that just adds to its charm. After all, the Big Easy is nothing if not unconventional, eccentric--and a tad backward.
And, thankfully, the cookbook steers clear of pre-Katrina reminiscing: In fact, NOLA's preeminent restaurateur says the storm was a wake-up call for the city's dining scene. Besh writes about how the city's flagship restaurants had grown complacent, and that the farm-to-table movement had yet to catch on in New Orleans. "I don't know if I was getting soft, but the storm awoke a drive I hadn't known since combat," writes the former Marine.
My New Orleans is also infinitely practical. It's a cookbook about home cooking, not fussy restaurant fare. Besh demonstrates how to make today's leftovers into tomorrow's meal--and extra bits and pieces into stocks that will add depth of flavor to meals months down the road.
But before you get started re-creating Besh's recipes at home, you need some Creole seasoning in your pantry. Although ready-made spices can be purchased, they tend to be too salty and often taste stale. Here, Besh's formula for a NOLA staple:
John Besh's Creole Seasoning
Recipe adapted from My New Orleans
Makes about ½ cup
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon allspice
Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.