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My New Orleans: The Cookbook Hardcover – September 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description

My New Orleans will change the way you look at New Orleans cooking and the way you see World-famous chef John Besh. It's 16 chapters of culture, history, essay and insight, and pure goodness. Besh tells us the story of his New Orleans by the season and by the dish. Archival, four-color, location photography along with ingredient information make the Big Easy easy to tackle in home kitchens. Cooks will salivate over the 200 recipes that honor and celebrate everything New Orleans.

Bite by bite John Besh brings us New Orleans cooking like we've never tasted before. It's the perfect blend of contemporary French techniques with indigenous Southern Louisiana products and know-how. His amazing new offering is exclusively brought to fans and foodies everywhere by Andrews McMeel.

From Mardi Gras, to the shrimp season, to the urban garden, to gumbo weather, boucherie (the season of the pig), and everything tasty in between, Besh gives a sampling of New Orleans that will have us all craving for more.

The boy from the Bayou isn't just an acclaimed chef with an exceptional palate. Besh is a chef with a heart. The ex-marine's passion for the Crescent City, its people, and its livelihood are main courses making him a leader of the city's culinary recovery and resilience after the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.

An Introduction to My New Orleans from John Besh

Dear Friends,

This book is the story of a dreamy, starry-eyed boy brought up in the shadows of New Orleans, surrounded by cypress knees and tupelo trees, good dinners and great friends. My life has been dramatically shaped by our multicultural heritage. Everything that I cook and eat, see and smell, reminds me of where I come from and more or less dictates where I’m going.

I grew up in Slidell, Louisiana, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. My childhood revolved around the lake, and I spent many hours shrimping in its waters and fishing along its shores. I learned to cook from my mom and my grandmother, and from the men I hunted with, who held that if you hunt it and kill it, a boy like me had better know how to clean it and cook it. Ours was a house of great food--we celebrated everything from births to deaths around great food. My ideas of New Orleans's cooking come directly from the New Orleans table. My cooking draws on decades of learning and mastering cooking techniques that I felt certain would help me years down the road. I restlessly search my mind's catalog of everything I've ever tasted or cooked, so that when I see a tomato at its ripest state, my mind runs through literally thousands of preparations that could work for this here tomato. Some people may look up in the sky and notice a mallard duck, but I see a slow-roasted duckling with lots of hearty herbs, cooked down in a gravy and served over rice.

My goal in launching Restaurant August in 2001 was to have a world-class place that could compete with the great restaurants of New Orleans. But Katrina, of course, changed everything. When the aftermath of that devastating storm threatened our fishermen and farmers, our shrimpers and oystermen, it seemed urgent to help preserve and protect our unique culinary heritage, its local ingredients, and its authentic culture.

After Katrina, being from New Orleans became the focus of my identity. The truth is I am from here and I cook from here--our ingredients and our traditions. I believe our city is a true national treasure: We have one of the few native urban cultures--and cuisines—that still thrives in this country. I cook New Orleans food my way, revering each ingredient as it reaches the ripeness of its season, which is how My New Orleans: The Cookbook unfolds, from Crawfish to Reveillon. No other place on earth is like New Orleans. Welcome to the flavors of my home.

John Besh

From My New Orleans: Drew's Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Throughout this book, I've had a great deal to say about making the roux that's the base of our gumbo--and the other steps as well--but I'll recap it here so that it can be useful every time you start to make our signature dish. Yes, there are other thickeners besides flour that folks use for making their roux, but to my palate, only a flour-based roux yields that traditional flavor. As for the fats in a roux, just about anything works. I love rendered duck fat, chicken fat, or lard, but canola oil works nearly as well.

I always heat the oil first and whisk the flour into the hot oil. Not only does this speed up the process; it yields that deep, dark chocolate-colored gumbo I love. I always add the onions first to the dark roux, holding back the rest of the vegetables until the onion caramelizes. Otherwise, the water in the vegetables will keep the onion from browning and releasing its sweet juices. I like to add file powder to the gumbo, then pass it at the table, too. Serve the gumbo hot with Louisiana rice; serve potato salad on the side, if you like. --John Besh

(Serves 10-12)

  • 1 cup rendered chicken fat or canola oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons Creole Spices
  • 2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 ounces andouille sausage, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced fresh okra
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Filé powder
  • Tabasco
  • 4–6 cups cooked white rice


1. Make a roux by heating the chicken fat or 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 glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

2. Season the chicken with Creole Spices. Add the chicken to the pot, raise heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until browned, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, Chicken 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 the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

4. Add the andouille, okra, and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat off the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé at the table.


Besh captures the Crescent City's food culture so passionately it's hard to resist. (Boston Globe)

My New Orleans is a beautiful book and certainly coffee-table-worthy, but it's also a wonderful read, chock-full of fascinating information about authentic Louisiana ingredients and traditional seasonal celebrations.  (Austin Chronicle)

My New Orleans: The Cookbook is a must-own for anyone who loves the food and traditions of New Orleans and South Louisiana.  (Judy Blaising, Dallas Morning News)

This vast and glossy book combines recipes, food history and civic pride. It's big, bright and richly detailed: the definitive New Orleans cookbook that's always been lacking.  (Julia Moskin, The New York Times)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0740784137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0740784132
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.6 x 11.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Besh is a chef and a native son dedicated to the culinary riches of southern Louisiana. In his restaurants, entrepreneurial pursuits, and public activities, he preserves and promotes ingredients, techniques, and heritage one mouth-watering dish at a time.

Besh grew up in southern Louisiana and has set the benchmark for fine dining in New Orleans - a town whose identity is bound to its food. Each of his eight acclaimed restaurants (August, Besh Steak, Lüke, La Provence, American Sector, The Soda Shop, Domenica and Lüke San Antonio) celebrates the bounty and traditions of the region.

From the outset of his career, Besh's talent and drive have earned him continuous kudos: Food & Wine named him one of the "Top 10 Best New Chefs in America" and his flagship restaurant August has featured on the late great Gourmet magazine's "Guide to America's Best Restaurants" and "America's Top 50 Restaurants." Local publications keeping close tabs on the dining scene, like The Times-Picayune and New Orleans City Business, have applauded all his other restaurants as they have won the hearts and palates of discriminating diners. He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006, and was awarded Food Arts' Silver Spoon Award in 2009 for revitalizing the culinary legacy of New Orleans. John Besh is a frequent guest chef on the NBC Today Show and has appeared on top programs on The Food Network and the Sundance Channel.

Besh's devotion to local ingredients and cuisine also extends to his entrepreneurial projects, including the creation of Besh Restaurant Group Catering; the launch of a line of gourmet products; the publication of his first cookbook, My New Orleans (Andrews McMeel Publishing, October 2009) and the follow-up cookbook, My Family Table (Andrews McMeel Publishing, November 2011).

A former U.S. Marine, Besh is proud to have partnered with Baton Rouge-based emergency reconstruction specialists Arkel International, for which he creates high quality ready-to-eat meals for distribution to thousands of emergency response teams and sustained strategic operations in the U.S. and around the world; the novel initiative promotes the Gulf Coast's food culture as it elevates the Louisiana economy. In recognition of such far-reaching contributions, the Louisiana Restaurant Association named him Restaurateur of the Year in 2008.

His sense of culinary and cultural stewardship and responsibility led him to create the John Besh Foundation in 2011, and the Chefs Move! scholarship program, which awards a scholarship to a minority student in New Orleans who has shown promise in the culinary arts. Another initiative of the Foundation is a micro-loan program to local farmers.

Whether served as far afield as North Africa or the Middle East, or by his own hands in one of his New Orleans restaurants, a meal created by John Besh is a thoughtful, flavorful, meaningful delight.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 85 people found the following review helpful By rodboomboom HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My cookbook collection is now easily swelling towards and maybe even above 400 now. Out of all of them it is fun every now and then to reflect on say, the Top 25. This new offering from Besh makes that list, possibly even climbing into the coveted Top 10. Requirements, you ask? Must be unique, well thought out, with specific viewpoint of cooking expressed and followed through, good layout, writing, photos, and oh, yes: great recipe collection!

Besh meets this criteria well. What this reviewer really enjoys is the fine prose which speaks of his heart and passion for New Orleans cooking which he has grown up with and matured and developed. His wanting to be sustaining restaurants is an extension and promotion as he has entered into ventures raising his own pigs, helping local suppliers provide what is needed by such gourmet chefs, e.g. great story on the Creole Tomato Supplier. The format is large and photos are wonderful, with small historical B&W vingettes scattered throughout. This makes for great kitchen usage, as it stays open from its size and well chosen luxurious paper stock. This is not your coffee table type cookbook intended, but get it in the kitchen and put it to work.

I sometimes enter gourmet phases and stay there for awhile, e.g. my Crepes phase, or my Tapas phase of late, or an ingredient phase such as my fascination with Pears. This offering from the Big Easy has certainly propelled me on a New Orleans phase, which not even Emeril's fine offerings has. First B.E. venture was Crabmeat and Frog Etouffee (with Lou. frog legs flown in fresh), a Grilled Watermelon, Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad; Smoked Pork Shoulder with Purple Plum Glaze; then polished off with wonderful but Old-Fashioned Blackberry Double-Crusted Blackberry Pie.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Robert Chin on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Believe it or not, this is only my second cookbook -- the first being Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques that I purchased ten years ago. I was inspired earlier this year by my first trip to New Orleans, where I had the most amazing grits I have every tasted at a restaurant of his called Lüke (the secret is mascarpone, as is revealed in this cookbook). I've cooked six or seven recipes out of this book since it arrived two weeks ago, and they are all tasty and easy to follow. Truthfully the details about making roux (I'm from California, we don't have roux here!) were quite useful, and I've now been able to incorporate roux into several of my own creations, with great success. The anecdotes and stories are quite entertaining and fun to read: my only criticism being that they are too engaging and they distract me from actually cooking!

You can tell that a lot of time went into preparing these recipes, as Chef John Besh always addresses substitutions for ingredients that may not be easily available locally; the recipes hold up well to making your own substitutions: substituted in stone ground whole wheat flour in many of the recipes I made, and when I cooked the corn bread recipe, instead of corn meal I used McEwen and Sons stone ground blue grits that I had soaked in half and half (I ran out of milk) to soften them up before baking (if you're like me, you'll be trying finding ways to finish up those 10 lbs of grits you had to purchase online in order to get free shipping...) in hindsight I probably should have ordered grits and corn meal rather than one bag of blue and one bag of yellow grits to see which ones taste better (!). The recipes are also quite varied, even including recipes for matzo crackers and matzo ball soup -- now I know what to make next time I am invited to a sader.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Pierson on September 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Oh what an incredible book! I have never been to New Orleans and now it is the only place I want to be. Some chefs capture the essence of a cuisine - Chef Besh does that and also manages to capture the essence of a city, a culture, a community, a way of life. Is it possible that I have lived without making or tasting Strawberry Ravioli with Meyer Lemons and Pistachios? Can my life be complete without Silver Queen Corn, Orzo, and Crabmeat Macque Choux? Of course the answer is no. Forget Julie and Julia - it's me and John Besh. I want to cook every recipe.

Chef Besh's passion for what he calls "roots and rituals" comes across loud and clear on every page. Funny how love, as an ingredient, makes everything taste even better.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Lauren C. Sanders on September 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Beautiful! As a native New Orleanian, I have been waiting for someone to capture the wonderful energy that is happening in our city. Most cookbooks on the region are tacky and stuck in tradition. Thank you Andrews McNeal Publishing for seeing the beauty and potential in this city and for hiring such a talented design crew to art direct, photograph (Ditte Isager, the perfect photographer to pick for this assignment by the way) and capture such an amazing place. It is great to see our food, our personalities, our recipes, new and old, portrayed in a such an accurate, artful and inspiring way. This does our city proud! The food styling, the light, the words, and the recipes, the smells, and the textures will make you glisten like the light after an afternoon rain in South Louisiana.
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