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My New Orleans

Author Photograph of John Besh About John Besh

John Besh grew up in Southern Louisiana and his cooking is deeply rooted in the traditions and flavors of the Bayou. At an early age he learned the essentials of Louisiana’s rich culinary traditions working in commercial kitchens. He followed his palate around the world exploring the far-flung ingredients that now infuse his French cuisine at Restaurant August. Besh attended the Culinary Institute of America and following apprenticeships in Germany and France, he led a squad of infantry Marines in combat during Operation Desert Storm as a non-commissioned officer of the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

Since Hurricane Katrina Besh has changed the way America thinks about food. He has renewed his previous commitment to buying locally to help invigorate the city and a food culture he loves. He served over 3,000 meals daily to the St. Bernard Parrish civil servants and workers of local refineries and has helped to rebuild the venerable Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the Treme neighborhood. He has also served as educational director of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, is a member of the Southern Food Alliance and has served as a board member of the Southern Food and Beverage Association. In 1999 Food & Wine magazine named John Besh one of the “Top 10 Best Chefs in America”. In 2006 the James Beard named Besh the “Best Chef, Southeast” and he was victorious as the first New Orleans Chef to compete against Mario Batali on Food Network’s Iron Chef. Gourmet has ranked Restaurant August 22nd in its “Top 50 Restaurants in the United States” and Zagot has named it a “Top 40 Restaurant in the U.S.” He also recently received the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s 2008 Restaurateur of the Year award. His other restaurants in New Orleans are Besh Steak in Harrah's New Orleans Casino, Lüke, La Provence, Domenica, and The American Sector.

Several of the recipes pictured below (Pear Tart, Biscuits, Jambalaya, plus a Shrimp dish that is not pictured) can be downloaded in a pdf--see the bottom of this page.

Pear Tart Dish Biscuit Dish Jambalaya Dish Duck Dish

Grandmother Walters' Biscuits

Makes about 1 dozen

I believe the secret to my grandmother Grace’s biscuits is that she would talk to them, saying, “Rise, Mr. Biscuit, rise!” And they would. Her buttermilk biscuits were quite similar to these, made with whole milk, but sometimes she’d substitute buttermilk and use baking soda instead of baking powder.

I find that biscuits made with European-style high-fat butter have less water and therefore taste and look a lot better. After you have made the dough, carefully pat it down with your hands and fold it over two or three times; it’s the layers that make biscuits so flaky. Let the dough rest for half an hour or so, roll it out to the thickness you like, then cut it into circles and bake it.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter, preferably European style, diced
  • 1 cup whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a mixing bowl. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the fl our until it resembles cornmeal. Add the milk, stirring until the dough just comes together to form a ball.

2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Gently pat the dough down with your hands and fold it over on itself. Pat the dough down and fold it over once or twice more. Loosely cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for a half hour or so.

3. Being careful not to overwork the dough, roll it out until it is 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut dough into biscuits using whatever cutter you like. Grandmother used an inverted juice glass, which was really an old preserves jar. For more biscuits, use a smaller glass.

4. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake until uniformly golden brown, 10–14 minutes.

Biscuit Making 1 Biscuit Making 2

Copyright © 2009 by John Besh. Reprinted from My New Orleans with permission from Andrews McMeel.

Click here to download this recipe along with three additional bonus recipes.

My New Orleans For a detailed description & pricing information click here.

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. More...

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