New Orleans chef John Besh, author of My New Orleans and My Family Table, chats with F&W Facebook fans about his favorite restaurants and preparing incredibly flavorful food at home.
New Orleans Restaurants
When is your favorite time of the year in New Orleans?
Spring. That's when almost all of my favorite foods are in season: shrimp, crab, crawfish, oysters, strawberries and blood oranges. Not to mention Jazz Fest kicks off at the end of April!
What are your insider picks for New Orleans restaurants?
Here are my favorite places!
- Old School New Orleans Fine-Dining Lunch—Galatoires
- Cajun—Bon Ton, Cochon
- Old School Classic Creole—Dooky Chase
- Best Fried Chicken—Willie Mae’s Scotch House
- Po’Boys—Parkway or Banh Mi at Dong Phuong
- Late Night or Breakfast—Camellia Grill
- Diner—American Sector
- Italian—Domenica and 1179
- Breakfast—Lüke or Cake Cafe, Fat Hen
- Quarter Courtyard—Bayona
- Ice Cream—Angelo Brocato’s and La Divina Gelateria
- Dive Bar—Vaughn’s to see Kermit Ruffins on Thursday Night
- Jazz—Snug Harbor
- Live Music—dba, Maple Leaf on Oak Street to see Rebirth on Tuesday nights, anywhere on Frenchmen Street
- Raw Bar—Lüke
Cajun and Creole Cuisine
What is the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine?
In very simplistic terms, think of Cajun as the country cousin to the more cosmopolitan Creole.
What is a good New Orleans dish to prepare for a group on a college student’s budget?
All of our traditional foods like gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice are perfect for stretching the dollar and creating bright, big, bold favors.
What are your favorite Mardi Gras dishes?
One pot meals like jambalaya and gumbo. If it's warm enough, some really really good crawfish too!
How do you like to prepare mirlitons? I hated them as a child, but am willing to give them another shot as an adult.
A classic New Orleans dish is a seafood-stuffed mirliton (a vegetable also known as chayote). You slice the mirliton in half, lengthwise removing the pit, oil them with a touch of olive oil, place flesh side down on a baking sheet and pre-roast them at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour until soft. Then turn them over, stuff them with your favorite crabmeat and shrimp seafood dressing, top with a few breadcrumbs, drizzle with olive oil and bake. THEN tell me you don’t love mirlitons.
Cooking Tips and Ideas
I have 3.5 lbs. of fresh Dungeness Crab. Besides crab cakes and bisque, what suggestions do you have for it?
Anything from making crab ravigote to tossing it with pasta and adding a little bit of cream and black pepper, a dash of pernod or tarragon and a squeeze of meyer lemon along with a little meyer lemon zest. You’ve got something magical. Think dungeness crab omelets with American caviar as well!
What are some staples to have in the house for an impromptu gathering?
A well-stocked pantry will make all the difference in your life. As far as proteins, I always have a little bit of pork shoulder in the fridge, sausages in the freezer along with some jumbo gulf shrimp. From these, I can make just about anything I wish.
What do you like to make for a cocktail party?
A little something hot, a little something cold. I’d do little warm French onion tarts with a touch of anchovy and French olives. A cinch to make. For the cold, nothing beats the classic shrimp remoulade during cocktail hour.
John Besh’s Favorite Foods
What's your favorite family recipe?
The overwhelming house favorite on a consistent basis would be Monday’s red beans and rice.
What’s is your favorite thing to eat?
Could be anything from a fried oyster po’boy dressed with creole tomatoes and blue plate mayo to chef Mike Gulotta’s gnocchi tossed with crabmeat and Tennessee truffles at August. But it will definitely have seafood!