Chef John Besh reinterprets classic New Orleans recipes, from gumbo and meat pies to shrimp bisque.
There's one item that never changes on the menu at La Provence, one of chef John Besh's eight New Orleans restaurants: his gumbo, based on the classic recipe he grew up with. "Gumbo is one of those dishes that's too important to turn into a foam, froth or aspic," Besh says. But while the F&W Best New Chef 1999 grounds every dish he makes in southern Louisiana tradition, he loves to embellish his recipes—serving his shrimp bisque, for instance, with small, chewy tapioca pearls, or adding chicken livers sautéed in duck fat to his Natchitoches meat pies. Here, inspired by Besh's new cookbook, My Family Table, F&W streamlines his restaurant recipes so that they're practical for the home cook.
Natchitoches-Style Meat Pie
Chef Way At Besh Steak, John Besh prepares mini meat pies with house-made dough and a rich, spiced filling of beef, pork and chicken liver sautéed in duck fat.
Easy Way A meat-pie shortcut for the home cook: Use store-bought empanada dough instead of making your own. And, instead of using duck fat to sauté the meat filling as the cooks at Besh Steak do, butter is a perfectly fine substitute and much easier to find.
Shrimp Bisque with Crab and Tapioca
Chef Way At his restaurant, John Besh simmers the broth for his bisque with the crushed shells of whole blue crabs.
Easy Way Chopped shrimp boiled in their shells flavor the broth for a home version of Besh's tapioca-studded bisque.
Chef Way The farm behind La Provence raises heritage Mangalitsa pigs; John Besh uses the well-marbled ham for his swordfish.
Easy Way For home cooks, wrapping prosciutto or serrano ham around swordfish keeps the seafood moist and flavorful.