“Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes” by John Besh, Andrews McMeel Publishing, $25, 212-page paperback
New Orleans chef John Besh will like how one of my neighbors reacted to his latest cookbook. After flipping through my copy of “Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes,” she said she liked the casual, home-style recipes instead of elaborate chef-style recipes.
That’s exactly what Besh says he wanted to do in his fourth book, which he says reflects more the way he now cooks at home.
He writes that his cooking in his own kitchen has evolved since his first book, “My New Orleans, The Cookbook: 200 of My Favorite Recipes & Stories from My Hometown,” was written not long after Hurricane Katrina. (He’s also written “My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking” and “Cooking From the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way.”)
His cooking at home used to be limited to extravagant family get-togethers and Sunday suppers. “I cooked at home like a chef,” putting “a deliberate chef’s spin” on traditional New Orleans dishes, he writes.
Now, he cooks “on a simpler level, using as few ingredients, pots and pans as possible,” more like his mother and grandmother.
“Besh Big Easy” is a deliberate paperback — what the publisher calls Flexibound — so readers will be more likely to use it in the kitchen, Besh says. He also encourages readers to substitute ingredients if they don’t have what the recipe lists. And, recipes use convenience products long popular in local kitchens, such as store-bought mayonnaise and Italian bread crumbs.
Besh hopes readers make their own stock, but notes that it’s OK to use prepared broth or water.
The recipes, divided into 11 chapters from easy appetizers to sweet treats, are easy to follow and written in a clear, breezy style.
Among the recipes are Crabmeat Ravigote, Grilled Oysters With Herb Garlic Butter, Mardi Gras Morning Pork Shoulder Grillades, Jenny’s Potato Salad, Field Peas in Pot Liquor, Trout Almondine, Cajun-Stuffed Pork Chops, and Mamma’s Bread Pudding With Hot Buttered Rum Sauce.
Terrific full-color photographs, which capture the New Orleans food scene, illustrate “Besh Big Easy.”
Home cooks everywhere will want to cook from this great book.
Note: “A Real Southern Cook” by Dora Charles in my Sept. 24 Side Dish column should have rated two stars, not four.
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.