My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh, (Andrews McMeel, 2009) is a 2010 IACP Cookbook awards finalist in the American category AND a 2010 James Beard book awards finalist in the American Cooking category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie IACP Finalists' Guide and James Beard Finalists' Guide.
Win a copy of My New Orleans! - details
I tend to paint cookbooks with a very broad stroke, splitting them into two basic types: those that simply provide recipes (more like recipe books than cookbooks) and those that draw you in and give you much more of a feel for where the recipes came from and why they exist. While sometimes the line between these two type of books can be a gradual blur the really great books are obvious in where they fall.
John Besh's, "My New Orleans", is most definitely in the latter category. Besh's new book is an exposition on life in the New Orleans region. It is part autobiography, part history, part technique, and not to be left out, a whole lot of great recipes.
The recipes in Besh's book run the gamut from Jambalaya serving 15 people cooked in a 3 to 5 gallon pot, to simple grilled oysters, to more complex dishes that you'd be pleased to enjoy at any of Besh's high-end restaurants. The running thread through all the recipes is the link to local, fresh, seasonal ingredients with a rich history in the New Orleans area.
Given the wide range of recipes, it's difficult to pick only one recipe that stands out to reflect the scale and diversity of the cookbook. After much thought and page-flipping, the Louisiana Blackfish with Sweet Corn and Caviar (see below) is what caught my eye. It's made with simple ingredients, but the end result is far from simple.
Win a copy of My New Orleans! - details
Louisiana Blackfish with Sweet Corn and Caviar
From My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh, (Andrews McMeel, 2009)
Blackfish is a wonderful delicacy, white and flaky, a fish that doesn't need much coaxing. (Striped bass or snapper is a good substitute.) I like to combine blackfish with my friend John Burke's Louisiana caviar roe from local paddlefish and bowfin, or choupiquet, from the Atchafalaya River.
For the corn pudding
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups (from 7-8 ears) Silver Queen corn kernels
1-2 pinches cayenne pepper
For the sauce
2 cups Basic Fish Pan Sauce
2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
1 cup (from 3-4 ears) Silver Queen corn kernels
1 tablespoon butter
For the fish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 4-ounce blackfish filets
Juice of 1 lemon
For the corn and crab sauté
6 ears baby corn, blanched and sliced into rounds
1 cup jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
2 tablespoons butter
1 dash Tabasco
2 tablespoons (or more) Louisiana Caviar
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh dill
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh chervil
For the corn pudding, preheat the oven to 275°. Spray six 2-3-ounce ramekins with cooking spray and set aside.
Put the cream and corn into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the corn and cream into a blender and purée until smooth. Add the cayenne and salt. With the motor running, add the eggs through the feed hole in the blender lid, blending the purée until the eggs are completely incorporated.
Divide the corn purée between the prepared ramekins. Set the ramekins in a pan large enough to hold them and fill the pan with enough hot water so that it comes halfway up the side of each. Bake the corn puddings until they are set, about 20 minutes. Remove the puddings from the hot water bath and set aside.
For the sauce, put the Fish Pan Sauce, lemongrass, and corn into a medium saucepan and simmer over moderate heat for 15 minutes. Add the butter and season with salt. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve into a small saucepan, discarding the solids. Keep the sauce warm in a warm spot on the stove.
For the fish, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over moderate heat. Score the skin of each blackfish filet in several places, then season the filets with lemon juice and salt.
Cook the fish in the skillet, skin side down, until it is not quite cooked through, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook on the flesh side for about 2 minutes more. (The cooking times depend on the desired level of doneness; I'm always wary of overcooking.) Transfer the fish to paper towels to drain.
For the corn and crab sauté, return the skillet used for frying the fish to medium-high heat. Add the corn, crab, and butter and sauté until hot. Add the Tabasco and season with salt. Set aside.
Unmold the corn puddings into each of 6 wide warmed soup bowls. Place a fish filet over each pudding. Put a heaping spoonful of the corn and crab sauté over each piece of fish.
To froth the warm sauce, use an electric hand mixer and half-submerge the beaters in the sauce. Beat on high speed until a froth forms. Ladle the froth around the fish in each bowl.
Top each dish with a small dollop of Louisiana Caviar and sprigs of chervil and dill and chive blossoms if you like.
Win a copy of My New Orleans
The registered Project Foodie user that leaves the most memorable or creative comment below will win a copy of My New Orleans. Keep the comments clean and relevant - tell us what attracts you to My New Orleans and/or what you feel makes that book award-worthy and we'll select one to be the winner of the profiled book.
Please note that you must be registered to enter this giveaway and upon winning provide a US postal address for us to ship My New Orleans to. We'll announce the winner on May 2nd.
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Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.