Master Chef, Graduate, The Culinary Institute of America
Owner/Executive of 9 restaurants
Author of several books, his latest Cooking from the Heart,(2013)
Named one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America, Food & Wine, 1999
Won James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Southeast, 2006
Runner up, first season, Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef
Has appeared in various TV programs including Iron Chef America Judge, Top Chef season finale, etc.
John Besh: Cooking From the Heart
The 700 Club
COOKING FROM THE HEART
John says he wanted to share the cooking lessons he learned from his mentors in Cooking from the Heart. Though some of the recipes in his new cookbook seem daunting, some of them are remarklably easy. “This cookbook is designed to remove the snobbery from good cooking,” says John. “This is an opportunity for me to pass on these lessons from my mentors. There is something in here for everyone.” He says the information he included in his book are timeless.
This cookbook tells John’s personal story: how cooking can go beyond mastering skills to become the passionate expression of life. Twenty years ago, after serving in the Marines, John graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and cooked in the kitchens of some of the best Southern chefs. “I thought I needed to go to France,” says John. His new wife, Jennifer, was a brand new law school graduate and agreed to put her plans on hold to join him. Friends connected John with Karl-Josef Fuchs, the third generation chef-owner of the Spielweg, then a Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel in the the Black Forest.
“Everytime I thought I had something nailed, life had yet another surprising lesson just waiting for me around the next corner,” says John. Karl-Josef was practicing a community-based food culture and was decades ahead of American chefs at the time.
After moving back to New Orleans, John met his second mentor, Chris Kerageorgiou, a fiery Frenchman who owned a restaurant called La Provence in Lacombe, Louisiana. Chris was a legend and was drawing curious diners with both his Provencal cooking and the pryotechnics of his personality. By this time, John thought he knew everything about French cooking but Chef Chris didn’t agree. So Chris sent John to his tiny Mediterranean town to learn more! Many years later, as Chef Chris was near death, John told him he would buy his restaurant, La Provence, and run it with the spirit of all he had taught him.
One day while in St-Remy-de-Provence, John walked into the restaurant of Alain Assaud, a man who had cooked with the loftiest chefs in France but left all of that to open a small place in his hometown to cook his own way. John went in the kitchen to ask Alain to teach him to make his bouillabaisse. Their friendship developed quickly and one of the highlights for John’s book research was to crowd into Alain’s kitchen to capture his skills and share his excitement of cooking.
John came up with the idea of a Besh Box. Every month, he hand selects his favorite tools, ingredients, spices, etc. “People want to know more and always ask, what tools, what ingredients, how can I find that?” says John. By subscribing each month, it’s like getting a master chef in a box. “We cook together,” says John. “As people cook these recipes, we ask them to upload photos on www.beshbox.com. It’s continuing the relationship; it’s intimate. Like getting cooking lessons at home.” John feels like this is a way he can pass on yet more information. To find out more, visit www.chefjohnbesh.com.
John will show us how to make Daube of Beef Provencal (page 175) over cavatelli noodles, Apple and Pear Tart with Walnuts (page 283), and Roasted Brussel Sprout Salad (page 71).
Apple & Pear Tart with Walnuts
Use whatever combination of apples, pears, and even quince that you have on hand. I like to leave the skin on some of the fruit to add texture to the tart.
Basic Sweet Tart Dough (see recipe below)
3-4 Gravensteins, Honeycrisps, or other tart apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
2 Bosc pears, cored and cubed
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick) cut into pieces
½ cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a well-floured surface, roll the Tart Dough into
a large oval a little less than ¼ inch thick. Transfer onto a baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, toss the apples and pears with the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Add the butter and toss again.
3. Mound the fruit and walnut mixture on top of the dough and wrap the dough over the fruit, covering most of it. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove and cool a bit before serving.
For Basic Sweet Tart Dough
Makes enough for at least 1 large tart
This is Edel’s famous recipe, an easy dough that I keep on hand in the freezer so all I have to do is pull it out and 30 minutes later I have a perfect French pâte sucrée. Sugar-cookie sweet and crumbly, it lends itself to any sweet pie or tart recipe. I like the feel of making the dough by hand, but use a food processor if you prefer.
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1. In a large mixing bowl, cut the cold butter into the flour until the flour has the consistency of semolina. Add the sugar, milk, egg, zest, and salt and mix by hand until a crumbly dough is formed. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour before using, or freeze for later use.
Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad
This is great as a first course but can be enjoyed as a side dish as well. Often I prepare cauliflower and/or carrots the same way. The idea is to toss the fresh-roasted vegetables while still warm with a fragrant vinaigrette. I like to serve it either hot or cold.
1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On a baking pan, toss the Brussels sprouts with a generous amount of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the sprouts are golden brown and tender, tossing occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl and, while the sprouts are still hot, add the garlic, vinegar, and oils. Toss, sprinkle with more salt and pepper, and serve.
DAuBe Of Beef Provencal
I learned this slow-cooked stew from the frugal Chef Chris who would typically make a daube from almost any lesser cut of beef, lamb, goat, or pork. The lesser cuts are the muscles that are often tougher—but tastier—so a long braise in wine and a rich veal stock makes them tender and more flavorful, too. The luxurious Fond de Veau (page 121) works its magic here. Serve the daube with rice or your favorite pasta to sop up the rich juices.
1⁄4 cup olive oil
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 filets salt-cured anchovies
2 tablespoons tomato paste
11⁄2 cups red wine Peel of 1⁄2 orange
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 cups Basic Fond de Veau (page 121)
1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Season the beef with the herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. In batches, add the beef to the hot oil and sear until all sides are golden brown, transferring the browned pieces to a platter as you work.
2. Add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic, and anchovies to the pot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are caramelized, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes a dark, mahogany color, 3–4 minutes. Add the wine, orange peel, bay leaf, rosemary, and Fond de Veau. Return the beef to the pot, cover, and simmer for about 1 hour. Uncover the pot and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, until the beef is very tender. Discard the bay leaf and rosemary and serve.
—From Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing
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