RECIPES: John Besh's Southern Goodness

Photo: Recipes from New Orleans? August Restaurant Chef John BeshThomas Krakowiak
John Besh's pumpkin soup with crabmeat.

Read the "Nightline" profile of chef John Besh HERE.

All recipes from "My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh," Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Pumpkin Soup With Crabmeat

Serves 6–8

Any variety of hearty fall squash or pumpkin can work well in this pumpkin soup. I like my puréed soups so refined that I strain them through a sieve just before serving.


3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 leeks, white parts, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme

1 pound pumpkin, peeled and cubed

1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed

1½ quarts Basic Chicken Stock

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives


Freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over moderate heat. Add the garlic, leeks, onions, celery, cayenne pepper, and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin, potatoes, and Chicken Stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

2. Remove the soup from the stove; purée in a food processor or a blender until very smooth and velvety. Strain through a fine sieve back into the pot. Add the cream; cover and keep warm over very low heat or in a 200º oven.

3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. Add the crabmeat, and heat until it's completely vwarmed through (take care not to break up crabmeat too much). Remove the skillet from the heat. Scatter the chives over the crabmeat and season with salt and pepper.

4. Ladle the pumpkin soup into individual bowls, then put a large spoonful of warm crabmeat into each bowl.

Crawfish Corn Bread Dressing

Serves 10

You can make the corn bread ahead or use leftover corn bread. In fact, the dressing may be prepared a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator until an hour before serving. This recipe makes 8–10 cups, more than enough to stuff a turkey, but at our Thanksgiving we stuff our bird with French bread and serve dressings like this alongside.


4 tablespoons rendered bacon fat

¼ pound andouille sausage, diced

¼ pound hot pork sausage meat, removed from casing

1 medium onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups peeled crawfish tails, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1 small jalapeño pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme

2 tablespoons Basic Creole Spices

6 cups crumbled Basic Corn Bread

2 cups Basic Chicken Stock

½ cup heavy cream

2 eggs, lightly beaten


Freshly ground black pepper


1. Put the bacon fat, andouille, and pork sausage into a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, breaking up the pork with the back of a wooden spoon. When the pork sausage meat has browned, add the onions, celery, bell peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the sausage and crawfish and stir together until well combined. Spoon the dressing into a large heatproof dish. At this point, the dressing may be covered and refrigerated (for up to 1 day) until you are ready to bake it. Bake the dressing in a preheated 350° oven until it is piping hot and golden brown, 15–30 minutes.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Serves 8

My grandmother Grace used pure molasses in her pecan pie, and my mother, Imelda, uses only corn syrup. It may be good family politics, but I happen to like using both in my pecan pie. In fact, you may substitute either syrup for the other. The molasses doesn't have to come to room temperature exactly, but it should be cool enough that when you add the eggs, they won't be tempted to scramble.


¾ cup blackstrap molasses

¾ cup brown sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup bourbon

1½ cups pecan halves

1 recipe Basic Pie Dough, fitted into a 9-inch pie pan


1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Put the molasses, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt into a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

3. Increase the heat to high and let the mixture boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, then pour into a mixing bowl and set aside to let cool to room temperature.

4. Whisk the eggs, vanilla, and bourbon into the molasses. Stir in the pecans, then pour into the prepared pie crust. Bake until the pie is set around the sides and nearly set in the middle (it shouldn't wobble when you give it a nudge), about 1 hour. The color should be mahogany and the crust golden. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Whole Roast Stuffed Turkey

Serves 12

We call stuffing what's cooked in the bird; dressing is what's served on the side. This stuffing is simple, based on the day-old French bread we always have around. But we like to make two other dressings as well--Shrimp and Mirliton and Crawfish Corn Bread -- just to be safe! My mother-in-law, Barbara Berrigan, always brines the turkey, so of course I do here. You can do this a day ahead.


For the turkey:

2 cups sugar

2 cups plus ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 15-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2–3 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon minced fresh sage leaves

Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme

Flour, optional

For the stuffing:

4 tablespoons butter

2 large onions, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 green onion, chopped

Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme

Leaves from 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced

4 cups diced, day-old French bread

3 cups Basic Chicken Stock


1. For the turkey, put 1 gallon of cold water into a large stockpot big enough to hold a whole turkey plus a total 2 gallons of liquid. Stir in the sugar, 2 cups of the salt, and the pepper flakes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer the brine for a minute, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat, add 1 more gallon of cold water, and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Submerge the turkey in the cooled brine and let it soak in the refrigerator or a very cool place for 12–24 hours. Discard brine.

2. For the stuffing, melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, green onions, and fresh herbs and cook for an additional minute.

3. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Add the French bread and gently toss to combine. Add the Chicken Stock, 1 cup at a time, gently mixing it in until the bread cubes are soft. Set the stuffing aside. (The stuffing may be made up to a day ahead and kept, covered, in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before spooning it into the cavity of the turkey so that it will be thoroughly hot by the time the turkey has finished roasting.)

4. Preheat the oven to 325°. Scatter the chopped carrots, onions, celery, and garlic in the bottom of a large sturdy roasting pan and add 3 cups water. Set a roasting rack in the pan. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels inside and out. Slather the bird with canola oil and sprinkle it with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and the sage and thyme.

5. Spoon the stuffing into the cavity of the bird . Tie the legs together with kitchen string, if you like. Set the turkey on the rack above the vegetables. Roast the turkey in the oven, basting it every 30 minutes or so with the pan drippings until the thigh juices run clear when the thigh is pricked and the internal temperature of the stuffing reaches 165°, about 3½–4½ hours.

6. Transfer the turkey to a carving board or serving platter, loosely cover it with foil, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

7. To make a simple gravy, just use the skimmed drippings. Or, make a gravy by straining the pan drippings into a bowl, discarding the vegetables. Skim and reserve the fat from the surface of the drippings.

8. Measure this fat, then heat it in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in an equal amount of flour (now you're making a blond roux) and let it cook, stirring frequently, until lightly colored, which shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes. Whisk in the pan drippings and cook the gravy, stirring often, until thickened, about 5 minutes longer. Serve the gravy with the roast turkey at the table.

All recipes from "My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh," Andrews McMeel Publishing.

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