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Chef John Besh's Big Easy Christmas



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 “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ”
~ Norman Vincent Peale

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My Family Table:
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My New Orleans:
The Cookbook
200 of My Favorite
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The Big, Easy Christmas
Chef John Besh

Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2008
Food & Wine Books, Editor Kate Heddings
©2008, American Express Publishing Corporation


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Champagne Mojitos
Hot Spiced Wine
Oyster Tartlets
Chilled Shrimp with Rémoulade
Chicory Salad with Quince and Pecans
Horseradish- and Herb-Crusted Beef Rib Roast
Root Vegetable, Pear & Chestnut Ragout
Creamy Potatoes with Bacon
Oyster Dressing "Grandmère"
Hot, Buttered Cauliflower Purée
Pat's Popovers
Braised Kale
Père Roux's Cake (recipe follows)
Poached Pear and Brown Butter Tart
(recipe follows)


Père Roux's Cake

Père Roux refers to Father Roux, a New Orleans priest and cook who
is one of chef John Besh’s friends. Besh fashioned this recipe after one
that Père Roux bakes for himself every year on his birthday, with layers
of white cake and a buttery banana filling with plenty of rum, all topped
with a cream cheese frosting.

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus
more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable
shortening (6 ounces)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups skim milk
7 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 overripe bananas, coarsely mashed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Meyers’s dark rum

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 pound cream cheese, softened

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of wax paper and butter
the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the
flour, baking powder and salt. Add the shortening and mix at low speed
until evenly blended. Add the sugar and mix at medium speed until a
mass forms around the paddle. At low speed, gradually add 3/4 cup of
the milk and beat until smooth, scraping down the side of the bowl
from time to time.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining 3/4 cup
of milk and the vanilla and almond extracts. With the machine on,
gradually beat the egg white mixture into the batter at medium speed
until silky, about 5 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans
and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden and springy. Transfer the
cakes to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then invert
them onto the rack and let cool completely. Peel off the wax paper
and slice each cake in half horizontally.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large saucepan, cook the butter,
brown sugar and cinnamon over moderately high heat until the
butter and sugar have melted. Remove from the heat and add the
bananas and 1/2 cup of the rum. Cook the filling over moderate
heat, stirring frequently, until very thick and the butter just begins
to separate, about 25 minutes.
5. Transfer the filling to a food processor. Add the remaining 2 table-
spoons of rum and puree until smooth. Let the filling cool to room
temperature, about 30 minutes.
6. Make the frosting: In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted
with a whisk, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and
fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat at
low speed until incorporated. Add the vanilla and almond extracts
and beat at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat
in the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
7. Place one cake layer on a large plate, and spoon one-third of the
filling on top and spread it to the edge. Top with another cake layer,
pressing gently; spread with another third of the filling. Repeat with
the remaining cake layers and filling, ending with a cake layer.
Spread the frosting over the top and side of the cake and refrigerate
for at least 2 hours, or until set. Bring to room temperature
before serving.

Make Ahead: The cake can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Poached Pear and Brown Butter Tart

Chef John Besh says he is crazy about winter fruit and loves using
it in this brown butter-custard tart. He sometimes swaps the pears
for apples or even quince.

Vegetable oil spray, such as canola
13/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk mixed with 4 tablespoons of ice water

6 cups water
2 cups semidry white wine, such as Riesling
2 cups sugar
1 sage leaf
4 whole cloves
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
4 Bosc pears—peeled, quartered and cored

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 11-inch
tart pan with a removable bottom with vegetable oil spray. In a food
processor, combine the flour with the sugar and salt and pulse once or
twice until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of
small peas. Lift the lid and sprinkle with the egg- yolk mixture. Pulse
5 or 6 times, until the dough is crumbly.
2. Pour the dough into the prepared tart pan and press to form an even
crust. Use a flat-bottomed glass dipped in flour to tamp it down. Bake
the crust in the lower third of the oven for about 25 minutes, until it is
golden brown. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
3. Meanwhile, poach the pears: In a large saucepan, combine the water
with the wine, sugar, sage, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla bean and
seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the quar-
tered pears. Cover with a large sheet of parchment paper and a lid
slightly smaller than the saucepan and cook over moderate heat until
the pears are just softened, 25 to 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon,
transfer the poached pears to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool
slightly. Cut each wedge in half lengthwise.
4. Make the filling: In a small skillet, cook the butter over moderate
heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 4 minutes; pour browned
butter into a small cup. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer,
beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla seeds, orange zest and salt. Add
the flour and beat at low speed until smooth. Add the brown butter
and beat the filling at low speed until incorporated.
5. Pour the filling into the baked crust. Arrange all but 3 of the pear
wedges on the custard in a slightly overlapping circle, with the
narrow ends pointing toward the center. Trim the remaining 3
pear wedges and arrange them neatly in the center. Place the tart
pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until the custard
is golden and set. Let the pear tart cool completely before serving.

Make Ahead: The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and stored
in an airtight container for up to 2 days. The finished pear tart can be
stored in an airtight container overnight at room temperature.

Serve With: Pear flavors are common in white grape varieties from
France’s Rhône valley, particularly Roussanne, which makes it a
natural complement to Besh’s decadent pear and brown butter tart.
Recently, California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard released the 2006
vintage of its Le Vol des Anges ("the Angel’s Flight"), an ethereally
aromatic Roussanne dessert wine that also pairs perfectly here.

Big Easy Christmas, page 1
Big Easy Christmas, page 2

My New Orleans: The Cookbook
Chef John Besh

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