Recipes, chef John Besh, Red Beans and Rice, Japapeno Cheese Grits, King Cake, Mardi Gras Recipes, What to eat in New Orleans, Louisiana, LA, What to eat for Mardi Gras


Red Beans & Rice

Courtesy of chef John Besh from “My New Orleans”

Time is the key to making successful red beans: they need to cook slowly and well. Using flavorful fat is another secret. Just as my grandmother did, I keep the fat from every batch of bacon I make, and I save the fat that solidifies on the surface of chilled chicken soup and roast chicken drippings, too. Just a little bit adds big flavor.


Serves 6

Red Beans & Rice

Photograph courtesy of chef John Besh


- 2 onions, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans
- 2 smoked ham hocks
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 green onions, chopped
- Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper 
- Tabasco
- 3 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (see recipe below)


1) Sweat the onions, bell peppers, and celery in the rendered bacon fat in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat.

2) Once the onions become translucent, add the kidney beans, ham hocks, bay leaves, and cayenne, then add water to cover by 2 inches.

3) Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil.

4) Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and allow the beans to slowly simmer for 2 hours.

5) Periodically stir the beans to make sure that they don’t scorch on the bottom of the pot, adding water if necessary, always keeping the beans covered by an inch or more of water.

6) Continue cooking the beans until they are creamy and beginning to fall apart when they’re stirred.

7) Remove the ham hock meat from the bones, roughly chop it, and add it back to the pot of beans.

8)  Stir in the green onions and season with salt, black pepper and Tabasco. Serve with white rice.

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Jalapeno Cheese Grits

Courtesy of chef John Besh from “My New Orleans”

These cheesy grits are the perfect base for almost anything.


Serves 6 to 8

Jalapeno Cheese Grits

Photograph courtesy of chef John Besh


- 1 cup stone-ground white corn grits

- 1 jalapeno pepper

- 3 tablespoons butter

- 2 tablespoons mascarpone or cream cheese

- 1/4 cup grated Edam cheese

- Salt


1) Heat 4 cups of water in a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat until it comes to a boil.

2) Slowly pour in the grits while whisking constantly.

3) Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 20 minutes.

4) While the grits are cooking, pan-roast the jalapeño pepper in a small skillet over high heat until the skin is brown and blistered.

5) Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and remove the skin and the seeds from the pepper and discard.

6) Mince the flesh and add it to the pot of grits.

7) Remove the pot from the heat and fold in the butter, mascarpone, and Edam cheese.

8) Season with salt.


King Cake

Courtesy of chef John Besh from “My New Orleans”

As you knead the dough for this Mardi Gras cake, watch for it to begin to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. If that doesn’t happen (because the moisture content in flour fluctuates with the humidity), add a spoonful or two more flour.


Serves 10 to 12

King Cake

Photograph courtesy of chef John Besh



- 1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110 degrees F

- 1/2 cup granulated sugar

- 2 tablespoons dry yeast

- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

- 1 cup melted butter

- 5 egg yolks, beaten

- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest

- 3 teaspoons cinnamon

- Several gratings of fresh nutmeg


- 2 cups powdered sugar

- 1/4 cup condensed milk

- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

- Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars

- 1 fève (fava bean) or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking


1) For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl.

2) Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.

3) Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest.

4) Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula.

5) After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball.

6) Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.

7) Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise, for 1.5 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.

8) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.

9) Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length.

10) Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal.

11) Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.

12) Once it’s doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

13) Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

14) For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable.

15) If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it’s a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.

16) Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet.

17) Tuck the fève or plastic baby into underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.


Photographs courtesy of chef John Besh

Basic Louisiana White Rice

Courtesy of chef John Besh from “My New Orleans”


4 cups


- 1  tablespoon chicken fat, extra virgin olive oil, or butter

- 1  small onion, minced

- 1 1/2  cups white Louisiana long grain rice

- 3 cups Chicken Stock

- 1 bay leaf

- 1 to 2 pinches salt


1) Put the fat, oil or butter and the onions into a medium saucepan and sweat the onions over moderate heat, until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.

2) Pour the rice into the pan and stir for 2 minutes.

3) Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

4) Add the bay leaf and salt.

5) Cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.

6) Remove the pan from heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.


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