New Orleans chef John Besh is the renaissance man of Louisiana. Beyond his impressive list of restaurant’s that includes August, Domenica, La Provence, Borgne, Besh Steak, American Sector, Soda Shop, and Luke, chef Besh manages to find the time to be an award-winning cookbook author, philanthropist, and television personality. He’s also a former Marine—maybe that’s why he’s such a resourceful dude.
On this episode of VICE Eats, chef Besh heads out to Lake Pontchartrain just outside New Orleans city limits to catch some seafood with local fishing legend, “Deadly” Dudley Vandeborre, the fish whisperer of Louisiana, and Brian Landry, co-owner and chef at Borgne. After we hung up our fishing poles, we headed back to La Provence to cook up our catch, where we learned about the former Marine’s favorite childhood dish, trout amandine, a signature Southern recipe that gives off a perfumed scent of fresh almonds. During his time in the Marines, he learned that this same scent is the first sign that you’re under chemical attack.
Photo of John with the fish by Denny Culbert.
Check out the recipe below. John Besh’s new cookbook, Cooking from the Heart, is available through Andrews McMeel Publishing.
By Chef John Besh
In traditional French cooking, a whole fish would be lightly dredged in flour and cooked in butter. In New Orleans, we prefer the skinless trout filet. Properly browning the butter makes all the difference. Don’t rush it; take your time swirling the butter in the pan so that the milk solids brown and give off the signature, nutty aroma that is heightened once you add the almonds. Add the lemon juice and serve while the sauce is still foamy.
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp. basic Creole spices (recipe below)
6 5–7 ounce skinless speckled trout filets
Freshly ground black pepper
8 Tbs. butter
½ cup sliced almonds
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
1. Put the milk into a wide dish. Put the flour and Creole Spices into another wide dish and stir to combine. Season the fish fi lets with salt and pepper, dip them into the milk, and dredge in the seasoned flour.
2. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fi lets and cook on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a serving platter.
3. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the same skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl the skillet over the heat so that the butter melts evenly and cook until the butter turns brownish, 5–7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the almonds, and cook, stirring gently, until the nuts are toasty brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, parsley, and a dash of salt.
4. Spoon the browned butter and almonds over the fish and serve.
Basic Creole Spices
Makes ½ cup
Using this spice blend is truly the easiest way to consistently achieve the flavors I grew up with. Once made, the spices will last for six months in an airtight container.
2 Tbs. celery salt
1 Tbs. sweet paprika
1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. onion powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground allspice
Mix together the celery salt, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and allspice in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and store.