When it comes to cooking, sometimes less is more—just ask restaurateur and James Beard Award-winner John Besh. With three cookbooks and 12 successful eateries under his belt, the European-trained, Mississippi-born chef, who is widely regarded as the face of New Orleans cuisine due to his creative spin on traditional southern dishes, has come to cherish the honesty of home cooking.
"Today, I cook more like a scruffy, grizzly, bearded dad… and care more about the soul of each dish I want to feed to those I love most," Besh writes in the foreword of his latest book, Besh Big Easy ($14; amazon.com). The easy-to-make recipes include stuffed heirloom tomatoes, banana bread pudding, and this rich white squash and shrimp soup. "My Grandmother Grace always served a big lunch and, always, supper was usually just a good soup and sandwich. So making soup always makes me think of her," he explains. Read on for the recipe.
White Squash and Shrimp Soup
4 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, trimmed and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups peeled, diced white squash
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 cups of shrimp stock
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper
1 lb medium wild American shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 green onion, chopped
1. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, celery, and garlic and cook for several minutes. Add the squash and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 5–10 minutes.
2. Add the bay leaf, thyme, stock, and cream to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer the soup for 15–20 minutes.
3. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme. Purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Strain it if you like, but I appreciate a bit of texture here. Return the soup to the pot and add the cayenne, allspice, salt, and pepper. Toss the shrimp with salt and pepper and add them with the green onions to the pot. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes more and then serve.