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Chef John at his "BESH"

Thanks to the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, Crave Communications, and sponsors like Texas Monthly, The Keeper Team had a great afternoon and night with Chef John Besh and Chef Steve McHugh. We started with the Cooking Class : “My New Orleans” at Whole Foods Culinary Center Austin. Chef Besh commented that Texas and Louisiana have had a long and great history together. He noted that after Hurricane Katrina, many of the New Orleans culinary workers found refuge in San Antonio and other Texas cities, so it was fitting that Chef Besh expand his restaurant company outside of New Orleans. Lucky for us Texans, he announced the opening of Lϋke restaurant in San Antonio planned for late August/early September, 2010! Upon hearing this news, the crowd burst into applause. Lϋke San Antonio will be under the experienced hands of Chef Steve McHugh who has worked with John for 8 years and most recently as Executive Chef for Lϋke New Orleans. We all know the wonders of Chef BESH, but here are some newsbits about Chef McHugh – he hails from a small town in Wisconsin and is from a large family of seven boys (way to go Mommy McHugh!). He worked on a dairy farm, trained at Culinary Institute of America, and is dedicated, along with Chef Besh, to creating dishes that use local, farmed, seasonal products. This was well exemplified in the menu from the My New Orleans cooking class. New Orleanians welcome spring as it brings crawfish season. So, of course, our first dish was a lovely Fresh Pasta with Crawfish Ragout. John shared some tips along the way, such as his pasta ratio, which is 5 eggs for 1 lb. of semolina flour and his shellfish pan sauce ratio, which is 2 parts shellfish stock, 1 part cream, and 1 part vermouth.

The wonderful surprise in this dish was Morel Mushrooms and Fava beans – yummy! It was paired with a nice 2008 Livio Felluga Map Label Pinot Grigio. We were told that this PG is left on the lees for 6 months, providing an interesting depth to this varietal. So, what would Besh do next but Chicken and Dumplings with Chanterelles? Most interesting in his rendition of the classic Chicken and Dumplings was the use of fresh ricotta to make the Dumplings and oh, were they good and perfectly textured. It’ll be hard from here on out to eat dumplings prepared any other way. His use of fresh stock for his broth, combined with the chicken thighs and peas made this dish impressively balanced. This was paired with a 2007 Numanthia, which is a well-regarded wine, but we didn’t feel paired well with this particular course, as the tannins overpowered the delicacy of the dish. But that’s just our opinion.

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Chicken and Dumplings with Chanterelles

The finale was a Warm Berry Tart, and quite a finish this was. This was a simple, but beautiful dessert, both on the eyes and on the palette. Chef Besh spoke often of the importance of his family growing up and his family now (his lovely wife, Jennifer, who attended the class and his 4 boys, ages 5-14). He spoke of his grandmother making a dessert like this, and it sure reminded us of something our grandmothers made as well. The “clean plate club” arrived for this round! This tart crust had great texture and taste, combined with fresh berries and not too much sugar, made it splendid. (see recipe below) This was paired nicely with a glass of Chandon Sparkling Riche.

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Warm Berry Tart

You can tell that Chefs Besh and McHugh enjoy what they do and working together.

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Chef Besh and Chef McHugh

For our evening pleasure following the class, Crave Communications threw a great bash at Parkside for Chefs Besh and McHugh. Again, the resounding message from both Chefs for their restaurants is quality and consistency in their dishes using fresh, seasonal products. Chef Besh believes that we need to “understand where our food comes from so that we can connect with the food, allowing us to cook with passion”.

We asked Chef McHugh if the menu at Lϋke San Antonio would be the same as Lϋke New Orleans. He said that the menu at Lϋke San Antonio would be different as he would be using fresh, seasonal products from the San Antonio area rather than New Orleans. Ok, they mean what they say. We look forward to a Keeper trip to Lϋke San Antonio in the near future.

And one more thing, another “coming soon” spot to look forward to in Austin – Chef Shawn Cirkiel told us that he will be using the space where the Besh VIP Party was held for a new place next door to Parkside to serve oven pizza. Can’t wait to see Chef Cirkiel’s Austin expansion as well! We know Crave will keep us posted on the details.

Warm Berry Tart Recipe

(Serves 6)

This recipe is easily adaptable to all sorts of berries, use those local to you. I love serving this hot, just out of the oven, or removed from molds and reheated in a warm oven just before serving. Use your favorite ice cream to serve over it, in my home it’s home made vanilla.

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 Basic Pie Dough
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups berries
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare one 9-inch tart pan or 6 individual 3-4 inch pans by greasing each with softened butter using almost 2 tablespoons. Then dust the molds with one tablespoon of flour.

Roll the basic pie dough on a lightly floured surface to a thinkness of 1/4 inch. Fit the large pan or 6 individual pans with pie dough, making sure to trim the excess dough around the edges.

Beat together the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the granulated sugar and the egg, in a mixing bowl, until smooth and creamy.

Fold in the berries, the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour, and lemon zest into the sugar. Fill the larger pie pan, divide the berry filling between 6 prepared tart pans. Arrange the tarts on a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and dust with powdered sugar.

Basic Pie Dough

(Makes one 9-inch crust)

Every one of our pastry Chefs comes up with his own “better” pie dough, but none has stood the test of time like this one. Here’s the secret: make sure not to handle it too much. Once you’ve added the ice water, stop. You can roll it out in advance, then wrap it and store in in the freezer for a couple of days, if you wish. Or make the dough ahead, shape it into a disk, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for a few hours before you need it. If you’re using this basic dough for another recipe, follow directions in step 1.

  • 1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 7 tablespoons cold butter, diced, plus softened butter for greasing the pan

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. Sprinkle in ice water, as needed, as many as 4 tablespoons, mixing it into the dough until it comes together into a ball. Press the dough into a round, flat disk, then wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before rolling it out.

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