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.