Born and raised in New Orleans, world-renowned chef Kevin Belton shares his admiration for the “Big Easy” and its food in his latest cookbook, “Kevin Belton’s New Orleans Kitchen.” This cookbook features classic dishes such as crawfish pie, duck and andouille gumbo with potato salad, and fried oyster po-boy. It also includes Belton’s interpretation of foods influenced by other cultures that make up his background and the city’s rich history, for example, the Caribbean-style paella, the Vietnamese egg rolls with dipping sauce, and the baklava.
Belton comes from English, French, Native American and African ancestry and he grew up in a Catholic household filled with conversations, cuisines and family. He learned to cook at an early age by watching his mother and grandmother. Relatives would gather around the kitchen table to experience the love through cooking. When the self-taught chef had his own children, he continued the tradition. His mantra is, “Keep the table blessed.”
In this book, Belton shares his soulful recipes with others so that they can create their own memories. He uses seafood, duck or coffee in several recipes. The chapter headers divide the hardcover into short segments that denote what’s to come. They have special meaning to Belton and incorporate lagniappe (something extra) like a culinary fact. Unfortunately, the wood panel image interrupts reading or wording on those pages. The other color photos look appealing. The ingredient lists seem practical. The easy-to-follow instructions also come with “Tips & Suggestions” which allow for substitutions.
My test kitchen kept that in mind when preparing two meals. The first course consisted of the peach and spinach salad with roasted pecans and goat cheese. I substituted whole pecans for honey roasted pecans; balsamic vinegar with fig balsamic vinegar; and extra virgin olive oil with light olive oil. The crunchy salad served up a wonderfully creamy, fruity and bitter taste with the right amount of acidity. It could easily become an everyday menu item. Family members found it scrumptious as well.
I also made crawfish bread as a second course, the main entrée. I purchased cooked crawfish tails at a Walmart (freezer section, near the fish). It came in a 12-ounce package; the recipe called for a pound. No other modifications occurred in making the dish. The bread turned out as expected – savory, cheesy and scrumptious. Highly recommended.
“New Orleans Kitchen” offers readers a memorable seat at the table with anecdotes and unpretentious meals packed with flavor from a chef who describes himself as, “My heart is shaped like a fleur-de-lis and it beats to the rhythm of ‘Tipitina,’ written by piano virtuoso and New Orleans native Professor Longhair. If you cut me open, I bleed gumbo. My favorite color is Mardi Gras green. And my last meal would be a fried oyster po’boy.” Now, that’s naturally New Orleans!