Perhaps the best word to describe Chef John Besh is “homegrown”. It speaks not only of his friendly and congenial personality, but also to his approach to food, his numerous and varied restaurants, and his overarching philosophy of helping to improve the lives of the people around him.
Besh’s dedication to locally sourced foods shines through in his signature dish, Gnocchi Black and Blue. The recipe stems from the unexpected bumper crop of potatoes delivered by one of his partner farms. “I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of pounds of potatoes were dropped on my doorstep,” he recalls, laughing. “I thought, okay, what am I going to do?”
He decided to use the potatoes to make gnocchi di patate, a Piedmont specialty. He made batch after batch so that he could freeze them, thereby preserving the precious local ingredients. Recognizing that gnocchi is not a native specialty of Louisiana, Besh adds jumbo lump crabmeat from local blue crabs and finishes the dish with shaved Tennessee black truffles, hence the name “Black and Blue”.
“Twice I tried taking them off the menu,” says Besh, “and we had so many requests for them that we ended up making them anyway. So that’s been the one item that has never left our menu for more than a day or two since we opened.”
Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered 2 1/2 lbs
Butter 3/4 oz
Egg yolks 5 large grade A
All-purpose flour 7 oz
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Fresh nutmeg, grated 1 dash
The sauce for each serving:
Minced shallots 1 tsp
Olive oil 1/2 oz
Vermouth 1 oz
Unsalted fish stock 1 oz
Heavy cream 1 oz
Unsalted butter 1/2 oz
Lump crabmeat 1 oz
White truffle oil 5 drops
Salt, to taste
Fresh black truffle, shaved
Parmesan cheese, shaved
1. To make the gnocchi, place potatoes in small, oven-safe pot and add enough water to cover. Cook over high heat until fork tender, about 15–20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Cook in 250˚F oven for additional 15 minutes.
2. Press potatoes through potato ricer into fine mesh drum sieve. Using rubber spatula, pass all riced potatoes through sieve into clean stainless steel mixing bowl.
3. Add butter and egg yolks to warm potato puree and mix well. Fold flour and 1 dash each of salt, pepper, and nutmeg into potato mixture to form manageable dough (more or less flour may be needed, depending upon moisture level of potatoes).
4. Separate fist-size ball of dough from rest and gently roll out on lightly floured surface until uniformly 3/4-inch thick.
5. Cut into 3/4-inch lengths and roll each length into ball. Working quickly, shape with gnocchi board and drop into simmering salted water. Once gnocchi float and simmer 15–20 seconds, remove and transfer to ice bath. Once cold, remove and toss in olive oil to coat. Use that day or freeze.
1. To make the sauce, sweat shallots in olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add vermouth. Return to stove and bring to boil.
2. Add fish stock and return to boil.
3. Add cream and simmer.
4. Strain out shallots through a chinois. Clean saucepan, and then return strained liquid to it.
5. Add butter and gnocchi; simmer until gnocchi are hot through and sauce is emulsified and fairly thick.
6. Stir in crab and truffle oil, heating until crab is warm. Season with salt to taste.
7. Serve immediately in warm bowl. Finish with freshly shaved black truffle and shaved Parmesan cheese.