Break out the sharp knives, because it’s time to do some mincing and chopping. The work will be worth it though, when you plunge your fork into a colorful pile of maque choux.
This Cajun side dish popped out at me from a menu at a fusion taco restaurant where we had a late lunch Saturday. Since my dad’s side of the family landed in New Orleans from Germany three generations ago, my mother learned to make it for him – not that it’s difficult. Of course, my dad’s family also contained a few butchers, so this corn salad was strictly considered a side dish to a big slab of meat.
However, the gently braised corn, tomatoes and peppers easily lend themsleves to a one-dish entree, whether you keep it vegetarian or add cooked chicken, crawdad tails, shrimp or crumbled bacon.
If you froze corn from this summer, you’ve got a head start on great maque choux (pronounced mak-shoo). But frozen small-kernel corn works great too. We’ve even found frozen Silver Queen corn in area stores recently.
This simmered dish can be as light as you’d like. We’re going to substitute canola oil and 2 percent milk for the traditional bacon grease and most of the heavy cream, so it will add a light spark to our Thanksgiving feast this year. As with any dish from the Cajuns, you can make maque choux as spicy as you like, but remember to offset some of that with a dollop of sugar.
Who knew I’d get back in touch with my New Orleans roots at a taco place on a sunny fall day? That’s something to be thankful for.
3 Tbsp. butter, canola or vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup onion, minced
2 stalks celery hearts, minced
1 15-oz. can Rotel tomatoes with juice, diced
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cups corn
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or 1/2 tsp. hot sauce
In a large skillet with a lid, heat the butter or oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and celery and stir and cook just until onions soften. Do not brown them. Add the tomatoes and their juice, bell pepper and corn and saute for five minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add milk, cream, sugar, salt and cayenne or hot sauce. Cover and simmer 10 more minutes.
You can add cooked, diced chicken when you add the milk. If you are using crawdads or shrimp, add them in the last five minutes.
Options include sprinkling the dish with six strips of cooked, crumbled bacon, crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese.