Fat Tuesday Guest Blogger: Alexis’s Maque Choux
Happy Fat Tuesday! For this fun, food-filled holiday, I invited Lexi, a Louisianan and Cajun-cook extraordinaire (not to mention a really good karaoke-er), to share her skills. Here’s a recipe for an amazing Maque Choux (pronounced “mock shoe”) that is sure to get you in the Mardi Gras spirit. You might just need a hurricane to wash it down (and, lucky for you, there’s a recipe for one below). I guarantee!
Through events in the past years, both good and bad, it has come to the national attention how remarkably optimistic and resilient the people of Louisiana are. They are also patient, especially when it comes to food. They know that a few humble ingredients can be transformed into something extraordinary with time. To make a roux, the base for gumbo, flour and oil are cooked together on low heat for nearly an hour, constantly stirred, constantly watched. The second a cook looks away from her roux is the precise second it will burn.
Requiring a far less attentive eye, but producing equally delicious results, are the simple steps and ingredients used to make maque choux. This dish is best made with fresh produce, in the summer months when corn is sweetest. But I crave it in the winter served with a hunk of savory cornbread. The foundation for this recipe is what’s known in the Cajun lexicon as The Trinity: onion, bell pepper, and celery. The seasoning is provided by Tony’s, which is found in every Cajun cook’s pantry and used like salt. It even says on the can, “Great on everything!” Your own version can be mixed easily with cayenne, salt, and some garlic powder for good measure. Add in more hot peppers for additional heat, or a few dashes of hot sauce when cooking is complete. Vegetarians can omit the bacon or replace it with a meatless option. The bacon gives the dish texture, but isn’t essential.
I do recommend making your own broth. Throughout the week I collect the odds and ends left over from cooking like celery leaves, onion tops, unused parsley, and after rinsing them well I store them in a freezer bag. When the bag is full I boil the impromptu mirepoix for several hours with water and salt. It’s easier than you’d think. I cook both the broth and this maque choux dish in a Magnalite stock pot passed down from my grandmother. A Dutch oven works great as well. I also recommend listening to some Professor Longhair or Dr. John tunes to keep the mood authentic.
Lexi’s Maque Choux
6 strips thick-sliced bacon
4 tablespoons sweet butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
5 ribs of celery, sliced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped*
Tony Chachere’s seasoning to taste
1 cup broth
1. Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside.
2. Melt butter in bacon fat over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, celery, and garlic. Saute for five minutes, until onion has softened.
3. Stir in corn, tomatoes, and seasoning. Cook five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add broth and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover partially and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in crumbled bacon and serve along cornbread. Paint your cornbread with a butter and honey mixture when the top is firm but still blond and cook until caramel in color.
*Did you know you can freeze whole tomatoes for cooking? I haven’t tried it yet but definitely will when the next harvest comes!
Hurricane Cocktail (courtesy of Melissa)
1.5 oz amaretto liqueur
1 oz light rum
1 oz dark rum
6 oz orange juice
6 oz pineapple juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1 dash grenadine syrup
orange or pineapple slices for garnish
1 maraschino cherry
Fill a tall (approx 16 oz) glass with ice. Pour in the amaretto and light and dark rums. Next, add the orange juice, pineapple juice, and lemon juice. Stir, then top with a dash of grenadine and garnish with an orange slice or pineapple wedge and a cherry.