Cajun Maque Choux

Still another Southern dish shrouded in mystery is this simple Cajun concoction, which can be traced back three hundred years and which, today, is often enriched throughout Louisiana with everything from crawfish to chicken to spicy tasso ham. You won’t find this dish mentioned in even the most comprehensive food dictionaries, much less in any all-purpose cookbook, and had not the legendary Commander’s Palace in New Orleans almost singlehandedly revived maque choux years ago, chances are it would have simply disappeared from restaurant menus. This rather sophisticated recipe (adapted from the Commander’s version) is for plain vegetable maque choux, intended to be served as a side dish to roasted or grilled meats and poultry. If you’d like to transform it into an unusual main course for four, simply add about 2 cups of diced cooked chicken, cured ham, or raw shrimp and adjust the amount of water accordingly.

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Ingredients

  • ½ pound bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small hot chile pepper, seeded and minced
  • ¼ pound small fresh okra (stems removed), cut into rounds
  • 8 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed, and milk scraped from the cobs and reserved
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 scallions (part of green tops included), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Method

In a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat, fry the bacon till crisp, drain on paper towels, and reserve. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and chile pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the okra, the corn plus its milk, the water, and salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring once or twice, till the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a serving dish, stir in the scallions and butter, and garnish the top with the bacon.