Maque Choux is a traditional Cajun side dish made from smothering or braising fresh corn with other vegetables, seasoned with some form of fat and South Louisiana spices, as spicy or mild as you like. Sweet Daddy D’s Maque Choux is simply fresh corn, the trinity, tomatoes, garlic and Herbs and Spices thicken with a smidgen of heavy cream. The cooking process turn these ingredients into something between creamed corn and succotash with a Cajun accent. If you are new to Cajun and Creole food, this creamy, savory dish is a great place to start. How many ways do you like corn? This will be number 1.
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What is Maque Choux?
In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced MOCK-SHOE. The name itself is French, but as with most traditional South Louisiana dishes, there’s no total agreement on where the name came from. Theories on the meaning of the name include “thin child” which may refer to the process of thinning the vegetable mixture with cream or milk. Some say it means “mock cabbage” and suspect that cabbage was once an ingredient. Regardless of the meaning of the name, it’s fairly certain that the dish originated from the indigenous people that populated Southern Louisiana before it was cool to populate South Louisiana. Pierre Le Moyne d’ Iberville’s men observed Native American women in Bayougoula (Iberville Parish) as early as 1699 making a variety of corn dishes called “sagamité”. One variety was corn stewed in bear oi, another like succotash and a third was fried cornmeal. It was common for migrants new to the area to learn from and share with the Native population. When the Acadian refugees arrived in South Louisiana between 1764 and 1788 they quickly learned that their go-to crop, wheat, was ill-suited for the climate and soils of the region and soon adapted corn as a mainstay in their diet. Particularly in the Southwest Plains and Acadiana areas around Point Coupee Parish, variants of sagamite were developed. It’s likely the Cajun cook found the dish a little bland and eventually added onions and other seasonings, even tomatoes, to the dish that became known as Maque Choux. Today, it’s a common side dish found on Cajun and Creole tables and is a culinary link to the development of our culture.
Here’s What You Need
Here are some of the key ingredients for this recipe:
Here is some of the equipment I used to prepare this recipe:
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Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. Making this recipe, whether it’s the first time, or the hundredth time will be easier with proper preparation. That starts with the cook. Open a beer and sit down to read the recipe from top to bottom. It’s pretty simple, but knowing what you need and what you’ll do with each ingredient will make things run smoother.
Mise en place
Gather all of your ingredients. Cutting the corn off the cob will take a few minutes and I’ll cover that in the next paragraph. Once the corn is cut off the cob, place it and as much "milk" as you can save in a large glass measuring cup. If using canned tomatoes, pour them into a strainer and let them drain while you prepare the other ingredients. If using fresh tomatoes, you'll want to peel and de-seeded. Check out my article on how to do that. Deseed and chop the jalapeno, if using, and place in it a small prep bowl. Coarsely chop the onions, bell peppers and celery and place them together in a prep bowl. Slice the bacon or measure the bacon grease, chop the garlic and set those aside in individual prep bowls.
Preparing the corn
This is the step that makes this dish special. Make sure the corn is cleaned and all the corn silk has been removed. Set a small glass bowl upside down in a large glass bowl. Place the stem end of the corn on top of the small glass bowl and with a sharp knife, cut straight down, removing the kernels. Turn the corn after each slice until you’ve removed it all. Next, using the back (unsharpened edge) of your knife, scrape down the same cuts, squeezing out as much corn milk as possible. If you’re doing it right, it may be a little messy, but the final product of fresh, crisp corn kernels and a bunch of corn milk make this dish very memorable. Now you’re ready to start.
Build the flavor base
What happens in this step? Here we build a foundation by starting to caramelize the onions, which activates their sugars. Bacon grease, garlic, Herbs and Spice Blend provide major flavor to build on.
Place a heavy-bottom Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon grease and when it’s melted, add the yellow onions, bell peppers, celery (if using) and saute for about 8 to 10 minutes until the onions are starting to brown. Make sure to adjust the heat needed and, stirring often so the edges of the onions don’t burn.
Tip: If you are starting with bacon, slice it into approximately 1-inch pieces and throw them in the Dutch oven over medium heat. As the bacon fries and renders its fat, stir or flip the bacon until it’s crispy but not burned. Remove it from the pan, leaving the grease, and reserve to snack on or add back in the final stages.
Next add the garlic, jalapeno (if using), sugar, and Herb and Spice Blend. Stir and sauté for about 2 minutes.
Corn and tomatoes
What happens in this step? Now we’ll add the corn, with its juice, and the tomatoes to simmer and meld all the flavors. Increase the heat a little to compensate for the temperature drop when you add new ingredients.
Add the corn with all its milk and juice that has accumulated in the bowl. Let the mixture come to a strong simmer, continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the drained and crushed tomatoes and mix everything together. Return to a strong simmer and continue to saute for about 3 minutes.
Cover the Dutch oven, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until corn is softening.
After about 20 minutes, uncover the Dutch oven and give everything a good stir. Mix well, remove or partially cover Dutch oven and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes while the liquid reduces.
Finish with heavy cream
What happens in this step? This is the final stage when the Maque Choux develops that creamy finish.
Remove the lid completely and give everything a vigorous stir. Add the heavy cream slowly, starting with about ¼ cup. Mix it together completely and let it return to a simmer. Stir regularly while it thickens, adding more cream if desired.
TIP: Not making soup, nor is it corn pudding
Add the green onions (save some for the top) and serve immediately.
Hints and Tips (FAQs)
You can keep leftover Maque Choux in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container. Stick it in the freezer in an airtight container and you’re good for about 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge, When you’re ready to reheat, simmer in a saucepan until heated through, or use your microwave. You may need to give it a good stir to re-combine all the ingredients.
Yes, you can (see what I did there), although, frozen corn is a much better substitute for the crispness of fresh corn. My recommendation would be to use canned corn as a last resort. If you use canned, make sure to drain it completely. Fresh corn is sweeter than canned or frozen, so when you taste for seasoning, you may add a little more sugar. Fresh corn also gives you a good amount of “corn milk”, which is the starchy white liquid that comes when you cut the kernels off the cob. The addition of corn milk helps with the thickening and creaminess of the final dish.
You can substitute butter, margarine or vegetable oil for the bacon grease.
Depending upon how much corn milk develops from the cobs, you may not need much heavy cream. Stock or even water can be substituted for the heavy cream, or just leave it out altogether.
Yes, it’s common to add shrimp or crawfish, or even tasso or andouille. Obviously, the flavor profile will follow whatever you choose to use. Saute the tasso, crawfish, sausage or shrimp first, then reserve them to add back in the final stages of cooking.
Maque Choux is usually served as a side dish. When prepared with crawfish tails, shrimp, tasso or andouille, it's not uncommon to serve it over or with rice as a main dish.
Check out these other great vegetable side dishes from Sweet Daddy D:
Check out these other great Cajun and Creole Recipes:
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Here's What You Need
- 3 Tablespoons Bacon Grease
- 4 Cups Corn
- 2 Cups Yellow Onions one large
- 1 Cup Bell Peppers
- ½ Cup Celery Optional
- 3 tablespoons Garlic 5 or 6 cloves
- 1 ½ Cups Tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped or 15 oz can-drained
- 1 tablespoon Jalapeno Optional
- ½ cup Heavy Cream start with ¼ cup and add more as needed
- 1 Cup Green Onions
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 Tablespoon Creole seasonings
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Sugar Optional
- ½ teaspoon Cayenne Optional
Here's What You Do
- Heat bacon grease in Dutch oven over medium high heat
- Add yellow onions, bell peppers, celery (if using), sauté for about8 to 10 minutes until onions are starting to brown [maybe lower heat during this stage]
- Add garlic, jalapena (if using), sugar and Herb and Spice Blend, saute about 2 minutes
- Add corn and continue to saute for 3 to 5 minutes
- Add the tomatoes, mix well. Saute about 3 minutes.
- Cover pot, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until corn is softened, stirring occasionally.
- Mix well, remove or partially cover Dutch oven and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes while liquid reduces.
- Add about ¼ cup of heavy cream and simmer until thickened. Add more cream if desired.
- Add the green onions to serve.