Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hot Summer Supper

With the weather so hot it's been hard to think about anything in the kitchen: eating (well not really -- there's always ice cream), cooking, and certainly not preserving (or cleaning for that matter). And yet, dinner time seems to roll around everyday. So I went rummaging for an idea.
I'm not sure if I like okra or the idea of okra better, but every summer I grow several plants, and when our crop is small (or I forget to harvest the pods while they are still reasonably tender size) I buy it at the farmer's market. I've roasted it, fried it, and stirred it into gumbos and Indian fiery hot stews. Last night I looked around at what was left in our kitchen and vegetable drawers and came up with this version of Louisiana's vegetable stew, Maque Choux. A Cajun style dish, Maque Choux is also thought to have roots among The Bayou State's Native American tribes. The current name is generally thought to be a Louisiana French adaptation of an American Indian moniker -- much like succotash in other parts of the South.
For your own homemade Maque Choux sauté aromatics (onions or shallots, celery, bell peppers, a jalapeño or two, thyme, a bit of garlic, and a pinch of cayenne -- some cooks use a little Louisiana Tasso ham) in bacon fat and or butter (save the crisped bacon for a topping) until just soft and starting to brown. Add chopped tomatoes (if it's tomato season) and allow to cook down (many cooks skip this step preferring to give the stew a creamier texture by scraping the corn cobs -- after the kernels have been cut off -- and adding the "corn milk" as a liquid -- but we grow tomatoes and had some slightly soft ones around). Then stir in corn kernels and sliced okra. Cook until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes or so -- you may need to add water or chicken broth as it cooks), season with S&P, a bit more cayenne or chile powder, hot sauce to taste, and a couple pats of butter.
Serve on steamed rice, sprinkled with reserved bacon or topped with spiced broiled shrimp.

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