Maque Choux distills the essence of summer into every bite. Admittedly, its first attraction may be the fun name. Pronounced mock shoe, it is a corruption of a French word or an Indian saying, or just straight up Acadian, depending on whom you ask. It is a traditional Cajun dish which occasionally makes it onto the menus of New Orleans-style restaurants, but more often than not, as some dressed up, modernized version – with herbs, no bacon, named heirloom tomatoes. All of which is fine, but when you stop de-constructing and re-constructing and cook up a big, simple skillet-full, the very taste of ripe, sweet summer corn and fresh, juicy tomatoes is so clear, I don’t see why we need to mess about.
Like classic Wash Day Beans, this is not a quick, lightly cooked preparation. The slow, mellow braising of corn kernels with onion brings out a sweet richness that will make you think someone snuck in a dash of sugar while you weren’t looking. Salty smokiness from good bacon and a touch of sweet-tart freshness from full, ripe tomatoes round out one of my favorite expressions of summer’s bounty. Serve maque choux beside a hearty piece of grilled meat, but I’ll be honest, I usually eat it by the bowlful all on its own, maybe with a biscuit to sop up the juices.
Maque Choux (Cajun Stewed Corn and Tomatoes)
6 strips of bacon
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
6 ears of fresh corn, husked and silked
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a large, deep skillet with a tight fitting lid until crisp. Remove half of the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the rest in the skillet.
While the bacon is cooking, cut the kernels from the corn and scrape out as much milk as possible. Lower the heat on the bacon grease, add the onions and green peppers and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the onions are beginning to soften add the corn and stir to blend. Scrape in the chopped tomatoes and their juices, stir well and bring to a bubble. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet, and stew for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a dash of water here and there to keep things from sticking. Maque Choux can stand up to longer cooking if you get distracted and can be gently reheated a few hours later.
Serve warm, with the remaining bacon pieces sprinkled on top.