Maque Choux and Patience on the bayou….
Pronounced “Mock-Shoe” this medley of sweet corn and cream has as many variations as a southerner has cousins. A succotash of Cajun Country that actually originated with the southeastern Native Americans..
My first taste of Maque Choux was eaten out of a cast iron skillet that was rusting around the edges. Unfortunately, the rust never deterred my beloved Ms. Mattie. She was a cagey old woman with weird ways and mystical stories that at times seemed far-fetched but are well remembered.
Perhaps, I’m morphing into my own version of her; let me tell you a story.
If you’ve read this post, you already know of Ms. Mattie. She was a little old lady I meet while living on the outskirts of Lafayette, Louisiana. A place that to me captures the true spirit of Louisiana, far from the French Quarter and powdered beignets. This particular day, I’d been sent on a journey in search of cashews. Not, so much a journey as just a trip to the store.
They were Ms. Mattie’s choice of snack, that and a package of Virginia slim ultra lights. I returned to her house with both and she gave me a spoon.
“Ca c’est bon, eh?!” She said while glaring at me over her glasses.
Doing my best to avoid the black freckle specs of iron sticking to the bottom, I embarked on my first taste of what was nothing short of creamy corn bliss.
“You gotta get the hair outta there” Is what she said, although in more of a mixture of Cajun French and broken English. My immediate thought was hair?! Is there hair in here? Gross.
It was a few weeks later that I learned what that meant exactly.
A little back history, I was a young single mom, working 2 jobs around this time. Ms. Mattie was a Godsend when I would think all hope was lost. As I said before, she taught me a lot more than gumbo and cajun; the hardest lesson being that of patience. That 6 mile trek to get to her house turned out to be just about a mile down the road from the daycare my daughter (an infant at the time) stayed while I worked. I’d always stop by on my way home, despite her caginess, she gave me a since of home.
I asked if she needed anything in particular.
“Give me the girl and you go fix the corn”
Fixing the corn turned out to be shucking a box of what seemed like 100 of ears of corn. Having no idea how one “fixes” the corn, I set about ripping the hell out of the husk and throwing it back in the box..
“Merde… the hair..you gotta get the hair”
Again with the hair.. the hair being the silky strains left behind after my poor attempts at shucking. So down she sits, my baby on her lap and shows me how to properly shuck corn. While telling me of a Creek man she met long ago and the real meaning behind "God willing and the Creek don't rise"
“Take ya time pischouette”… she meant way more by that statement than I realized at the time. Take my time I did and we made maque choux and ate dinner at what had to be one in the morning.
I’ll never shuck corn that way again. The kernels you see in those photos are the product of the microwave method. Google it!
My daughter, now a teenager, “shucked” this corn.. the memory of us that day and how things come full circle burns in my mind.
As I shared this story with her, I couldn’t help but feel some sort of pride. Pride that I remember where I was and how far I’ve come, pride that I would imagine Ms. Mattie felt every time she shared a story.
*Side Note- Before the cajun culinary police arrest me, I know there are no tomatoes in this.. Ms. Mattie would add tomatoes and crawfish (when she had them), as well as adding a blond roux at times to thicken the dish. The butter was about twice the amount I used and there was always that need for bacon drippings and tasso ham. But geezus I'm an old gal now and can't eat like I used to, so I scaled back on the grease and ingredients to make this super simple. Add about 2 tomatoes chopped to give this a creamy tomato based flavor, double up on the hot sauce, or even throw in some crushed red pepper.*
Prep time- 20 mins Cook Time- 10-12 mins Yields- 6 servings