A departure from traditional Cajun and Creole favorites like rice and meat, Maque Choux is a vegetarian dish (that could even be made Vegan with very little work, and it was influenced by an additional culture not often all that present in the Southern Louisiana cuisine.
Creole Take on Corn
In 19th century New Orlean, Creole culture expanded from only encompassing elite French and Spanish families to also include people of color from African and Caribbean descent. This allowed for the sorts of flavors present in their cuisine to expand as well, but Maque Choux isn’t just African, Caribbean, French, or Spanish. It is actually likely influenced heavily by Native Americans.
This dish consists mainly of corn sauteed with vegetables and seasoned. Traditionally, Louisianans could pick produce fresh from their gardens and make Maque Choux that same day.
No one knows for sure how Maque Choux became a popular Louisiana dish. In fact, no one is even certain what Maque Choux means, though it appears to be a French derivation of some sort. Interpretations of the name range from “mock cabbage,” which would suggest that cabbage was once a part of the dish, to a mispronunciation of a Native American word.
However it came to be, this dish in incomparably fresh, and is a great foil to some of the heavier Cajun and Creole entrees. Perhaps that’s why it’s still a popular side in Louisiana homes and restaurants today.
Same Flavor, Different Feel
Cajun and Creole cuisine is famous for its bold use of spices, but other than that parallel, Maque Choux stands out against most of the other dishes for which Southern Louisiana is famous. Rather than being heavy and relying on animal products to take center stage, Maque Choux is made entirely of produce.
This certainly speaks to the fact that this dish was influenced by another culture outside of French and Spanish, as it mirrors a more indigenous style like is sometimes noticeable in Mexican cuisine. Despite its differences from most of the food in the region, Maque Choux is still a beloved classic, a testament to the fact that Cajun and Creole cuisine can’t simply be placed in a box.
How to Make Maque Choux
Most Maque Choux recipes are very similar, as there’s little need to add extra frill to this simple classic. Traditional recipes like this one suggest cooking in bacon grease, but that’s a negotiable aspect. In any case, to make Maque Choux you’ll need: corn, onions, peppers, Cajun seasonings, and chicken stock.
Once you have this colorful crop of ingredients, the process of actually cooking the dish is quite simple: Heat your grease or oil in a skillet, then add your vegetables and seasoning. Allow them to cook until they’re softened, and then add chicken stock. Continue to heat the dish so the chicken stock has a chance to absorb, then it’s ready to serve.
Maque Choux is generally served as a side dish, but can be made an entree with the addition of some protein. Another common variation to this dish is substituting some sort of oil for bacon grease, at which point it becomes vegan friendly.
If you have all sorts of produce that needs using up, don’t hesitate to add it to the mix. Although traditional Maque Choux prioritizes the holy trinity of Cajun and Creole cuisine (onion, celery, and pepper), there’s no rule against including other vegetables as well. Some recipes also call for tomatoes, so acidity is a welcome addition to Maque Choux.
This dish may not be your typical Cajun and Creole fare, but it’s just as delicious as any of the other specialities.