This week, instead of the usual pontificating and prognostication you've come to expect on this site, I thought I'd give you a recipe, just for fun. If you're looking for a way to get your kids to eat their vegetables, try a batch of Corn Maquechoux (Pronounced "Ma Shoe"). This Cajun dish is immensely flavorful and a lot of fun to make.
If you ever find yourself in Schenectady, NY your first impulse will be to leave immediately. That's a good instinct, but on the way out stop at the Mello Joy Café on Jay Street for some great, reasonably priced Cajun food, served up by a friendly staff while New Orleans music plays in the background. I got the original recipe from the chef/owner and have messed with it and modified it quite a bit. This recipe makes a large batch because smaller ones are just as much work and vanish almost immediately. Even with this size batch I seldom have much left over.
Don't substitute ingredients. If you plan on using garlic flakes instead of real garlic or margarine instead of butter, forget it and just throw a can of creamed corn into the microwave. (Note to stupid people: Don't actually put the can in there, empty the can into something else and heat that. Otherwise, the can may explode and kill you, leaving us with one less stu…on second thought, never mind, do whatever you want.) Use the freshest, highest quality ingredients you can find. Don't use store brand canned corn - use DelMonte or Green Giant. (Avoid Libby's.)
An entire head of garlic is not as excessive as it may seem. The finished dish does not taste at all garlicky, and the garlic adds a great deal of richness and flavor. Mincing garlic can be annoying, because most of it sticks to the knife. Chop some, wipe it off the knife, then sprinkle a bit of salt on both sides of the now damp knife. Very little will stick to it from then on.
Cajun Spices refers to premixed blends of spices. There are a lot of different brands available. Use whichever one you like. Chef Paul Prudhomme's "Vegetable Magic" is available in most supermarkets, and works well. Emeril Lagasse's "Bayou Blast" is even better.
Hot pepper sauces vary considerably in strength and flavor. Tabasco Sauce® works great, but you can substitute any hot sauce you like. Don't be afraid to use more than one. I've been using a Picante Salsa sauce made with Louisiana hot peppers and tabasco peppers along with another sauce made from cayenne peppers. You say you'd rather use a jalapeno sauce? Go right ahead. Stay away from habanero sauces, though, as they're likely to overpower the dish.
Add Spices means add a bit of all the spices: a sprinkle of Cajun spices, a splash of the hot sauce, and a few good splashes of Worcestershire sauce. The Worcestershire sauce is the secret ingredient that supplies much of the flavor. Adding spices in smaller amounts all through the cooking process lets them mix and blend with the food, making each morsel explode with flavor when your guests bite into it.
Be careful not add too much spice. The final dish should have enough kick to let you know the spices are in there, but it should not be painful or overbearing. It should be just spicy enough to make you feel a warm glow inside.
Hot pepper sauce
1 stick butter
1 head garlic
1 large red pepper
1 large green pepper
1 large onion (Spanish or Vidala work best)
2 cans creamed corn
1 can kernel corn
1 pint heavy cream
4 plum tomatoes
Melt the butter in a large pan
Mince the garlic as finely as possible. Add it to the butter and simmer for a few minutes.
Dice the peppers and onion. Add to the pot, stirring well. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add spices. Continue cooking until the onions are clear.
Add all three cans of corn, including the juice from the kernel corn. Add spices, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring often.
Add heavy cream. If you have more than a pint, add a bit more. Add spices. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.
Dice plum tomatoes after removing seeds and pulp. Stir into mixture. Add spices to taste. At this point you may need to add just a bit of salt to bring out the sweetness of the corn, but go easy on it.
Serve in small, stingy bowls with Dixieland jazz or Zyedco music playing in the background. Everyone will think it's just creamed corn until they taste it. They will then devour it quickly and demand more. This is why you made such a large batch - it won't last long.
© 2000 Dave Hitt
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