Corn Maque Choux, served over quinoa: Slimmed down, yet still as authentic as zydeco.
I was horrified to pick up this month's Delicious magazine and read Simon Rimmer's recipe for vegetarian gumbo: with sweet potatoes, cabbage, red onions and not a dollop of roux, it resembled no gumbo I've ever had. I'm all down with vegetarian gumbo, of course, but if you're going to veganize a recipe, at least try to keep to its roots. Or call it something else.
So it was with no small amount of caution that I attempted to veganize another Cajun staple, maque choux (pronounced "mock shoe"). You probably haven't heard of it; it never became popular when Cajun food spiraled into trendiness during the nineties. But maque choux is much more likely to be found in Grandma's Cajun kitchen than shrimp etoufee, or K-Paul's mistake-made-good, blackened redfish. It's also naturally vegetarian, and a simple country dish, though sometimes sausage was tossed in when times were flush.
Maque choux is basically corn stew. It's often served over rice, but I decided to serve mine with quinoa, which is much higher in protein. I managed to get my hands on some fresh corn, which as I've complained before, is very dear here. But with the end of summer comes the corn crop, such as it is. And for maque choux, you want the freshest corn you can get, so fresh milk squirts from the kernels when you slice them from the cob.
You also will want to use the Cajun trinity, missing from Rimmer's faux-gumbo: onions (yellow or white), celery, and green bell pepper. I added some chopped tomatoes, since I had them, and of course used soy milk instead of dairy milk and cream. No eggs, either, but I never quite understood what purpose they served.
I don't know if K-Paul would approve—I based my recipe on his, since no one knows their way around a Cajun kitchen better than the big man himself. But with zero cholesterol, and a whole lot less saturated fat, my version is a lot less likely to make our waistlines kitchen-sized.
That's a good thing, cher.
4-6 fresh corn cobs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon red cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste, depending on stock)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock (homemade or good quality store-bought)
1 cup soy milk
¼ cup soy cream
Optional: 1 cup quinoa, cooked with vegetable stock or water according to package directions; or hot cooked rice.
Remove corn kernels from the cob, scraping away the milky liquid into a bowl as well.
In a heavy skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil and margarine over medium heat until the margarine melts. Add the corn, sprinkling the sugar over, and then the onion and celery. Add the spices: white pepper, red cayenne pepper and salt. Stir, and let the mixture simmer over low heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Scrap it from the bottom of the pan every now and then.
Add the green and red peppers and tomatoes. Cook over low heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add one cup of the stock, reserving the rest if needed to thin the stew.
Cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, adding stock as needed.
Add 1 cup soy milk and taste for seasonings. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Let simmer over low heat another 10 minutes. Shortly before serving, stir in soy cream and heat to serving temperature.
Spoon the maque choux over a mound of rice or quinoa in a shallow bowl; or serve by itself. You could also add vegan sausage if you're feeling flush.