In Louisiana’s cajun country, fresh corn is the star of maque choux, a dish that balances its sweetness with a savory mix of vegetables and crawfish. But it can veer to the heavy side, thanks largely to the addition of cream.
We wondered whether we could keep the elements we liked—the fresh, starchy sweetness of peak-season corn and the richness of sautéed vegetables—but create a fresh interpretation that’s lighter and brighter. And we suspected the solution might be in the corn itself.
Maque choux is eaten year-round, yet its origins are somewhat murky. Native Americans introduced the Cajuns to corn, as well as many other ingredients that show up in Cajun cuisine. In fact, the commonly cited etymology of “maque choux” suggests that it was derived from a French interpretation of its Native American name.
Over the centuries, maque choux evolved, with many variations. “Like most Cajun recipes, no two are alike,” says George Graham, author of the Cajun and Creole cookbook “Acadiana Table.” The classic version starts with corn sautéed in butter and the region’s classic aromatic trio of onion, celery and green bell pepper (frequently referred to as the “holy trinity”).
Over time, tomatoes were added (a flourish likely owed to the Creole cooks of New Orleans), as well as crawfish, a generous dash of cayenne for heat, smoky flavor from a bit of tasso ham—a Louisiana staple made from the fatty pork shoulder—and, of course, that cream.
At Milk Street, we wanted a lighter version that didn’t sacrifice flavor. Since cream often swamps the delicate flavor of the corn, we omitted it. Instead, we hoped we could use the corn to add creaminess. First, we cut the kernels off. Then we used the back of the knife to scrape the cobs, releasing their starchy “milk.” Our instincts were right—this added rich, creamy body without overwhelming the other flavors.
We also wanted to better highlight the combination of onion, celery and bell pepper—the base flavor of so many Cajun and Creole dishes. But in many versions we tried, the tomatoes competed with them. The solution was to leave them out in favor of a simple splash of cider vinegar for acidity.
Finally, neither crawfish nor tasso ham are widely available, so we replaced them with andouille sausage—not traditional for maque choux, but at least a classic Cajun ingredient—to make the dish substantial while adding smoky, spicy notes. The result captured all the flavors we valued, but also let each one shine.