Friday, April 10, 2009



First, the end of my story yesterday about burning the potpourri: our agent got feedback from the agent who showed the house. He said he and his client loved the house, and he (the agent) was especially curious about where I got that potpourri because it was "fantastic." I had to laugh. Well, first you take some cinnamon, some orange peel and a few cloves. Then you burn them. But not too much! Just until they smell like molasses cookies. Then get them the hell out of the house before you set off the fire alarm. I passed the tip along...

Oh, and they liked the music. They were just kind enough to turn it off when they left.

On to the recipe. This is adapted by Saveur Magazine from Commanders Palace Restaurant in New Orleans, and is featured in the current issue. I've adapted it further to my own taste. I confess I had never heard of maque choux, but I guess that's OK since I'm not a native of New Orleans. It's a folk recipe that mixes Acadian and Native American elements and therefore is adaptable to the extent that you use ingredients typical to the region. ("Maque choux" is probably a French corruption of whatever the Native American word was.) The ingredients in this version are true to the magazine (and therefore, I guess, the restaurant); I just changed a few quantities. The original was a bit dainty for my taste.

The bottom line is that it's delicious and a unique mixture of easy-to-find ingredients. It's good enough for company, and quick and easy enough for a weekday meal.

One note: given the old-fashioned French influence prevalent in New Orleans, there's more saturated fat (bacon fat plus butter) here than I would normally use. For that reason, quick and easy as it is, I'll probably save it for special occasions.

2 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper. cored, seeded and finely chopped
10 okra, sliced thin on the diagonal (to make about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium can sweet corn, drained (or a 10-oz package of frozen corn)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
16 medium shrimp (about 8 oz.) peeled and de-veined
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups cooked white rice

In a 12" skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring occasion­ally, until crisp, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in hot bacon fat. Add garlic, shallots, peppers, and jalapenos and cook over medium ­high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to high; add okra and corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in scallions and remaining butter and season with salt and pepper; set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oven to broil and place a rack 8" from broiler ele­ment. Toss shrimp with oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Transfer shrimp in a single layer to an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and broil, for two minutest, then using tongs, turn and broil on other side an additional two minutes, until pink and cooked through. Add shrimp to cooked vegetables. Serve on top of a bed of rice; garnish with reserved bacon.


Anonymous said...

I never got along with New Orleans cuisine, too fench, too hot, too greasy. This recipe has me thinking though. One question:Do you coarsely chop the bacon first? or chop after it cooks to crisp? I would think chop it afterwards. Just want to make sure as I have a recipe for cooking pork chops in bacon fat and it says to chop first and leave the bacon bits in the fat when you add the pork chops. I'll try this next week. We love shrimp dishes here. Any excuse will do. Thanks.

Ralph said...

Z&M, you cut up the bacon before you fry it so you don't need a flat pan to cook it in. You can use the same pan you add everything else to with the butter.

Yeah, this is definitely not Frenchy except for the richness of the butter.

Anonymous said...

Good that I asked. Thanks.

Jeff said...

Re: potpourri - back when we were selling our condo apartment during the first real estate bubble in the late 80's, I read this tip that you should take a vanilla bean and put it in a small pan of boiling water before potential buyers show up. Principle is the same I guess.. :)

- J.

Ralph said...

Yep, Jeff, same principle. And a good idea--I like the smell of vanilla. Might try it! Or add it to the concoction I've already got.

Nan said...

So glad that the potpourri and the music went over so well. Yes, you should definitely go with the expert advice.