Viva New Orleans! Blackened shrimp with corn maque choux recipe

Blackened Shrimp with Corn Maque Choux

Makes 4-6 servings

4 ears of corn, shucked, kernels cut off (about 4 cups) and cobs reserved

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 pound bacon, cut into small pieces

1 cup red bell pepper, small diced

1 cup green bell pepper, small diced

2 cups onion, small diced

2 cups tomatoes, medium diced

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

1/2 cup chicken stock (or broth)

1 pound (12-15) large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Olive oil, as needed

Sliced scallions for garnish

Blackening spice*

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Make your own blackening spice (*optional - you can use a pre-made spice mix if you like). This will be used to season both the shrimp and the maque choux. Combine salt, black pepper, sugar, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder and dried thyme and set aside.

2. Heat cream on medium in a sauce pot and add corn cobs (break them in half and use as many as will comfortably fit in the pot). Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. This process infuses the cream with a strong corn flavor. Remove cobs from cream.

3. Toss shrimp in a little olive oil and season generously with blackening spice.

4. In a large saute pan on medium heat, render bacon pieces until crispy. With a slotted spoon remove bacon and let drain on paper towel. Reserve bacon fat.

5. In the same pan with 2 tablespoons of reserved bacon fat, saute the corn kernels, peppers, onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, cream and 2 tablespoons of blackening spice. Stir well and let reduce for 15-20 minutes until tomatoes begin to break down and the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep maque choux warm in a covered casserole dish.

6. In a hot saute pan add 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon fat and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Carefully place seasoned shrimp in hot pan. Sear on each side for about 2 -3 minutes (cooking time will vary depending on size of shrimp).

7. Serve each portion of maque choux in a bowl with blackened shrimp, crispy bacon bits and scallions and, of course, an icy cold Abita beer to wash it all down.

Being 5 years since hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has been on my mind lately. Fortunately for me, when the catastrophic storm hit I no longer resided there, but like many New Orleans expats I grieved for the city from a physical distance as if I were still there. I will always have a special place in my heart for the people, culture and cuisine of New Orleans. I am elated to watch the Big Easy’s progress of restoring itself and once again becoming a destination for epicureans and party time thrill seekers alike. Though its recovery still has a long way to go, New Orleans’ tenacity and Bohemian spirit will persevere, of this I have no doubt.

I began my culinary career in The Crescent City, so Cajun- and Creole- influenced dishes and ingredients are peppered throughout the many menus that I have created in my 15 years of cooking. With corn being in season I decided to revisit a side dish recipe I learned in New Orleans called maque choux (pronounced "mock shoe"). Believed to be a combination of Acadian French (Cajun) and Native American in origin, this stewed vegetable dish with bacon and cream is hearty and rustic and makes for a great accompaniment to seafood. I like to serve it with blackened shrimp (preferably Gulf shrimp) but it pairs well with any other fish or shellfish.

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