Here is it - the ultimate in one-pot meals - a Cajun or Creole (depending on who you talk to) symphony of flavor that is always delicious, miraculously, no matter what you throw in it. That is probably because it is basically souped up creamed corn with some kind of porky product (usually bacon) as the foundation plus some sweet and some spice. Some versions have shrimp or crawfish, some have cream, and I've even had one with 4 kinds of meat mixed in, which was a bit much.
Even though summer is officially over, certain late summer vegetables are still available at my local farmer's market here in Fairfax. In addition to vegetables there is an abundance of homemade and artisan (sorry, it was the most appropriate word) baked goods, pantry items, flowers, plants, seeds, and meats. This particular Saturday the first thing I saw was piles and piles of sweet corn and overflowing crates of fresh field peas. I grabbed some corn, tomatoes, and ropes of cowpeas, then headed to the Argentinian stand, Il Bastone, for some spicy chorizo (chorizo picante) and spotted a jar of pickled cayenne peppers, which I also grabbed. I grabbed a few other items to round out the dish and headed home (well, not exactly immediately because I got into a fender bender in the parking lot.)
I promise you - even though this is mess of stuff in one pot it is really, really good, and really really easy to make. I made enough for leftovers but my family polished off the whole pot in one sitting.
4 medium ears fresh, sweet corn on the cob
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 strips good, uncured bacon
2 fresh chorizo sausage links, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 roma tomatoes
1 tablespoon pepper vinegar (like from a jar of pickled cayenne) or 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper hot sauce
1 lime, juiced
1 cup fresh shelled field peas/black eye peas, or 3/4 cup dried peas (like sea island red peas), soaked overnight
3 cups low or no-sodium chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground paprika
Chopped chives, to finish
1. Over a gas flame, hold the whole red pepper with tongs and char on all sides, OR you can lightly oil the pepper and place under a broiler in the oven until it chars and blisters, turning every few minutes to char on all sides. Immediately place the pepper in a cereal bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. After it steams for a few minutes, peel as much of the skin as you can from around the pepper. Discard the skin. Then seed and mince the pepper. Discard the seeds and set the minced pepper aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Shuck the corn and drop into the boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain. Score each tomato by carving an "x" into the bottom, then drop into the still boiling water for one minute. Remove each tomato from the water with tongs and set aside.
3. When you are able to handle the corn without burning your hands, cut the kernels from each cobb by standing the corn on its stem edge and running a sharp knife down each side. Scrape the kernels and their milk into a bowl and set aside.
4. Next peel the tomatoes (the skin should pull off easily), seed, and roughly chop. Set aside.
5. Heat a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Place the strips of bacon in the pot and brown on both sides, rendering as much fat as you can from each strip, for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove the strips, and drain on paper towels.
6. Add the chorizo to the bacon fat and brown, rendering as much fat as you can from the sausages. Remove the cooked chorizo from the pot with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
7. Using pot holders, pick up the pot and pour off all but one tablespoon of the fat in the pan. Return the pot to the burner and add the olive oil. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the onion, sautéing until soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.
8. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and deglaze, scraping all of the nice bits from the bottom of the pot loose. Lower the heat to medium, then add the rest of the broth, peas, lime juice, chorizo, pepper vinegar or hot sauce, cumin, and paprika. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
9. Remove the cover and add the corn, tomatoes, and red pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for another 6-8 minutes.
10. To finish, crumble the cooked bacon and sprinkle all over the Maque Choux along with some chopped chives. This is great over fluffy rice.