What’s in a Name? Maque Choux Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments
I recently made a version of the Louisiana staple, Maque Choux, which is akin to Southern succotash. At this point in the summer, we are still long on fresh beans and corn so it is an easy dish to pull together. Knowing you can also have great quality frozen produce makes this a perfect side, at any time of year. In deciding whether or not to call the beans ‘lima beans’ or ‘butter beans’, I was reminded of a story a chef friend once told me about the importance of menu writing.
Chef Mauricio Papapietro owns brick & tin restaurant in downtown Birmingham and is set to open a second location in nearby Mountain Brook later this year. I interviewed Mauricio as part of a story I was working on for Taste of the South Magazine, covering James Beard-award winning Chef Frank Stitt’s 30th year at Highlands Bar & Grill. Papapietro, like several other successful chefs in town, once worked under Stitt. I asked him about what he learned in that kitchen and this was part of that interview:
“Most everyone who works for him, understands Frank. He comes to line-up (pre-service meeting with staff) and describes every detail of the dishes on that night’s menu. In this way, the staff learns how to describe food themselves.
He is great at writing menus – like literally what words to use. There would be times when something wouldn’t sell. It was a great dish but, for whatever reason, it didn’t sell and he would scratch out a word here or there and it would change how entrees moved. There was one time where we got a fish from the Pacific called a Monchong that was a beautiful fish. So fresh and gorgeous you could eat it raw. But we had a hard time selling it. So, Frank did a little research and found out you could also call that fish a “Butter Fish” and he renamed it on the menu and we sold out the next night.”
I thought that was a great story – about the importance of words and how they make us feel about things. It is also an example of shrewd business and savvy marketing, which is part of the reason Frank and his team have been successful for so long. So, the beans in this dish are butter beans – not lima beans. I think they taste better that way.
Maque Choux – with butter beans and corn
2 slices Benton’s bacon, chopped tablespoons
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 shallot, minced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh corn kernels (may substitute frozen – I usually do)
2 cups butter beans (ditto)
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
1) Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. When bacon is cooked halfway, add onion and shallot. Stir to combine and sauté until onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.
2) Add bell pepper; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add corn and butter beans; sauté 2 minutes.
3) Add chicken stock and stir to combine. Cover and reduce heat to low; let cook for five minutes.
4) Remove lid, add cream and thyme, stir to combine and let simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, letting guests add hot sauce as they wish.
While brick & tin is mainly just a lunch spot – serving soups and sandwiches to peripatetic diners, Mauricio’s approach is a little different. Having worked for James Beard-award winning chef Frank Stitt (of Highlands Bar & Grill, Chez Fon Fon, Bottega, Bottega Café), he knows first hand the importance of quality ingredients. In fact, he buys most of his meats and produce from the same purveyors Frank does. Mauricio makes a sandwich called The Chilton County (roasted pork belly, homemade peach jam, green tomato salsa on a cornmeal biscuit) which is the epitome of this approach.
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Southern food and lifestyle writer Christiana Roussel lives in Birmingham, AL. When not enjoying the occasional biscuit festival or bourbon tasting, there are four chickens, three dogs, two children and one husband who keep her very busy. You can follow her culinary adventures online at Christiana’s Kitchen.