Friday, January 25, 2008

Light(er) Maque Choux with Chicken and Turkey Kielbasa: Cook's Illustrated is My Hero

After today, I'm expecting either a cease-and-desist or full-on restraining order from Cook’s Illustrated. But really … I can’t help it. Their 30-Minute Recipe collection has produced four winners in a row, and it’s already dangerously close to taking Ina’s place in my heart. If I was back in junior high, I’d have a butterfly notebook with “Kris luvs Cook’s 4-eva” scrawled on every available inch.

I’d never tried or even heard of Maque Choux (pronounced “mock shoe,” not “mack shooks”) before cooking it on Tuesday. According to my sources (a guy named Pierre), it’s a traditional Louisianan side dish made with corn, onions, peppers, and a combination of Cajun-esque spices. The CI version adds a bunch of meat, which morphs it into heartier main course material.

To up the health ante, I switched the kielbasa to turkey kielbasa and cut the vegetable oil to a third of what the original recipe called for. Those two steps alone slashed 40% of the fat and about 13% of the calories without sacrificing much in taste. In fact, I’m finding that turkey-for-real kielbasa is one of the best and easiest nutritional substitutions out there. For poultry, the flavor’s pretty dang close to the real thing.

When all was said and braised, the Boyfriend and I both dug Maque Choux, especially as leftovers the next day. (And the day after that. Like CI’s Chicken Provencal and Polenta, the recipe makes a lot of food.) It does take a tad longer than 30 minutes to prepare, but that's a minor quibble. A more experienced chicken-puller probably could have shredded the breasts faster. (Alas, my tiny dinosaur hands weren’t up to the task.)

So, yeah. Another victory for Kimball & Co. I’m going to try to move on to other recipe volumes for the time being, but … if you should see him or any of the Test Kitchen folks on the street, tell ‘em I said, “Hi!”

(Or, “Oh Cook’s Illustrated employee, I love your food so hard. Please be my personal chef/prisoner for all eternity.” Then run.)

Light(er) Cook’s Illustrated Maque Choux with Chicken and Turkey Kielbasa
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted (again) from Cook's Illustrated Best 30-Minute Recipe.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
6 ounces turkey kielbasa
1 onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped medium
1 pound frozen corn, thawed
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

CI HINT: "Chop the kielbasa, onion, and pepper while the chicken browns. Blend the corn while the vegetables cook."

1) Pat chicken dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat "until just smoking." Cook chicken about 2 or 3 minutes per side, until browned. Place on a plate and set aside for juices to redistribute

2) In the same pot, add remaining oil and heat over medium-high. Add kielbasa, onion, bell pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook around 8 minutes, or until kielbasa is fairly browned.

3) While kielbasa browns, combine half the corn and all of the broth in a blender. Puree until smooth.

4) Add garlic and thyme into pot. Cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Pour in corn mixture. Add chicken and any juices on plate. "Cover and cook until thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes."

5) After chicken is done, remove it with tongs and place on a plate. Add other half of corn to pot. Jack heat up to medium-high and cook another 2 or 3 minutes, until corn is warmed.

6) While corn is warming, use two forks to shred chicken as best you can. Kill the heat on the stovetop. Add shredded chicken and parsley to pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice and lots of sauce

Approximate Calories, Fat and Price per Serving
6 1-cup servings: 290 calories, 8 g fat, $0.90
4 1-1/2 cup servings: 435 calories, 12 g fat, $1.35

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts: 750 calories, 16.2 g fat, $1.79
salt and ground black pepper: negligible fat and calories, $0.02
2 teaspoons vegetable oil: 88 calories, 10 g fat, $0.04
6 ounces turkey kielbasa: 274 calories, 15.2 g fat, $0.75
1 onion, minced: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.17
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped medium: 31 calories, 0.4 g fat, $0.63
1 pound frozen corn, thawed: 368 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.99
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth: 172 calories, 6 g fat, $0.48
2 garlic cloves, minced: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried: negligible fat and calories, $0.10
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley: 3 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.33
TOTAL: 1741 calories, 48.3 g fat, $5.40
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 290 calories, 8 g fat, $0.90
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 435 calories, 12 g fat, $1.35

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Krista said...

This looks really good, but I am confused. I swear that in the picture it looks like there is pasta in that bowl... but I don't see pasta called for in the recipe. Am I seeing things?

Kris said...

Krista! You're not imagining things. I had some leftover egg noodles on hand, so I mixed 'em with the Maque Choux when I took the picture. The CI recipe calls for rice, so I prob'ly should have done that.

One Frugal Girl said...

I read about this cookbook back in one of your previous posts and purchased a used copy from I love every recipe I've made so far. My favorite... chicken fajitas with lime and worcestershire. Delicious! Thanks for helping me find a great new cookbook!

Kris said...

Oh, yay! That's great, OFG! Thank you for the feedback.

KNM said...

Thank you for posting a maque choux recipe. There is a cajun/creole place where I live (Indy) that occasionally has it and it's yummy, and now it's great to have a recipe to try at home. I might have to find a copy of that cookbook too. The recipes you've posted from it look great.

kevin said...

a little off topic, but, where do you get 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts for only $1.79?

Kris said...

Kevin! It went on sale the week of 1/11/08 at my local Key Food. I stocked up and jammed it in our freezer.

MCM Voices said...

I made this Saturday night - it was a hit, even with the kiddies! The other turkey kielbasa is all cut up and waiting in the freezer for the next time I make this. Thanks for posting the recipe - I may have to buy the cookbook (do you hear that CI??? CHG is selling your books for you!!).


Kris said...

MCM! That's fantastic. I'm so happy everybody liked it. I tried an Emeril version (without the meat) later in the week and it went over well, too.

AmyinMotown said...

I liked this a lot, but holy Creole did it take me a long time to make. Closer to an hour than 30 minutes. Mind you, I have sucky knife skills, but still.