Monday, August 19, 2013

Miseaux en Place

If you love the freshest, most delicate Italian olive oils, handmade fleur de sel or hard-to-find ingredients like fennel pollen, oregano and salted capers from the island of Pantelleria, you know about contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food. What you may not know is that he's a devotée of the Cajun foodways of New Orleans and travels there whenever he can. The following is a bulletin from his latest trip to the Big Easy.

You see of lot of words ending with “eaux” in Louisiana. Most are names that extend back to the French colonists expelled from Nova Scotia who found their way to the Gulf Coast. But anything ending in a long “O” sound can be adapted, like geaux cup for the styrofoam pint of daquiri or hurricane or whatever you’re drinking. It can get stupid, but it’s also Cajun shorthand.

I’ve been experimenting with miso paste in decidedly nontraditional dishes, and have been calling my fermented soy paste addition Cajun miso, but I like "miseaux" (pron. mee-SOH) better. A lot of the things I’ve been making are part of the Southern foodway, but I was really inspired by our friend Pableaux, a real Cajun, who told me that Cajun food isn’t sentimental. What he was getting at was anything is fair when it comes to flavor. And miso adds flavor to almost everything.

I got the idea from an article David Tanis wrote about the book Japanese Farm Food that included a leek recipe with miso-mustard sauce. I mixed miso paste with stoneground mustard and Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar and started adding it to whatever I was cooking.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Maque Choux with Miseaux

Finely chop roughly equal amounts onion, celery, and bell pepper (or half a jalapeno if you like heat), start cooking in extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of salt. Slice the kernels from a few ears of corn (fresh, or leftover cooked corn on the cob) and toss them in.

Mix a couple of tablespoons of light miso (or dark; either will work although the flavors will be different...dark miso is older and stronger) with a tablespoon of stone ground mustard and one of Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar (or any good cider vinegar). When the corn has started to brown a bit, stir it in, cook a little longer, and eat.

Fresh Shell Beans with Mint and Miseaux

This time of year you should be able to find fresh shell beans of some kind at the farmers market or even at the grocery store. Cook in salted water until tender, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the bean. Scoop beans out and save the cooking water for vegetables or rice (it’s like stock).

Mix whatever miso you have with mustard and vinegar, 2 parts miso to 1 part each of the other stuff. Add a bunch of chopped fresh mint and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. If you like things spicy, some kind of chile heat is nice. Serve at room temperature.

Top photo of different types of miso made by Jorinji Miso of Portland. Photo by Bruce Ely for the Oregonian.

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