An envie for couche-couche

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Ayyyy, I’m turning into my mother.

Ahem.

Anyway, in honor of LSU’s ridiculous victory over the Crimson Tide Saturday night (and superstitiously hoping to bring a little luck to the Saints), I pulled out the big guns and made myself couche-couche for breakfast Sunday morning. This dish is as Cajun as it gets — no pig, it’s true, but it takes a few humble ingredients and lets them shine.

I’m pretty sure my grandpa ate this every single morning. As a young kid, whenever I’d sleep over, my grandma would make extra and then our silly ritual would begin.

Paw-Paw: Here, try this.
Me: (duly taking bite)
Paw-Paw: C’est bon?
Me: Bon … ?

He got such a huge kick out of that little exchange, he didn’t bother telling me what it meant until I was a little older. [The only time my grandparents really spoke French around us was when they wanted to keep their conversations private, so I didn’t start learning it until ninth grade. My grandpa was already gone by then, but I credit him with teaching me my very first French phrase.]

Even though I haven’t had couche-couche since I was a small child sitting at my grandparents’ kitchen table, I woke up Sunday morning with a craving (or envie) for it. Part skillet cornbread, part pancake, part porridge, it develops a deep, roasted flavor from the hot cast iron skillet and has a nutty crunch that plain cornbread never achieves. It’s traditionally topped with milk and sugar or just cane syrup, but I wanted the best of both worlds that morning. I didn’t break it into tiny pieces the way my grandma used to because I didn’t have the patience, but it was fine just the way it was.

Can’t wait to get home for Christmas.

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Update: The November issue of F&W has a good article on Chef Donald Link’s (of Herbsaint and Cochon restaurants) recommendations for an eating road trip through Cajun country. I can vouch for Poche’s — my aunt brings pounds of their boudin to our Christmas gathering every year. So many other great things in the issue, too — the obligatory Thanksgiving section, a cheese primer, an article devoted to Oregon whiskey, and the list goes on.

recipe after the jump

Mère’s Couche-Couche from Shadows-on-the-Teche Cookbook

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups very hot water
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons oil

Sift together cornmeal, flour, and salt. Add the hot water to make a light batter. Break 2 eggs into the mixture and beat well. Add the baking powder. Put the oil in a heavy iron skillet. When very hot, pour in the batter, lower the heat, and cover tightly. Cook 5 minutes (until crust is formed at the bottom of the pot). Stir occasionally until cooked, but not dry.

Yield: 4-6 servings

  1. wow
    i would love love love that
    i am definitely making it
    before sunday

    i have so many social engagements between now and then – all revolving around food. it’d have to be tomorrow morning – or saturday morning.

    is corn meal polenta? – it is, right?
    i know i should know but i’m checking anyway…

    does it work if you half it?
    ok – i’m thinking tomorrow morning…

  2. Yes, polenta is made from cornmeal, and I think it’s usually a finer grind than the stuff I used here. If that’s all you have, though, I’m sure it would be fine — this isn’t a delicate, hothouse flower sort of dish.

    And halving it is fine. Just keep an eye on it, because it’ll cook faster.

  3. Yummm … I lovelovelove buttermilk. Was also thinking that a nice rosemary syrup would be good on it, without the milk. Hmmm…

    Glad you liked it!

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