Sep 7, 2011

couche couche

This is couche couche (koosh-koosh).  Or coush coush.  Or cush-cush.

Also called cornmeal mush. 
Not to be confused with couscous.  Different animal.
Or maybe not.

In her book, The Peppers, Cracklings, and Knots of Wool Cookbook: The Global Migration of African Cuisine, Diane Spivey suggests that Cajun style couche couche probably developed from a "sweet couscous, prepared with milk and sugar, or molasses, raisins or dates, rosewater and spices" that had "been prepared since ancient times in many African countries." 

This very simple dish--a country dish, a poor (wo)man's dish--has given me fits.  Terrible times writing about it.  So many times I considered "to hell with it."  If you don't know me, "to hell with it" is my code for: now it's personal and you're going down.  I'm pushin' on no matter what.  (Sorry about that, readers.)

My high school creative writing teacher once told me "write what you know."  So I wrote a story about a girl who followed her Cajun great-grandfather along the bayou and helped him in his garden.  A girl who didn't mind picking caterpillars off the broccoli.  And didn't mind when we missed a few.  Who liked exploring swamps and catching tadpoles in ditches.  A girl who wanted hunting boots for her birthday.  And didn't mind that great-grandpa treated her like a grandson.  Until the other girls in school called her on it, mocking her clunky black rubber boots while they were buying their first pairs of high heels.

These things I know.

Couche couche, not so much.

But The Husband told me all about it.  All about this dreaded dish from his childhood.  There's always something about your culture that you just don't like.  For The Husband, couche couche is that thing.

His family subscribed to the Southern tradition of eating a big meal at noon.  The evening meal was often biscuits or couche couche.

My father-in-law made the couche couche.  An old time rural dish--one that The Husband speculates was his father's comfort food.  Out of all the things father-in-law cooked, it was the only meal my husband didn't like.  He describes it as "a bowl of mush," "flat," "no flavor."

Father-in-law could make a mean chili and grill the pants off pork steak and fresh green onion pork sausage.  And his coffee--I've never had better.  Couche couche, though, felt like a punishment for The Husband.  

Father-in-law's version wasn't traditional.  Traditionally, couche couche is made by both frying and steaming cornmeal.  It's served in a bowl with milk and cane syrup.  Or preserves.  Savory versions exist too, pairing couche couche with boudin or gratons (cracklins).  My father-in-law started his couche couche with cornbread he had made.  He crumbled the cornbread in a bowl of milk and topped it with cane syrup.

I got to thinking.  Since many people have eaten couche couche for so long, surely it couldn't be that bad.  Maybe The Husband just needed to try a classic version.

Cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar are whisked together.

Add milk and water.
Pour the mixture into a cast iron pan with heated oil waiting.
Cover and steam.
Cook through.

Popular to serve with milk and Steen's cane syrup.
We're wild about fig preserves right now.

So what'd we think?  Not as traumatic as The Husband remembered.  He liked the preserves with it.  The first bite, I wasn't so sure.  But it grew on me.  If you don't like oatmeal, grits, or other hot cereals because of the texture, this wouldn't be for you.  Texture is non-existent. 

I'm glad we tried it--glad we got better acquainted with a little piece of our culinary history.  I can see how this would have been popular.  Inexpensive, made with things on hand, and very filling.  But this wouldn't be the first dish I'd run to make; that's for sure!  

The recipe I used comes from the cookbook Nun Better: Tastes & Tales from Around a Cajun Table...a fundraiser for Saint Cecilia School in Broussard, LA.

Linking this with Cookbook Sundays

hosted by Melynda @ Mom's Sunday Cafe

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from Nun Better: Tastes & Tales from Around a Cajun Table

1 cup yellow or white cornmeal
4 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional) *I used the sugar, adding more, to taste, while cooking
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil

In a bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, & sugar.  Slowly add water and milk (mixture will be lumpy).

Heat oil in a skillet until hot.  Pour mixture into skillet and cover tightly with lid.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  The mixture will start browning (forming a crust) on the bottom.  Uncover and stir. 

Cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Stir again slowly.  By this time the lumps have broken up.  It may be eaten as a cereal with milk.

Notes from the recipe contributor:
I enjoy coush-coush with boudin and gratons (cracklins) or figs or any homemade preserves.

The most important ingredient in making this truly Cajun dish is the black iron skillet.  My mother always said, "to get the true taste of coush-coush you must use the black iron skillet."

This is my 200th post!

Joining in this week with:
Make a Food-"e"-Friend Monday @ The Saturday Evening Pot
Tuesdays at the Table @ All The Small Stuff
Tasty Tuesday @ Naptime Creations
Hearth and Soul vol 64 @ Mom's Sunday Cafe
Delectable Tuesday @ Home Sweet Farm
Let's Do Brunch @ The 21st Century Housewife
What's Cooking Thursdays @ Feeding Four

Turning the Table Thursday @ Around My Family Table
Simply Delish @ KB & Whitesnakes Home
Potluck Friday @ EKat's Kitchen

Fresh Food Friday @ la bella vita

Friday Food @ Mom Trends


  1. Happy 200th post! I think it sounds pretty good.

  2. Happy 200th post. Isn't it amazing to think about all the things you've cooked and shared during that time?

    I'm a fan of hot cereals, especially grits and it makes me curious about this and how it would taste. For sure the fig preserves would make it good. Well, and the cane syrup. Sounds like one of those things that calls for lots of fun toppings. Looks good though!

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  4. Congrats on your 200th post! These seems interesting.

  5. 200 posts...YAY!
    I love your stories.

  6. first, congrats on your 200th.... you know how I favor old recipes and as bad as this one is for your hubby, I know it is one many Southerners grew up eating and think of it as a favorite comfort foods

  7. yay for your 200th post! That is quite an achievement!

    How, in all of my corn-loving years, have I never heard of this? It sounds amazing!

  8. Congrats on 200 beautiful posts! When I was a girl, my dad used to crumble cornbread in a tall glass of milk and drink/eat it. Your version sounds MUCH better!


  9. Congrats on post #200. Thanks so much for sharing over at Momtrends' Friday Food. Have a great weekend.

  10. Well, I grew up eating Couche-Couche and my Dad still eats it quite often for supper. With Steen's syrup and fig preserves, ca c'est bon,cher! Congrats on your 200th post! Cheers!

  11. Congrats!

    Thanks for sharing with us at
    Simply Delish Saturday

    Have a great weekend.

  12. Food stories are just the best! Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and soul hop. We use to eat mush for breakfast, but dad fried it. I loved it.

  13. I think it sounds delicious! But I know what you mean about the dreaded childhood food. My husbands hated prune soup when he grew up (prune, lamb and veggie soup), even though it's extremely popular in his country. He still hates it passionately so I haven't attempted to make it..... yet.... :)

  14. Thanks for sharing this wonderful dish with Cookbook Sundays! Congrats on this being your 200 post, I hope to enjoy many more!


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