When we first moved to Searcy from New Orleans, my wife asked if I could buy mirlitons locally. Since I know that outside of Louisiana, they are known by other names. Here in Arkansas, they are known by their common name of Chayote or Vegetable Pear. Of course, they are available in the produce section of the grocery store. They belong to the gourd family, along with melons, cucumbers and squash. They are a good source of Vitamin C.
Mirlitons are often par-cooked and scooped out of their shells. Then you add other ingredients, stuff them back into their shell, then cook them in the oven. Today, I have included two recipes, one in which the mirliton is the main dish and the other as a side dish. You will often find mirlitons as a side dish around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving.
Seafood Stuffed Mirlitons is one of my most popular recipes. Twice, it was featured in the weekly newsletter of Louisiana Kitchen and Culture magazine. It was in the top ten viewed recipes on their website for the years of 2011 and 2012. This classic preparation uses the wonderful bounty of the waters that surround Louisiana, Shrimp and Crabmeat. You can often find this dish on many New Orleans restaurant menus.
Seafood Stuffed Mirlitons
8 Mirlitons, medium sized
1 1/2 pounds Shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
1/4 pound Ham, diced
1/2 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells
1 stick Butter, divided
1 3/4 cups Onions, minced
1/3 cup fresh Parsley, minced
1/3 cup Green Bell Peppers, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, minced
2 Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
2 Eggs, beaten
2 cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs
Place the mirlitons in a large saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove mirlitons from the water and allow to cool on a platter until easy to handle. Cut the mirlitons in half, then remove the pit and scoop out all of the pulp. Reserve the shells and set the meat aside. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, parsley, bell pepper, garlic, thyme and bay leaves in 2 tablespoons of the butter for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, ham, crabmeat, Creole seasoning and mirliton meat. Stir occasionally and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the beaten eggs. Add enough breadcrumbs to bind it all together.
Divide the stuffing among the mirliton halves, sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs on top and use the remaining 6 tablespoons of the butter to dot the top of each. Bake, in the oven preheated to 350℉ until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Here is a way to prepare Mirlitons as a side dish. You can experiment by using other cheeses or seasoned breadcrumbs. A good twist is to replace the Parmesan with Romano cheese. Either way, it is a tasty accompaniment to any meal.
Mirlitons au Gratin
3 large Mirliton
7 tablespoons Butter, divided
2 cups Onions, chopped
1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese, in all
1/2 cup Unseasoned Breadcrumbs
Boil the mirlitons in a pot of salted water for 30 minutes, drain and cool. Cut each mirliton in half, remove the pit and scoop out the pulp, leaving the shells intact. Mash pulp and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 5 tablespoons of the butter. Sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Stir in mirliton pulp and Creole seasoning and cook for two minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups of the Parmesan cheese.
Preheat oven to 350℉. Stuff filling into shells. Top with 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining butter, breadcrumbs and the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Mirlitons are a Louisiana staple that is always welcome at the dinner table. Just don’t be surprised when people outside of Louisiana don’t understand what you are looking for when you ask for mirlitons.