Mirlitons are a traditional vegetable popular in Cajun cuisine for holiday meals. Mirlitons are also known as Chayote or Vegetable Pear. You can use mirlitons in any recipe that uses summer squashes and it’s excellent when paired with shrimp, crab or crawfish.
Nutritional Value: Mirlitons are very low in calories, fat and sodium, has no cholesterol and is a good source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium. One cup of raw fruit contains: 25 calories, a trace of fat, 2.2 g dietary fiber. It also yields 22.4 mg calcium, 165 mg potassium, 23 mg phosphorous, 10 mg vitamin C, 73.9 IU vitamin A and 122 mcg folate.
Selection and Care: Look for very firm, unblemished mirliton, the smaller fruit usually being more tender. Lightly wrapped and refrigerated, they store for several weeks if not bruised or sprouted.
Preparation and Use: Because it has a firmer texture, mature fruit needs more cooking time, but holds up when stuffed or used in salads. The skin can be removed before or after cooking, depending upon the dish.
Shrimp Stuffed Mirliton
This recipe was a gold medal winner in the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board sponsored 4-H Seafood Contest. It was submitted by Delanea Crochet of Baton Rouge.
2 fresh mirlitons, washed, halved, seeds removed (renders about 1 c. of pulp)
2 Tbsp. margarine
¾ c. finely chopped onion
¼ c. finely chopped celery
¼ c. parsley
½ c. seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. chopped, fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
Preheat oven to 350°. Fill a 6 qt. pot half way with water. Cover and bring water to a boil; then slip in mirlitons. Lower the heat to medium, cover and cook until the mirlitons are tender when pierced with a fork. Use a spoon to scoop out the pulp, and put it in a mixing bowl. Save the skins. Arrange the four halves on a baking sheet.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine and sauté the onions, celery and parsley until the onions are clear. Stir in the mirliton pulp (about 1 c.), bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix well. Turn the heat down to low and let cook 10 minutes. Add the chopped shrimp, stir and remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, spoon the shrimp mixture into the mirliton shells. Sprinkle the tops with some bread crumbs. Bake at 350° 30 to 40 minutes. Serves 4.
Mirliton Seafood Casserole
6 medium to large mirlitons, scrubbed
1 stick plus 1 Tbsp. butter
2 c. finely chopped yellow onions
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 medium bay leaves
1/8 c. minced parsley leaves
½ medium yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
½ medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ lb. lump crabmeat, picked over
½ lb. peeled crawfish tails, coarsely chopped
½ lb. peeled boiled shrimp, coarsely chopped
½ tsp. salt or to taste
½ tsp. ground black pepper or to taste
½ tsp. Tabasco or to taste
1 ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 ¼ c. Italian-style fine dry bread crumbs
½ c. Italian-style fine dry bread crumbs
½ stick butter, cut into thin pats
Boil the mirlitons whole until they are fork tender, 45 minutes to one hour. Let cool, then peel skins. Remove and discard the seeds and any stringy pulp. Chop the pulp in small pieces and place in a colander to drain. Set aside or, if preparing ahead, cover and refrigerate; drain well before using. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until onions are clear, about seven minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Stir in the drained mirliton, bay leaves and parsley. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep mixture from sticking to the pan bottom. Stir the bell peppers into the mixture, then add the crabmeat, crawfish and shrimp, being careful to keep lumps of crabmeat intact as much as possible as you mix. Add salt, pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire, mixing well.
Gradually add enough bread crumbs, about 1 ¼ cups, to absorb all liquid; once done, the mixture should be moist but not wet. Continue cooking for five minutes more, stirring and scraping pan bottom almost constantly. Remove the bay leaves from the mixture and transfer mixture to a buttered 13x9-inch baking pan or large casserole dish. Sprinkle the top of the casserole evenly with the ½ cup bread crumbs and dot with the pats of butter. (If making ahead, refrigerate or freeze; thaw before baking.)
To finish the dish, bake uncovered in a preheated 375° oven until the casserole is heated through and bubbly, and the top starts to brown, about 35 minutes.
Makes 12-15 side-dish servings
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