Monday, July 13, 2009

Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Mirlitons (Chayote Squash)

Chayote squash, known in the Deep South as mirliton or vegetable pears, are steamed and then filled with a seafood stuffing.
Chayote squash, known in the Deep South as mirliton or vegetable pears, are steamed and then filled with a seafood stuffing.

Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Mirlitons

Once found in the Deep South as a product of the states of Florida and Louisiana only during the fall months, Chayote squash is now generally available nearly year round thanks to California and Mexico. Chayote squash is really nothing more than what we affectionately know down here as mirlitons, or they are sometimes also called vegetable pears, and they are the perfect vehicle for a seafood stuffing.

This is a great general purpose stuffing that works well with many stuffable veggies - it's pretty common down here in eggplant, but will work with zucchini or other summer squash too. And, as fate would have it, the goodie bag of leftovers from the Blessing and sent home with us, was perfect timing. I cleaned everything, put it all up and this is one of the dishes I used that delectable seafood on.

The Cajun, being the anti-vegetable spouse that he is, ate all of the stuffing out of the squash, but left the squash shell behind. Silly man. All of the squash is edible, skin, pulp and seed, so he has no idea that he actually ate the squash in the stuffing anyway. I did not enlighten him. Why would I? It's hard enough to get vegetables into that man as it is.

As always, adjust the seasonings to your own heat level. Here's how to make it.

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Recipe: Shrimp and Crab Stuffed Mirlitons (Chayote Squash)

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Cook time: 25 min | Yield: About 6 to 8 servings

  • 8 medium sized mirlitons
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 of a large green bell pepper
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 tablespoon of dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 pound of cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped coarse
  • 1/2 cup of plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 pound of crabmeat
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chicken broth, only if needed
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

Cut off the stems of each of the mirlitons and slice in half lengthwise. Steam flesh side down for 20 minutes and set aside to let cool. Once you can handle them, use a spoon to scoop out most of the pulp, leaving about 1/4 inch of shell. Save the pulp and discard or save the seeds for another use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute the onion, bell pepper, green onion and celery until tender. Add the minced garlic and saute an additional minute. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, squash pulp, parsley, thyme, Cajun seasoning, and bay leaf and simmer on medium for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and bread crumbs and stir to mix well. Add the crabmeat and gently turn to blend. Add chicken broth only if mixture is too dry and needs a bit of moisture; otherwise, leave it out.

Spray a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Mound mixture generously into the mirliton shells and arrange in baking dish. Drizzle each with the melted butter. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Cook's Notes: Can omit the tomatoes if you prefer. This stuffing is also excellent when used for other types of stuffable vegetables such as summer squash, zucchini, mushroom caps, eggplant, and even bell peppers! Use the pulp of the vegetable where you have it, and in cases such as peppers where you don't, use chicken broth as needed to moisten the stuffing.

Mirliton Casserole: Prepare as above, except dice up the steamed mirliton. The seeds are edible so you can leave them in or discard them if you prefer. Mix everything together, except divide the bread crumbs and put 1/4 cup in the casserole, reserve the other 1/4 cup for on top. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs with a tablespoon of melted butter and sprinkle all over top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.


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