Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mirliton (Chayote Squash) Seafood Casserole

Mirliton (Chayote Squash) Seafood Casserole, a casserole made with mirliton, the trinity, shrimp, andouille, crab, bread crumbs and seasonings. Increase bread crumbs for a mirliton dressing.
Mirliton (Chayote Squash) Seafood Casserole, a casserole made with mirliton, the trinity, shrimp, andouille, crab, bread crumbs and seasonings. Increase bread crumbs for a mirliton dressing.

Mirliton Seafood Casserole

It's mirliton season in the Deep South! I'm guessing that some of you are likely thinking right now... what the heck is that?

Mirlitons, or in Cajun Country, Alligator Pears
Well, truth is, mirliton (pronounced mel-a-tawn) aka chayote squash, vegetable pears, or in Cajun Country, alligator pears, are the Unofficial Squash of the Deep South, most especially, Louisiana and more specifically, New Orleans.

With a very neutral flavor, somewhat similar to a cucumber, they were once grown in abundance along backyard chain link fences at many homes here along the Gulf Coast. Although some folks do still grow them, they are pretty much all commercially grown and imported nowadays. Though Spanish in origin, French influences in the New Orleans area are what later had them to become known as mirlitons.

Homegrown or not, fall is still the time they show up in the markets and on the holiday tables around here. Since they are fairly neutral tasting, they mostly act as a filler, absorbing the flavors of the ingredients they are paired with, often seafood, such as in shrimp stuffed pirogues, and casseroles like this. Be sure to taste and adjust seasonings when using mirlitons, but let's not be mistaken. It's really about the seafood far as we're concerned down here.

No worries if you can't get your hands on chayote squash, as this casserole is good with eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash as well, available now pretty much all seasons. Though this recipe is written as more of a casserole, this dish can easily be transformed into a dressing with the use of more bread crumbs and a couple of eggs. I'm using seasoned French bread crumbs, but dried bread crumbs may also be used, though you'll use less. A lot of folks like to use Italian seasoned bread crumbs and if you do, reduce or eliminate the dried seasonings in the recipe.

If there are any, I like to take leftovers, bind it up with some more bread crumbs, shape into patties and pan fry for a whole new dinner - so good! Scroll down the page for the full recipe with measurements, instructions and printable document.

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Recipe: Mirliton Seafood Casserole

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 35 min
Total time: 55 min
Yield: About 6 to 8 servings

  • 4 pounds (about 4-6) mirlitons (chayote vegetable pear)
  • 1/2 tablespoon liquid crab boil, optional
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/4 sticks cold unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 rib celery,chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Creole or Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried sage, rosemary and thyme
  • Couple dashes hot pepper sauce
  • Couple dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 pounds raw small (150+ count) shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage (or other smoked sausage), minced, optional
  • 3 to 4 cups day old torn French bread, divided
  • 1/2 pound crabmeat, picked through

Add the whole mirlitons and one tablespoon each of liquid crab boil and salt to a large pot; cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a knife pierces through them easily. Time will depend on size. Drain well in a large colander and set aside. When cool enough to handle, split lengthwise, seed and scoop out pulp, coarsely chop. Best if made ahead to allow plenty of time to drain off excess liquids.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish; set aside.

Melt one stick of butter in a large pot and saute the onion, bell pepper and celery, about 5 minutes. Add the mirliton, garlic, Cajun and Old Bay seasoning, bay leaves, parsley, dried herbs, hot sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and discard; taste and adjust seasonings.

Add shrimp and sausage and 3 cups of the bread crumbs, adding more if needed to absorb most of the liquid. Mixture should be moist but not overly wet, as the mirliton will put out some liquid. Carefully fold in the crab and spoon loosely into the prepared dish. Do not pack. Top with remaining bread crumbs and dot with the remaining 1/2 stick of butter, cut into thin slices. Bake, uncovered, for about 30-35 minutes or until top is lightly browned and casserole is bubbly and heated through.

Ground Beef Mirliton Casserole: Omit the crab boil, seafood and Old Bay. Substitute 1 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound of raw sausage, cooking both until no pink remains; drain off excess grease. I like to use breakfast sausage.

Mirliton Dressing: For a result more like dressing, double the bread crumbs and add 2 large beaten eggs. Add additional bread crumbs if needed to reach desired dressing consistency.

Mirliton Rice Dressing: Substitute cooked rice for the bread crumbs. Check at 20 minutes.

Cook's Notes: I like to use about 1-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning (like Lawry's or Cavender's) in place of salt and pepper. May also substitute 1 pound of crawfish tails for 1 pound of the shrimp and/or cooked sausage or baked ham for the andouille. If you substitute the canister style dried bread crumbs, you’ll need less. Use enough to bind the dish. To use a panko topping instead of bread crumbs and butter slices, combine 1 cup panko bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley; sprinkle all over top before baking.

Mirlitons may also be halved lengthwise, brushed with oil and roasted cut side down at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or cut and steam, cut side down for about 30 minutes. Avoid peeling and chopping before boiling. Yellow squash, zucchini or eggplant may also be substituted for the mirliton.


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Posted by on November 19, 2017

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