If you are a mirliton lover, this recipe is for you. If you've been wanting to try mirliton, this is a great recipe to start with. Only 5 ingredients plus the spices allow the mirliton’s unique flavor to stand out. Mirliton’s mild flavor is great for enhancing or reflecting the flavor of other ingredients, but this mirliton recipe allows the true mirliton flavor to stand on its own. Check out Grammie’s Mirliton Casserole with Shrimp, a combination of outstanding flavor and family tradition in a simple, no-angst recipe. It’s outstanding with any meal but perfect for a holiday feast.
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Cooking with Grammie
Mirlitons are one of the ingredients that identify South Louisiana cooking. They are peculiar-looking light green, pear-shaped squash known as chayote all over the world. It's not uncommon to hear them referred to as vegetable or alligator pears here because of their shape and color, but they are indeed Mirlitons to the locals in New Orleans and South Louisiana. Mirliton’s distinctive South Louisiana vibe becomes even more pronounced when combined with family tradition. That’s the way it is in thousands of South Louisiana families and mine is no exception. Check out what I had to say in this great article by Elisabeth Sherman, Assistant Food and Drink Editor at the Matador Network, about the traditional value of mirlitons in South Louisiana.
My mother-in-law, affectionately known as Grammie by so many grandkids that I’ve lost count, is the matriarch of my wife's family. Her recipes and techniques reflect deep Louisiana roots going back generations. Grammie’s dishes are the foundation of holiday meals in the family and her Mirliton Casserole is on everyone’s holiday food checklist. Like most in her generation, she doesn’t measure ingredients but knows by feel what and when to add them to the mix.
- Let the mirliton shine. Don’t boil the mirliton before you use them in the recipe. Many recipes call for boiling the mirliton first, but that may boil out some of the natural flavors.
- Don’t use too many breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs will help bind the mixture together, but too many will tend to influence the flavor and consistency.
- Don't use a bunch of herbs and spices. Let the ingredients speak for themselves. Here, just a simple sprinkle of Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic (Grammie’s favorite) on the shrimp plus a little salt and pepper are all the seasonings you need.
- Don't rush things. Give the flavors a chance to develop and meld. In this recipe, the unbelievable flavor develops from just the butter, onions, shrimp and mirliton, if given enough time.
Here’s What You Need
Note on the Shrimp: Fresh or frozen shrimp can be used. If using fresh shrimp, make sure to save the shells for stock. Choose small shrimp for this casserole. If you can't find small shrimp you can give your shrimp a rough chop. Confused about shrimp size? I wrote this short article to try and clear things up about sizing shrimp.
Note on the Seasoning Mix: Grammie's premixed seasoning of choice in her Mirliton Casserole is Paul Prudhomme's Seafood Magic. This is a great blend of herbs and spices that Chef Paul matched perfectly for dishes prepared with seafood. If it's good enough for Grammie and Chef Paul, it's good enough for me! You can substitute your favorite Creole or Cajun spice blend for the Seafood Magic if you prefer.
Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. This is a simple recipe with only five ingredients plus the seasoning, but a little preparation makes it much easier. Pop the cap off a beer and enjoy it while you read the recipe all the way through. The preparation of the shrimp and mirliton takes a little time, but overall it’s pretty simple. Make sure to have some prep bowls to hold all the individually prepared ingredients before you start cooking.
Prepare the ingredients
If you are using shrimp with shells, peel, devein, and rinse the shrimp under cold water. Save the shells for making stock. You can keep them in the freezer until you have enough. If using frozen shrimp, defrost them and then rinse under cold water. Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel, then place them in a bowl and mix in about 1 tablespoon of Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic, or your favorite Creole or Cajun seasoning. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until needed. Peel and de-seed the mirlitons, then chop them into ¼ to ½ inch cubes and set aside. Give the yellow onions a rough chop and measure the remaining ingredients into individual prep bowls. Now you are ready to go, how's your beer?
Smother the vegetables and shrimp
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the yellow onions and saute until translucent which takes about 8 minutes.
Add the seasoned shrimp and saute them in the onions until they are just turning pink, which takes another 3 minutes.
Lagniappe Tip: Normally I would add shrimp at the end of the recipe because they only take about 5 to 8 minutes to cook perfectly. If they cook much longer than that they turn hard and rubbery. With this recipe, however, we add them at the beginning of the process. They turn out delicious and tender, which I assume is due to the high water content of the mirlitons and a bit of Grammie's magic touch that keeps the shrimp tender.
Begin to add the chopped mirliton in batches, stirring well to combine.
Once all the mirliton has been added, lower the heat to medium and cover the Dutch oven. Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes while the mirlitons release their water.
After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the lid from the Dutch oven and simmer for about 1 to 1 ¼ hour, stirring frequently while the mirliton softens and the water reduces considerably.
Using a potato masher, give a rough smash to the mirliton mixture. Add kosher salt and ground pepper to taste and simmer for another 15 minutes while the liquid reduces almost completely.
Add about ¼ cup of seasoned bread crumbs to the mirlitons and stir well to combine.
Lagniappe Tip: Seasoned breadcrumbs add a subtle background of herbs. You can use plain breadcrumbs if you prefer and optionally add ½ teaspoon of a combination of dried oregano, basil, and thyme. Resist the temptation to add too many breadcrumbs. We want the mirliton flavor to be at the forefront and don't want a "bready" casserole.
Fill a casserole dish and bake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a casserole dish by spreading softened butter all over the inside. Fold the mirliton mixture into the casserole dish and spread evenly with a spoon.
Sprinkle about ¼ to ½ cup of seasoned bread crumbs completely over the top.
Place the casserole in the preheated oven and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbling around the edges. Remove the casserole from the oven and set it aside for about 10 minutes.
Lagniappe Tip: I didn't get very even browning because I likely put a little too many breadcrumbs on top. Not to worry if you do the same, it will mix when serving anyway!
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Hints and Tips
It’s fairly easy to deseed a mirliton. Slice the mirliton in half lengthwise right through the middle (there is usually a little trough on the larger end that helps identify the middle. The seed is an oblong, somewhat skinny white seed and you will probably slice it in two. Simply use a spoon to scoop out the seed from each half of the mirliton. For this recipe peel the mirliton first, then slice lengthwise. Some recipes don’t require the mirliton to be peeled, so just slice and scoop.
Every bit of the mirliton is edible, including the skin and the seed. However, the skin is not as tender as its flesh, so when cooking mirliton in a casserole you should peel them first so that there is consistency in cooking.
You can make this recipe a day or two in advance, then keep it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. Make sure that the casserole has completely cooled and that you wrap it airtight before placing it in the fridge. To reheat, let the casserole sit out for about 30 minutes, then place it in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven. If re-heating a previously baked casserole, cover it in aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes or until it’s heated all the way through (the internal temperature should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit ).
Alternatively, the recipe can be made up to the point just before baking, then refrigerated until needed. I would recommend not putting the breadcrumbs on top until right before you are ready to bake. When ready to bake, remove the casserole from the oven 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and bake, uncovered for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbly around the edges. The internal temperature of the casserole should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yes, there should be no trouble freezing this casserole for 3 or 4 months. Just like refrigeration, you can make the recipe completely or up to the point of baking. Read the previous FAQ (Can this casserole be made in advance?) for details on that. Make sure the casserole is in an appropriate container for freezing and that it is sealed airtight. Defrost the casserole in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours before baking, then follow the instructions for re-heating above.
Leftovers, if wrapped airtight, will maintain their quality for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator or 3 to 4 months in the freezer. They can be reheated in the oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 20 minutes or until warmed all the way through, or in the microwave. Read the FAQ above (Can this casserole be frozen?) for more details on freezing and thawing the casserole.
Try these other great Mirliton Recipes from Sweet Daddy D:
I know this recipe has tickled your inner Cajun. Give in, don't resist. Start exploring these great South Louisiana Recipes from Sweet Daddy D!
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Yeah You Right!
Grammie’s Mirliton and Shrimp Casserole
Here's What You Need
- 1 pound small shrimp
- 1 tablespoon Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic See Notes
- ½ cup butter 1 stick
- 15 mirlitons chopped about 6 quarts
- 1 cup yellow onions chopped
- ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs in all
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Here's What You Do
- Peel, devein and rinse the shrimp. Pat dry with a towel, place them in a bowl and sprinkle with Seafood Magic or your favorite Creole or Cajun seasoning. Mix to combine.
- Peel and de-seed the mirlitons (see Notes). Chop them into ¼ to ½ inch cubes and set aside.
- Chop the yellow onions and measure the remaining ingredients.
To make the casserole
- Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add the yellow onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and saute until just turning pink, about 3 minutes.
- Add the chopped mirliton in batches, stir to combine.
- Lower the heat to medium, cover the Dutch oven and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until the mirlitons begin to release their liquid. Stir occasionally.
- Uncover the Dutch oven and simmer for about 1 to 1 ¼ hours (uncovered) while the liquid reduces and the mirliton softens
- Use a potato masher to give a rough smash to the mirliton mixture.
- Add kosher salt and ground pepper to taste and simmer for another 15 minutes while the liquid reduces almost completely.
- Add about ¼ cup of seasoned bread crumbs to the mirlitons and mix well.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare a casserole dish by spreading softened butter all over the inside.
- Spoon the mirliton mixture into the casserole dish and spread evenly with a spoon.
- Sprinkle about ¼ to ½ cup of seasoned bread crumbs completely over the top.
- Place the casserole in the preheated oven and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until browning on top and bubbling around the edges.
- Remove from the oven and set aside for about 10 minutes.