There's one vegetable that screams New Orleans and South Louisiana. In some places, it's called chayote, but in Louisiana, it's called Mirliton and it may be the most popular vegetable in South Louisiana during the fall and early winter. This Mirliton and Shrimp Dressing recipe adds a Creole vibe to the mild and fresh flavors of mirliton and shrimp. Mix in some onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, spices, and some stale bread and you end up with a heartwarming and very special holiday dressing. Sweet Daddy D’s simple, no-angst recipe for Mirliton and Shrimp Dressing shows off the best of the region and will give your holiday table that South Louisiana buzz.
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Publisher Note: I originally published this recipe in November 2019. Like most of my recipes, I continue to cook this recipe for family and friends. Sometimes I make small adjustments to published recipes if those improve the recipe. In this case, I made some minor adjustments to the cooking time and I think it makes a really good recipe even better. While I was at it, I upgraded the images and some links to make the article more user-friendly while providing more and better information. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!
What's a Mirliton?
From Chalmette to North Baton Rouge and all points west in South Louisiana, everybody's Mama has a recipe for mirlitons. Maybe it’s a casserole, stuffed mirlitons, or even a Mirliton bisque, this versatile vegetable's mild flavor plays well with many other ingredients. Also known as chayote or vegetable pears, Mirlitons grow well in South Louisiana soils during cooler months making them a favorite for holiday dishes. It’s common to find mirlitons grown in backyard vegetable gardens so it’s not hard to find them at local produce stands and farmer’s markets. Both domestic and imported mirlitons (chayote) are commonly available in grocery stores everywhere in the fall and winter months.
Here’s What You Need
Here are some of the key ingredients for this recipe:
Note on Shrimp: You do not need large shrimp for this recipe. Medium, even small, shrimp work well. Fresh shrimp are always good, but you can also use frozen. If you do use fresh shrimp, reserve the shells and heads to make homemade shrimp stock for another recipe.
Note on tomatoes: The use of tomatoes in this recipe is more in line with Creole cuisine than Cajun. You can leave the tomatoes out if you prefer. I like them in this recipe because the acidity they bring counters the sweetness provided by the yellow onions and mirliton. I think they provide balance. Canned tomatoes are good for this recipe but make sure to drain them well. If using fresh, make sure they are as ripe as possible and that you peel and de-seed them.
Notes on bacon drippings: Bacon drippings add a great depth of flavor. Whenever you fry bacon, make sure to save the grease in a jar in your fridge. You can substitute vegetable oil, olive oil, or butter for the bacon grease.
Notes on the stale bread: I like to use day-old New Orleans french bread. You can also use store-bought bread cubes or something like a box of Stove-Top Stuffing Mix. I do not recommend breadcrumbs. You will need between 3 and 4 cups of bread cubes, but depending on the amount of liquid there is, it may go as high as 5 cups.
Here is some of the equipment I used to prepare this recipe:
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Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. This is a simple recipe, but there is some preparation required. Start with a beer while you read the recipe all the way through. Learn what ingredients and equipment you need and what you’re going to do with all of them. Perform your mise en place to prepare everything before you get started. Once everything is prepared, the angst has been eliminated and the dish goes together pretty quickly.
Mise en place
To prepare the mirliton, slice them in half lengthwise and remove the seed with a spoon.
Add them to a large pot of boiling water for about 30 minutes until they are tender when probed with a fork or a wooden skewer. Remove them to a rack and allow them to cool. When the mirlitons have cooled, peel and roughly chop them.
Note on Peeling the Mirliton: Peel the softened mirlitons with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Optionally you could peel the raw mirliton, then de-seed and chop them before boiling. Give the softened mirliton a rough chop and set them aside. (see Hints and Tips about the skin).
Peel, de-seed and chop the tomatoes, if using fresh. If using canned tomatoes, drain them in a strainer but hold on to the liquid.
Note on peeling tomatoes: Slice a crosshatch over the stem of the tomatoes and lower them into the boiling water for about a minute and a half. Remove the tomatoes to an ice bath for about 5 minutes. Once the tomatoes are cooled the skin is easy to pull off. Deseed the peeled tomatoes and give them a rough chop. Set the chopped tomatoes aside. Here's my short article on how to peel tomatoes.
Cut day-old french bread into about ½-inch cubes. Use the crust and any crumbs that develop. You can also use store-bought prepared bread cubes.
Here is the rest of the mise en place:
- Peel, de-vein and rinse the shrimp. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and give them a rough chop. Place the shrimp in a bowl and season them with creole seasoning. Set them aside.
- Rough chop the onion and bell pepper and place them in a bowl together.
- Roughly chop the garlic and set it aside.
- Measure the bacon drippings, or slice bacon into 1-inch pieces.
- Make sure the chicken stock is handy, but you may not need it (see Hints and Tips).
- Combine the Herb and Spice Blend in a small bowl.
Prepare a 9” X 13” baking dish by coating the inside with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Now you are ready to go, so how’s your beer?
Saute the vegetables
What happens in this step? Our first layer of flavor starts by sauteing the onions, peppers, and mirliton in rich bacon drippings to concentrate flavors.
Start by melting the bacon grease (or frying the bacon) in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. If using bacon, it will take 5 to 7 minutes to render the fat, then remove the fried bacon from the pan and reserve it to add back later.
Add the onions and bell peppers and saute them for about 10 minutes until the onions start to clear. Try not to brown the onions.
Next, add the garlic and about ½ of the Herb and Spice Blend. Stir for about 2 minutes until the garlic becomes aromatic.
Mix in the chopped mirliton and stir it all together until well combined.
Continuing over medium-high heat, use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to mash the larger mirliton pieces. Let this simmer for a total of about 18 to 20 minutes while most of the water cooks out.
Pro Tip: The mirliton will give off a lot of water, so we want to cook off as much of the water as possible during this step.
Add the shrimp and tomatoes
What happens in this step? The next layer of flavor is provided by the seasoned shrimp and tomatoes. This is where the distinct Creole flavors start to arise.
To the simmering vegetables. add the seasoned chopped shrimp. If you reserved the fried bacon, break it into small pieces and add it back now. Stir everything together thoroughly for about 2 minutes.
Mix in about ½ of the remaining Herb and Spice Blend and the chopped tomatoes.
Combine everything completely and simmer for about another 20 minutes, at which time there should be some liquid in the pan as a result of the simmering. Cook this off as much as possible. Now is a good time to test for salt and seasoning. Remember, the bread will soak up a lot of the liquid and flavor, so it's okay to be a little over-seasoned at this point.
Finish up with the stale bread
What happens in this step? The flavor layers we just built will now be consolidated into a homogenous dressing.
Add the cubed bread and stir to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. (see Hints and Tips about the liquid).
Note on the stale bread: You will need between 3 and 4 cups of bread cubes, but depending on the amount of liquid there is, it may go as high as 5 cups.
Once everything is completely combined, remove the pan from the heat. Cover it and let it sit for about 10 minutes while all the liquid is absorbed and the ingredients get to know each other.
Time to Bake
After the dressing has sat for 10 minutes, fold it into the 9” X 13” prepared baking dish.
Place the baking dish in the 350-degree preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until firm and golden brown on top. If it’s getting too brown, place some aluminum foil over it. Remove the Dressing from the oven and let it cool for five minutes before serving.
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Hints and Tips (FAQs)
There really isn't much difference between the two. The main difference is in the way it's cooked. Stuffing is cooked inside the bird (or other protein) and a dressing is cooked outside the bird. Regional customs may also dictate whether it's called a stuffing or a dressing. This recipe has a lot of liquid and I believe it does better cooked by itself in a baking dish.
Mirliton skin is edible, so it’s OK to get some skin mixed in with the pulp while you are scooping out or peeling them. I do try to get as much skin off as possible but after boiling for 30 minutes the skin is pretty soft so don’t stress over it.
Mirlitons are low in calories, carbs, and fat, but provide lots of vitamins including B9. They provide some important minerals and are a good source of fiber. Check out this article for some specifics of what makes up a mirliton.
Bacon drippings provide a nice depth of flavor to the dish, but if you want to shy away from that, just substitute butter or olive oil.
Three slices of bacon should render 3 tablespoons of dripping, more or less. Remove the bacon once all the fat is rendered, but don’t throw it away or eat it (if you can help it!). Crumble the bacon and add it back when you add the shrimp. It’s a treat!
Mirlitons, tomatoes, and even shrimp have high water content and will shed water as you cook. Try to take enough time to cook off as much liquid as possible. The bread will also help absorb a lot of this liquid, but if you add the bread and it looks too dry, just add a touch of chicken stock (or juice from canned tomatoes) but only is necessary. It's unlikely you’ll need to add more liquid.
Don’t hesitate to substitute canned tomatoes for fresh ones. Use whole, peeled tomatoes and crush them by hand. Drain the liquid from the tomatoes before adding them to the recipe. The liquid could be substituted for the chicken stock, but again, ONLY if necessary.
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 it has completely cooled and that you wrap it airtight before placing it in the fridge. To reheat, let the dressing sit out for about 30 minutes, then place it in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven. If re-heating a previously baked recipe, 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. When ready to bake, remove it from the oven 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 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 dish for 3 or 4 months. Just like refrigeration, you can make the recipe completely or up to the point of baking. Make sure to use an appropriate container for freezing and that it is sealed airtight. Defrost 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.
Check out these other Holiday Dressings from Sweet Daddy D:
In the mood for more Creole and Cajun dishes?? Check these out:
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Yeah You Right!
Mirliton Shrimp Dressing
Here's What You Need
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease See notes
- 2 cups yellow onions rough chop
- 1 cup bell peppers rough chop
- 5 cloves garlic rough chop
- 4 cups chopped mirliton about 8 mirlitons
- 1 cup tomatoes peeled and chopped
- 1 pound medium shrimp chopped
- 3 cups bread for stuffing Have additional 2 cups in reserve
- ½ cup chicken stock if necessary-See Notes
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Here's What You Do
- Slice mirlitons in half lengthwise and remove the seed with a spoon
- Place the mirliton halves in a stockpot of boiling water and boil for about 30 minutes until the mirlitons are tender when probed with a fork.
- Remove the mirlitons to a bowl and allow them to cool.
- In the same boiling water, parboil the tomato for about 1 minute and remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cooled, remove the skin and give the tomato a rough chop. If using canned tomatoes, skip this step. Drain canned tomatoes.
- Once the mirlitons have cooled, peel the mirliton skin and give it a rough chop (see Notes)
- Give the shrimp a rough chop and place them in a bowl.
- Season the shrimp with creole seasoning and set aside.
- Rough chop the onion, bell pepper and garlic.
- Measure the remaining ingredients
- Prepare a 9” X 13” baking dish by coating with butter, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the Dressing:
- Melt the bacon grease, or fry the bacon, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat
- Add the onions and bell peppers and saute for about 8 minutes until the onions start to clear.
- Add the garlic and about ½ of the Herb and Spice Blend, stir for about 2 minutes until aromatic.
- Mix in the chopped mirliton until well combined with the other ingredients.
- Continuing over medium-high heat, use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to mash the larger pieces.
- Saute for about 20 minutes, trying to cook off the excess liquid.
- Add the chopped shrimp and stir it together.
- Add about ½ of the remaining Herb and Spice Blend
- Add the chopped tomatoes, stir everything together and simmer for another 20 minutes, trying to cook off excess liquid.
- Add the bread pieces and stir to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. (see Notes)
- Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let sit about 10 minutes.
- Pour the dressing into the 9 X 13 prepared baking dish.
- Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until firm and golden brown on top.
Rosalie Carollo Olivier
Can you freeze Merlot dressing?
Sweet Daddy D
Yes, Rosalie, there should be no trouble freezing this dish for 3 or 4 months. Just like refrigeration, you can make the recipe completely or up to the point of baking. Make sure to use an appropriate container for freezing and that it is sealed airtight. Defrost in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours before baking, then follow the instructions for re-heating above.
Cajun living in NE Tennessee... went to Farmer's Market and found FRESH MIRLITONS! Had 2 lbs of frozen Louisiana Gulf shrimp, sooo - made this recipe as I could not find my grandma's recipe - but this turned out amazing! Prepared the dish as a side dish for a dinner party of 8. This was the hands down favorite by all! Close to my grandma's recipe, but more creole than cajun. All the guests said that this dish was enough and they did not want the main course or any other sides! I would have been upset, but I had to agree!
Sweet Daddy D
Yeah you right, Mark! Thanks for giving the recipe a try, so glad you liked it. Anything that makes us think of our Mommas and Grandmothers is a good thing! I appreciate these kind comments.
How long can you keep this in the refrigerator?
Sweet Daddy D
Hey, Jacky. Thanks for the question. This dressing will be good for 3 to 4 days in the fridge if wrapped tightly and airtight. Let it cool down before refrigerating. Reheat on the stovetop or the microwave. Enjoy!
Can i use the "croutons" that come in bags that are used to make dressing at Thanksgiving?
Sweet Daddy D
You should be able to do that. Maybe soak the crouton in some stock for a little bit of time to soften them a bit before adding them. It’s all bread! Let me know how it turns out.
Can I use seasoned bread crumbs instead of bread?
Sweet Daddy D
Hey Julie, the short answer is yes, you can. Full disclosure, I have never done it, so I'm thinking about the difference between stale bread and breadcrumbs. Seasoned breadcrumbs are much finer than stale bread and the texture will be different. From a flavor standpoint, I think it would be fine, but you should add a little at a time so that you can gauge the consistency. If it gets too dry, add a little stock. If you want to do that because you don't have french bread, you could use almost any type of bread, just chop it up and let it sit out for a while to get stale. Let me know how it turns out, thanks for reaching out.
Can I make the dressing the day before, refrigerate wrapped in plastic wrap with foil on top of that? I don’t want to freeze it. Just prepare, refrigerate and bake the next day.
Also, can I add a cup of crabmeat to your recipe?
Thanks for your response..
Sweet Daddy D
Absolutely, Christal. Make sure it's air-tight and if you like crab meat, add it! Sounds delicious. Let me know how it turns out. Thanks for reaching out!
Can this be frozen?
Sweet Daddy D
Yes, Kathy. If you want to make this ahead, make sure to wrap it airtight in plastic wrap with aluminum foil over that. Let it thaw out before baking or reheating. Thanks for reaching out.
Can cornbread be used instead of bread?
Sweet Daddy D
Thanks for the question, Arthuryne. All I can say is probably but I have honestly never made cornbread dressing. The recipes I have researched in the past use broken pieces of cornbread, so if they are "day old" or stale, I think they would work well. The flavor profile will be a little different but I think the flavors would be fine together. Give it a try-use 3 cups of broken cornbread to start. Mix it all together and determine if you even need to add moisture before adding any stock. Let me know how it turns out.
How many Mirlitons do you use. Don’t see I. Recipe.
Sweet Daddy D
Hey Darrell. You need at least 4 cups of chopped mirliton. I used 8 whole mirlitons to get that many cups. If you use a vegetable peeler after boiling the mirliton, you will get a very good yield. Also, if 8 gives you more than 4 cups, go ahead and use it all...how bad can that be? Thanks for reaching out.