Mirlitons are the worst-kept secret of South Louisiana. This mild-tasting, strange-looking vegetable is perfect for stuffing with any number of flavorful combinations. Sweet Daddy D's Stuffed Mirliton with Ham and Shrimp is a rendition of a classic Creole-style stuffed mirliton. Succulent Gulf Shrimp and left-over baked ham were readily available ingredients back in the day. Add some traditional South Louisiana seasonings and spices and you have a simple, no-angst meal that will bring you home.
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What are Mirlitons?
Mirlitons and South Louisiana is a match made in Heaven. If you’re not familiar with a mirliton, you may know them as chayote or vegetable pears. This pear-shaped, light green vegetable is a member of the gourd family, like cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash. Originating with the Aztecs and Mayans, they were introduced to South Louisiana by the Spanish in the mid-18th Century by way of the Caribbean and Central America. Here, the predominantly french-speaking population translated the vegetable's name as "mirliton". Mirlitons flourished in the soil and climate of South Louisiana and fit well into the thinking of Creole and Cajun cooks, who were always looking to stretch meager resources. Mirliton’s mild flavor combines well with the flavors of other ingredients like local meats, seafood, other vegetables, and South Louisiana seasonings. Perfect in casseroles and soups (among many other preparations), the hearty vegetable's shape is dying to be stuffed, which happens to be a pastime of Creole and Cajun cooks. The late-year growing season makes them a very popular ingredient during the Holidays.
Here’s What You Need
Here are some of the key ingredients for this recipe:
Note on the Ham: This recipe is perfect for leftover baked or smoked ham. I do not recommend leftover Honey Ham. The seasonings in the Honey Ham always seem to conflict with our desired flavor profile.
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. Making this, and most other recipes will be a lot easier and more successful if you prepare the ingredients and yourself before you start to cook. Start out with a beer to sip while you read the recipe all the way through. You'll learn what you will need and you'll learn what you are going to do with each ingredient as well as the equipment you will need. This is the first step of your mise en place.
Mise en Place
Preparing the Mirlitons
- Boil the whole mirlitons in a large stockpot filled with water for about 30 to 45 minutes until they are soft when probed with a bamboo skewer or fork.
- Remove the mirlitons and set them aside on a rack to cool.
- When cooled, slice each mirliton in half lengthwise and remove the seed.
- Scrape out the flesh and place it in a strainer set over a bowl.
- Using a wooden spoon, gently mash the mirliton into small pieces, allowing the excess liquid to drain into the bowl.
- Leave the shells for stuffing and set the mirliton flesh aside while it drains.
- Shrimp: If using fresh shrimp, peel, devein and rinse the shrimp. Chop the shrimp into small pieces and sprinkle with Creole seasoning. Set aside.
- Ham: Trim any excess fat from the ham and grind it in a small food processor. If you don't have a food processor or grinder, chop the ham as fine as possible. Set aside.
- Finely chop all the vegetables and measure the remaining ingredients, placing them in prep bowls.
- Combine the Herb and Spice Blend in a small prep bowl.
Start with the Trinity and Aromatics
What happens in this step? This step starts building the first layer of flavor with the Trinity followed by the aromatics.
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When bubbly, add the Trinity and saute until the onions are becoming translucent. This will take about 8 to 12 minutes, but be careful not to let the onions brown.
When the onions are starting to clear, add the garlic, green onions, and about half of the Herb and Spice Blend. Stir to combine and saute for 2 minutes until the garlic is aromatic.
Add the Ham and Mirliton
What happens in this step? Now that we have the flavor foundation established, we turn to the salty, distinct but subtle flavor of ham and the mild flavor of the mirliton. This begins to establish this recipe's flavor identity.
Increase the heat to medium-high. Mix the ground ham into the Trinity mixture and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Next, add the mirliton flesh (discarding the liquid). Mix well and allow the mixture to come to a simmer while you gently smash the mirliton some more. Simmer for about 5 minutes while allowing the liquid to reduce.
Pro Tip: We want to break up the mirliton so that it easily incorporates into all the other ingredients. This also helps extract more of the water in the mirliton, which we want to cook off so that it does not dilute the flavors while cooking.
Follow with the stock, shrimp, and breadcrumbs
What happens in this step? While the stock simmers, it shakes up all the individual flavors and then concentrates those as it reduces. The breadcrumbs help bind all the ingredients into a cohesive filling.
Add the stock and continue to simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, reducing the liquid by about half.
Add the chopped and seasoned shrimp plus the remainder of the Herb and Spice Blend. Mix well and saute the mixture, stirring often, until the shrimp turn opaque, which will only take about 5 minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Add the breadcrumbs (starting with 1 cup) along with the parsley. Thoroughly mix everything, adding more breadcrumbs if needed to reach a sticky consistency for filling.
Taste the filling for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Allow the mixture to sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes
Stuff dem Mirlitons
What happens in this step? Now it's time to place this delicious filling into the mirliton shell for baking.
Stuff the filling into the mirliton shells and place them in a prepared baking dish.
Top each stuffed mirliton with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and a small tab of butter.
Place the baking dish in a preheated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until browned on top.
Pro Tip: If you don't want to go through the process of stuffing the shells, this filling can also be made into a casserole.
Hints and Tips (FAQs):
No, if you'd prefer not to stuff the shells, you can make a casserole out of the filling. You still want the mirliton flesh, so simply scrape off the peel after boiling, remove the seed and chop the mirliton flesh. Prepare a baking dish by spreading softened butter all over the inside and bake as directed for the stuffed shells.
1 cup of ground ham is approximately 5 ½ ounces of ham, pregrind. If you do not have a grinder or a small food processor, chop the ham as fine as you can. This is the perfect use for leftover baked or smoked ham, but I do not recommend using leftover Honey Ham. Although the Honey Ham works, I find the flavor of the honey ham seasoning can conflict with the savory flavor profile we are creating.
There should be approximately 3 cups of mirliton flesh removed from the shells. A little more or less is no problem. By placing the mirliton flesh into a strainer and gently mashing it, much of the mirliton’s water will be released, making it better for cooking with the other ingredients.
Large shrimp are not needed for this recipe. Small or medium will work fine as they will be chopped before adding them to the recipe.
Either fresh or frozen shrimp work well in this recipe. If using fresh shrimp, remove the heads and shells, then devein the shrimp and rinse them in cold water. Retain the heads and shells for making shrimp stock. If you don’t have time to make the stock, shrimp shells freeze well in an airtight vacuum-sealed bag so you can make it at another time.
This recipe is best when made with shrimp stock. If that is not available, chicken stock makes a very good substitute and is what I use most of the time. You could also use vegetable stock or even water.
Mirlitons have a high water content and will release a lot of their water while cooking. It's essential to the flavor of the recipe to reduce as much of that liquid as possible while cooking. Placing the mirliton flesh in a strainer and gently smashing it helps remove quite a bit of the water before it's cooked. Slowly simmer and stir while the mixture thickens.
The amount of breadcrumbs you end up adding will depend upon the amount of liquid in the mixture. Don’t be afraid to add more than the cup to a cup and a half, but keep in mind that too many breadcrumbs may overtake the flavor profile.
Leftovers can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. Allow the stuffed mirlitons to cool before refrigerating. Reheat in a microwave.
Stuffed mirlitons can be frozen in an airtight container for about 5 or 6 months. Due to the high water content, freezing may affect the texture. It’s important to cook out as much of the liquid as possible before stuffing. You can freeze the stuffed mirliton before or after baking. To freeze, place the stuffed mirlitons on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. Once the mirlitons are frozen, vacuum seal one to four stuffed mirlitons in a vacuum seal bag. If you do not have a vacuum sealer, pre-freeze the mirlitons as described above, then wrap each one in plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil. Place the individually wrapped mirlitons in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until warmed completely through.
Yes, they are. These green little veggies are a great source of many important nutrients, vitamins, and fiber. Read this article from Healthline about the benefits of eating mirlitons.
Here are some other great Mirliton dishes from Sweet Daddy D:
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Yeah You Right!
Stuffed Mirliton with Ham and Shrimp
Here's What You Need
- 6 Mirlitons
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup ham (minced) See Notes
- 2 cups yellow onions finely chopped
- 1 cup green bell peppers finely chopped
- ½ cup celery finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 bunch green onions sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock See Notes
- 1 pound shrimp See Notes
- 1 ½ cups seasoned bread crumbs plus some for topping plus some for topping
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning plus some for the shrimp
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ½ teaspoon Black pepper
Here's What You Do
- Mirlitons: Boil the mirliton in a large stockpot filled with water for about 30 to 45 minutes until soft when probed.
- Remove the mirlitons and set aside on a rack to cool.
- When cooled, slice each mirliton in half, remove the seed and scrape out the flesh and place it in a strainer set over a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, gently mash the mirliton into small pieces, allowing the excess liquid to drain into the bowl.
- Leave the shells for stuffing. Set aside.
- Shrimp: If using fresh shrimp, peel, devein and rinse the shrimp. Chop into small pieces and sprinkle with Creole seasoning. Set aside. See Notes
- Ham: Trim any excess fat from the ham and grind in a small food processor. Set aside. See Notes
- Finely chop all the vegetables and measure the remaining ingredients.
For the Recipe:
- Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When bubbly, and the Trinity and saute until the onions are becoming translucent, about 8 to 12 minutes. Be careful not to let the onions brown.
- When the onions are starting to clear, add the garlic, green onions and about half of the Herb and Spice Blend. Stir to combine and saute for 2 minutes until the garlic is aromatic.
- Increase the heat to medium-high. Mix the ground ham into the Trinity mixture and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Next, add the mirliton flesh (discarding the liquid). Mix well and allow the mixture to come to a simmer while you gently mash the mirliton some more. Simmer for about 5 minutes while allowing the liquid to reduce. See Notes.
- Add the stock and continue to simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, reducing the liquid by about half.
- Add the chopped and seasoned shrimp and the remainder of the Herb and Spice Blend. Mix well and saute the mixture, stirring often, until the shrimp turn opaque, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Add the breadcrumbs (starting with 1 cup) along with the parsley. Thoroughly mix everything, adding more breadcrumbs if needed to reach a sticky consistency for filling.
- Allow the mixture to sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes
- Taste the filling for seasoning and add salt of creole seasoning as needed.
- Stuff the filling into the mirliton shells and place them in a prepared baking dish.
- Top each stuffed mirliton with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and a small tab of butter.
- Place the baking dish in a preheated 350 degree fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until browned on top.