What's in a name? Mirlitons have several aliases, all due to the region of the country where they are found. In Louisiana and in South Mississippi, they are known as mirlitons and vegetable pears. In the Southwest and Florida, they are better known as chayote.
Whatever name is used this vegetable is from the gourd family. Like squash or zucchini, these are a mild vegetable that can do with seasoning. Cooked without seasoning, mirlitons are bland.
Brenda Roberts of Biloxi, Miss., asked readers for help in finding mirliton recipes, and readers have responded with plenty of recipes for her to try. Roberts wanted healthy recipes; these recipes can be made lower in fat and salt with just a little tweaking. Butter substitutes low in cholesterol and salt substitutes, such as Mrs. Dash, can be used instead of real butter and salt.
"Please tell Brenda Roberts of Biloxi to look in her Southern recipe books under 'vegetable pears' for mirliton recipes," Maria Mavar said.
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"This recipe is from the Harrison County Extension Service when Joyce O'Keefe was home economist in 1980," said Carleen Cole, retired home economist for Jackson County. "Joyce and I worked together as home economists in adjoining counties. Seafood recipes were collected and put in a booklet for the 1980 National Extension Homemakers Council meeting held in Biloxi. I hope you will find this recipe and the other one that I sent helpful."
Cole also shares one from the old Log House/Friendship House restau
"This is an excellent recipe that I have used several times," she said.
MIRLITON STUFFED WITH SHRIMP
3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup finely chopped and deveined
3 slices bread soaked in water and squeezed
6 medium mirlitons
1/4 cup shallots
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
Cut the mirlitons in half lengthwise, and place in a pot of boiling water. Cover and boil 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Remove the seeds. Scoop out, reserving the pulp and shells. Saute onions in butter for 5 minutes. Add shrimp. Add mirliton pulp, bread, shallots, parsley, salt and pepper.
Mix well. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pile into shells; top with bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Serves 6 to 8.
-- Submitted by Carleen Cole
"I found the original recipe in the 'Log House/Friendship House Cookbook.' I made a few changes to it to suit my taste," Cole said.
"I have also found recipes for mirlitons at Rouse's on the racks near the fruits and vegetables," she said. "Using a crab meat stuffing is also good in the mirlitons."
8 mirlitons (16 halves)
1 box of cornbread mix (I used Jiffy)
1 pound crab meat
1 pound shrimp (boiled)
1 medium onion, chopped
Few drops of crab boil seasoning
Garlic to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Bake the cornbread according to the directions on the box. Boil the mirlitons until just tender. Cut in halves and scoop out the meat of the mirlitons.
Saute the onions, garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the mirliton meat, crab meat and shrimp. Add the cornbread. Add the crab boil and salt and pepper to taste. The more crab boil, the spicer the mixture will be. Stuff the mirliton shells and bake at 350 degrees until the stuffing is hot and the top is lightly browned.
-- Submitted by Carleen Cole
"This is my recipe for fast and easy stuffed mirlitons," Cheryl Gascon said. "I have gotten lazy and discovered that instead of making homemade French bread stuffing mix that I can use packaged mix, and my mirlitons and eggplant turn out delicious. Also, the individually stuffed shells can be frozen and just popped into the microwave for a fast main dish."
EASY, FAST STUFFED MIRLITONS
6 or 7 large mirlitons
1 box Stove Top Savory Herb Stuffing Mix
1 good cup, cooked shrimp, cut into1/4-inch pieces
1 good cup1/4-inch cubed ham
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Simmer mirlitons until fork tender. Remove from pot to cool. When cool enough to handle, split lengthwise. Remove and discard seed and carefully using a spoon, scoop out mirliton leaving shell intact. Put mirliton flesh into a colander to drain well.
Make Stove Top Stuffing using only 1 cup water instead of the 1- 1/2 cups called for on the box. Add seasoning and1/4 cup Parmesan (stuffing should be on the dry side because mirliton flesh is always very moist even drained).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, first add mirliton and then stuffing. Use a metal spoon and a chopping motion to blend and mix (about 60 percent mirliton and 40 percent stuffing makes a good ratio). Then stir in shrimp and ham, taste and adjust seasoning.
Generously stuff mirliton shells with mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and bake in a greased baking dish uncovered for about 30 minutes (instead of stuffing the shells, mixture can be put in a greased casserole dish and baked for about 30 minutes).
Variations: Instead of shrimp and ham, you can substitute about 2 cups cooked hamburger. Or mirlitons are excellent with cooked bulk sweet Italian sausage meat or combination of the two meats or just the ham. This is just a common sense recipe, it really does not matter if you don't have exactly enough of this or that ingredient, you can make reasonable adjustments and it will turn out fine. Great with eggplant, too!
-- Submitted by Cheryl Gascon
Pat Kersteter of Gauter, Miss., offers more recipes, including one from "Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times Picayune of New Orleans."
"Mirilitons can be stuffed with shrimp, ham, crabmeat or bacon. Just depends on taste," Kersteter said. "Stuffing is pretty much the same, and salt and fat content can be adjusted to suit your taste. You can spice up the taste using Mrs. Dash or Slap Yo Mama."
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons margarine or 4 tablespoons butter
1/4 pound ham, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1/2 loaf stale French bread
1 dash thyme
Simmer mirlitons until tender. Cut each in half, remove seeds and carefully spoon out pulp. Set aside.
Saute onion, garlic and margarine until tender.
Add French bread that has been soaked in water and squeezed until almost dry, then chopped. Cook a few minutes, then add thyme and parsley, continue to cook another 5 minutes.
Add mirliton that has been chopped and mashed. Add salt and pepper.
Cook 12-15 minutes, then add ham. Cook 8-10 minutes.
Put in greased casserole dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Note:1/4 pound shrimp or 3 to 4 slices of bacon can be substituted for the ham.
-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter
MIRLITON CASSEROLE WITH CRABMEAT, CRAWFISH AND SHRIMP
12 medium to large mirlitons, scrubbed
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter (1 cup)
4 cups finely chopped yellow onions
6 large cloves garlic, minced
6 medium bay leaves
1/4 cup minced parsley leaves
1 medium yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
1 pound peeled crawfish tails, coarsely chopped
1 pound peeled boiled shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
3 tablespoons Worcestershire
2- 1/2 cups Italian-style fine dry bread crumbs
3/4 cup Italian-style fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cut into thin pats
Boil the mirlitons whole until they are fork tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool, then peel skins. Remove and discard the seeds and any stringy pulp. Chop the pulp in small pieces and place in a colander to drain. Set aside or, if preparing ahead, cover and refrigerate; drain well before using.
In a 7-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until onions are clear, about seven minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Stir in the drained mirlitons, bay leaves and parsley. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep mixture from sticking to the pan bottom. Stir the bell peppers into the mixture, then add the crabmeat, crawfish and shrimp, being careful to keep lumps of crabmeat intact as much as possible as you mix. Add salt, pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire, mixing well.
Gradually add enough bread crumbs, about 2- 1/2 cups, to absorb all liquid; once done, the mixture should be moist but not wet. Continue cooking for 5 minutes more, stirring and scraping pan bottom almost constantly. Remove the bay leaves from the mixture and transfer mixture to two buttered 13-by-9-inch baking pans or large casserole dishes.
Sprinkle the top of the casseroles evenly with the 3/4 cup bread crumbs and dot with the pats of butter. (If making ahead, refrigerate or freeze; thaw before baking.)
To finish the dish, bake uncovered in a preheated 375-degree oven until the casserole is heated through and bubbly, and the top starts to brown, about 35 minutes.
Note: Makes 24 to 30 side-dish servings.
Recipe by: Marcel Bienvenu and Judy Walker.
Source: "Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times Picayune of New Orleans"
-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter
Another reader Jeanette Seiver said the Internet has a variety of recipes for chayote.
Honey help, please
"We buy our honey from Sam's Club in the big bottle they have, and it is now going real sugary from the honey it was" Lynette Faul said. "Do you know of any way to bring it back to original form or should we just toss it? Thank you for anything you may know."
Readers, especially you beekeepers and honey sellers, please send me your ideas and/or remedies for Faul.
A Bradenton reader asked for a recipe for monkey pie, a dessert that was served by the operator at the Banyan Cafe at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Bob Petersen has found several recipes for the dessert pie. I will share those next week.
Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at email@example.com, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.