Lenten Food: Stuffed Mirlitons/Chayote Squash

One of the local grocery stores had a bag of five chayote squash sitting on their “clearance veggies that are just about to go bad” trays. They looked un-rotten and felt firm, so I took them home. I figured they must be good, because I’d vaguely heard of them.

Fortunately, I looked them up all over the cooking parts of the Internet, and not just on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia entry lacks some important facts.

SAFETY WARNING: Chayote squash have an itch-causing juice that lies just underneath the peel. If you peel them, or even if your fingernail just happens to break the skin a bit while you’re removing the grocery stickers, your fingers will itch and all the skin can come off by the next day. (I grabbed my jewelweed soap and washed thoroughly several times, on the theory that anything that beats poison ivy can beat a chayote rash. It worked, but my thumbs itched for at least two hours.) So wear gloves, or cut out the grocery stickers without ever touching the squash. The juice’s itchiness breaks down completely when exposed to heat, and then the entire squash is edible, including the nutty-tasting seed.

Now to the more fun parts. Chayote squash comes from Central America, but it’s so tasty and hardy that it is now grown all over the world and has tons of different names. It’s big in southwestern US cooking. People in Louisiana call it “mirliton,” and they also have lots of tasty things they make with it (many invented by Canary Islanders who settled in Louisiana). One of the tastiest is stuffed mirlitons, which are baked as a sort of casserole. These are almost entirely unlike stuffed peppers. Like stuffed peppers, though, you can just make the stuffing and eat it by itself, or you can use it with other things that are easier to find (like bell peppers).

First bit: the mirlitons.

Get a big pot. Put water in it. Put salt in it. Put the mirlitons in it. Boil water. Once the water gets to a boil, cover the pot and turn the pot down a little (but keep the water boiling). Boil the mirlitons until they are “fork-tender.” This will take forty minutes or maybe a bit more.

Put the mirlitons in a colander or on a rack and let them cool off and drain a bit.

Cut the mirlitons lengthwise and scoop out the pulp in the middle. (If there are any icky bits on the skin, you can cut them out now.)

Keep the pulp. Chop it up into small pieces and set it in the colander to drain. You can even squeeze or press the pulp to get some of the water out, if you feel like it.

Preheat your oven to 350 or 375 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how fast you want this cooked.

Second bit: the yummy stuffing.

Get crab and shrimp, or get fake crab that’s already cooked. Chop it up. Season it with Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, or whatever you like.

Chop up onions. Saute them in a large saucepan. I mean large.

Dump in a bag of frozen Cajun mirepoix, or a bag of frozen veggie soup mix. Saute that with the onions.

Dump in the mirliton pulp. Saute that.

Dump in breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs. Saute that.

Dump in the shrimp, crab, or fake crab. Saute that.

Dump in an egg. Saute that.

Your stuffing is now done.

Third bit: the casserole.

Put your cut mirlitons in a greased baking dish. Pile the stuffing on top of the mirlitons.

Dump the stuffing on top. It’s okay to pile it high.

Cook that sucker for forty minutes to an hour, depending on how hot your oven is.

Eat!!

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