Merry Christmas from the Galley Pirates! One of whom has, as readers know, sailed into the sunset of Southeast Louisiana and is learning about life in the Deep South. To start with, it’s “Papa Noel” and you don’t just leave him milk and cookies. This Christmas Eve, we’ll leave him mirliton stuffed with lots of Gulf shellfish, Alligator Soup, and Bananas Foster Bread Pudding. Tune in New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night for those last two, but for now, climb out yo’ pirogue, sit a spell, let’s visit and learn to stuff a mirliton!
Never you fear if mirliton are unheard of in your home waters. While they are definitely a thing of the South, ask at your produce stand for chayote squash. Same thing! Creole country just had to do it different. While I’ve not yet set out to sea with these in the hammock, they strike me as good cruising vegetables…like most squash, hearty and long-lasting, and versatile. And they’re indigenous to cruising locales like the Caribbean and Mexico.
Start by dropping them into a couple inches of boiling, salted water. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until they are fairly tender to the point of a knife (arggggh!). Remove them from the pot and set aside to cool.
When cool enough to handle, cut each mirliton in half and remove the seeds, which are like large, semi-soft lima beans. Scoop the flesh out of the shells, keeping the shells intact, and roughly chop the flesh.
Saute one chopped onion, a chopped rib of celery, and the mirliton flesh in a tablespoon of olive oil until they start to soften. Add a bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme.
Add about 3/4 pound of medium shrimp, peeled and deveined. Herewith, another peril of living down here…smallest shrimp my seafood market had were the size of bananas. The largest of them, I cut into several pieces — kills me to do that to a big, perfect shrimp, but how do you stuff them in a fist-sized squash half?! I kept six of them whole to top each squash half. Stir over medium heat until the shrimp just start to turn pink. Remove from the heat.
Stir in 3/4 pound of crawfish tails, and 3/4 pound of lump crab meat. (Note that the filling ingredients here are proportioned for six whole or a dozen stuffed mirliton halves, though I’m only showing three whole in other pictures…they arranged into a round pan so nicely, like a Christmas wreath…the others went in a loaf pan to less seasonal effect.) Remove the bay leaf and season with Creole or Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.
Give this a good stir, and a giant inhale. This is the best the ocean has to offer!
Arrange the mirliton shells in a roasting pan and fill to overflowing with the stuffing mixture. Top with the prettiest shrimp.
Give them a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, and put in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes to brown the breadcrumbs.
And now go to bed, Eddy, Chere…Papa Noel don’t come ’til you’re tucked in tight! Happy holidays, all. Warmest wishes for a New Year full of brilliant breezes, from your Galley Pirates.