Mirliton, also known as chayote or chocho, is a gourd essential to fall Creole cooking. In season from October until December, these vegetable pears are great for soups, salads, or as a side dish.
If gumbo was the granny that everyone centers around and jambalaya was the auntie that really likes to party, mirliton would be the auntie that only shows up for holiday functions but is second-in-command for maintaining family traditions. You might question why she keeps showing up, but you know the holidays wouldn't be the same without her.
I grew up eating seafood stuffed mirlitons, but I also had seafood mirliton dressing on the table. For those who didn't want standard turkey dressing, mirliton or oyster dressing was the way to go. This Thanksgiving, it felt right to give a nod to this Creole classic. Mirliton dressing is versatile in that it can be made with French bread or cornbread. Try it with another bread, if you want. Whatever floats your gravy boat!
I only added shrimp, but you can also substitute a ½ pound of the shrimp for crab or another seafood. If you make it, I hope you enjoy the rich taste of the Gulf Coast at your holiday table.
Shrimp and Mirliton Dressing
3 large or 4 medium mirlitons
High-heat cooking oil, such as avocado or safflower
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp. duck fat
4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. Creole seasoning
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. fresh sage
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 ½ lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 green onions, chopped
¼ c. fresh parsley, chopped
4 cups diced stale French bread, or crumbled stale cornbread
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
Few dashes of hot sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs, slightly beaten (see #3 in notes)
If you don't have duck fat, double the butter. This dressing's flavor can also be boosted by pork fat. Try frying 3-4 slices of bacon and using the fat rendered from cooking. Bonus: add crumbled bacon to the dressing before putting in the oven!
If you don't have fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme, substitute with 1 teaspoon each of dried herbs.
If using cornbread, you can peel and then lightly mash the mirlitons. You can also add 2 eggs to the mix, to ensure the cornbread dressing binds together.
Holiday Prep Tip: This can be frozen before or after baking.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 70 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Yield: 10-12 servings
Special Equipment: Baking sheet, large skillet, large bowl, and 9”x13” baking dish.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Use a knife to cut each chayote in half lengthwise. Rub the mirlitons with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash on the sheet, cut side down, and roast until fork-tender (about 40-50 minutes). Set the mirlitons aside to cool down. Once cooled, remove the center seed and cut them into 1-inch pieces.
Melt the fat and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper, cooking until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the Creole seasoning, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Add the shrimp and stir frequently, until shrimp are nearly cooked, about 3-4 minutes. You don't want to fully cook them at this stage, because they'll finish off in the oven.
Transfer skillet contents to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the green onions, parsley, mirlitons, and bread. Gradually add stock. You may not need all of the stock, so check for dressing to be moist but not soupy. Season with hot sauce, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. If using eggs, add at this time. Stir to fully combine.
Spoon the dressing into a large buttered baking dish and bake until golden brown, 20-30 minutes.