In New Orleans, we love our mirlitons. This light green, pear-shaped member of the squash family is popular in casseroles and stuffed with seafood, especially around the winter holiday season. Just in time for the holidays to begin, you can check out the Bywater neighborhood’s Mirliton Festival held this Saturday, Nov. 9th.
The 24th annual celebration of the mirliton features great music, food from Bywater eateries, an artists’ village and various activities for the kids, making it the perfect festival for attendees of all ages. This year, you can enjoy live performances from musical guests like The Tin Men, Meschiya Lake, Gal Holiday, Kristen Diable, Strange Roux and more.
The Mirliton Festival will be held on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The Brickyard at 3036 Chartres St. Admission is $5, and children 12 and under are free.
One of the most popular mirliton dishes, especially around the holidays, is the shrimp and mirliton casserole. Why not try a recipe from the Southern cooking master himself, Emeril Lagasse, courtesy of the Food Network:
Shrimp and Mirliton Casserole
5 pounds (about 8) medium mirlitons (chayotes)
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Emeril’s Bayou Blast (Essence)
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon dried fine bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Emeril’s Kick It Up! Red Pepper Sauce, or other hot sauce
3/4 pound freshly grated American cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the mirlitons and cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat, drain, and set aside to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, combine the shrimp with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon Bayou Blast in a mixing bowl and toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. When the mirlitons are cool, cut them in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, peel, and coarsely chop. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and jalapeno. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon Bayou Blast and the thyme. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and lightly golden, 4 to 6 minutes.
6. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the mirlitons and cook, mashing them with a potato masher, until very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Add the shrimp, salt, black pepper, green onions, and parsley. Cook, stirring, until the shrimp turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
7. Add the eggs, 1 cup of the bread crumbs, and the pepper sauce. Mix well. Spoon the mixture into a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Bake until the topping is lightly browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.