Mirliton, Shrimp and Tasso Casserole
Louisiana style comfort food. Onions, garlic, tasso, shrimp, breadcrumbs, and mirliton baked in a custardy mixture. (We serve this at casual gatherings or at festive holiday meals like Thanksgiving.)
The mirliton is native to Louisiana, California, and Florida though in other states it is known as the chayote. It looks like a large pear and its flavor is so mild that it tends to absorb the flavor of whatever it is cooked with.
Makes 12 side dishes
6 small mirliton (about 9 oz. each- they vary in size)
3 tablespoons butter
8 ounces tasso, medium dice (can substitute ham and season with ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 ½ teaspoon paprika)
2 medium onions, medium dice
1 pound 70/90 headless shrimp, peeled (if large shrimp, medium dice)
15 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (KEN: Should people know how to make bread crumbs?)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (green portion only)
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
In a large pot, add mirliton and cover with cold water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 hour or until fork tender. (Pierce with paring knife and you should feel a little resistance.)
Drain. Let cool on an open space. (Note: the mirliton should be treated as a root vegetable, which have very high water content. It is important not to overcook or shock with cold water to cool. This will cause the vegetable to lose its flavor and make the casserole watery.)
Peel the skin from the mirliton with a paring knife. Cut in half from stem, top to bottom, de-seed, lightly mash. Drain excess liquid from mash.
In a large pot over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon butter and sauté tasso for about four minutes or until brown.
Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender.
Stir in shrimp and garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
Add mirliton and sauté for 3 minutes, constantly stirring. Remove from heat and season.
Run 1 tablespoon of butter into 3 inch deep, large surface casserole dish. Add mixture and pat down lightly with hand.
Optional: For custard, mix eggs, milk, and seasoning and whisk. Mix together with other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
For topping, melt remaining butter. Add breadcrumbs, green onions, and seasoning and top casserole with mixture.
Cover casserole with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Be sure casserole is not watery. If so, pierce topping and lower temperature in oven and continue to cook until water is absorbed.