For the first time this Thanksgiving, I made my grandmother’s stuffed mirliton recipe. This was her one fancy dish since my maternal grandmother preferred to work and then hire a cook rather than be one herself. But even she thought everyone needs that one dish. And really this New Orleans standard isn’t difficult…it just has a bunch of steps.
My only issue with the recipes that my Mom gave me was that I needed to scale them way down…and I wasn’t that successful. I was spending Thanksgiving with friends and were originally scheduled to have only 5 adults and 1 toddler, so I chose to make 8 mirlitons…and then 3 more people were added so phew for making too much.
I’ve included image files for both my grandmother’s typewritten version and my Mom’s handwritten recipe below. Some steps are just left out because they assume you’ve done this before and are just looking for ratios.
I made WAY too much stuffing but here’s my ingredient list:
- 4 mirlitons
- 2 medium onions
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 bell pepper
- 4 or 5 stalks celery
- pepper flakes
- 1 pound of shrimp, cleaned
- 8 ounces of crabmeat
I boiled the mirlitons whole a day in advance and then put them in the refrigerator so they would be easier to scoop out when I needed them. Whole mirlitons take about an hour to get to fork tender. My grandmother usually cooked them halved…and that would be speedier. I’m not sure if it makes that much difference.
Score the edges of the mirlitons with a sharp knife leaving yourself 1/4 inch to a 1/2 inch of flesh on the margins depending on how tender the skin is. (Most store bought mirlitons have tender skin that can be easily eaten, but I remember having a vine and that some of the mirlitons would get thick course skin that was yucky).
Remove most of the flesh with a spoon and put aside. As you remove the flesh retain any liquid in case you need it later to rehydrate the stuffing.
Make sure the mirlitons are dry as you put them in the baking dish. You can now put the mirlitons aside while you work on the stuffing.
Chop everything pretty fine and then some recipes tell you to mash with a potato masher before you add the seafood (and/or meat) but that’s just personal preference on texture.
Cook down your onions and garlic in butter (and, of course, you could sub in olive oil but nothing smells as good as onions cooking in butter). I threw the pepper flakes into this mix as well. The traditional recipes mostly call for very little spice but I thought the version I was working on could benefit from a bit of heat, especially since I was being fancy and adding crabmeat.
You want all your vegetables to cook down pretty well. So add the celery and the bell pepper and cook the whole thing down a bit until it’s all soft. I prefer celery to bell pepper but if you’re the opposite of me, change the ratios to whatever works for you. Add the chopped mirliton that you scooped out of the halves.
Once it seems like it’s close to done, add shrimp and crabmeat (or ham or sausage or veggie protein if you’re going vegetarian/vegan). I bought larger shrimp because they looked best at the grocery and then I chopped them up. (My Mother would say that was a waste of large shrimp.) Cook the shrimp until they are pink. I also added about 1/4 cup of chopped parsley for a brighter flavor.
Add breadcrumbs. My grandmother said to add about a tablespoon for each mirliton half. Since I added more celery than usual, it made the mixture more liquidey so I added a bit more breadcrumbs until it looked yummy. If you add a bit too much, used the reserve mirliton liquid (or water) to thin it out.
Let the stuffing cool so that you don’t burn yourself whilst stuffing your mirlitons. Scoop enough stuffing into the halves that it’s rounded on top…like twice stuffed potatoes.
At this point my grandmother would wrap each mirliton in foil and then put them into airtight containers and then freeze them until she needed them and that’s an option. I just added buttered breadcrumbs to the top (for pretty not essential to the taste). And then ran them in a 350 oven for around 30 minutes, uncovered so they turn a pretty brown.
Enjoy! And as promised here are the copies of my family’s recipes. My Mom says that hers is adaptation of both my Grandmother’s and Chef John Folse. And of course, both recipes are typed/written on scrap paper because that’s my family.