Pronounced something like “me-lay-taw” in New Orleans, the mirliton is known by many other names throughout the world including chayote, cho-cho, christophine, choko, and vegetable pear. This wrinkly green squash is the fruit of the sechium edule plant.
If you have never heard of this thing, don’t feel bad – I grew up only 100 miles from New Orleans and I’d never heard of it until just last year, when a business associate came up to me and asked had I ever eaten me-lay-taw.
I looked at her in stunned silence. I made her repeat the word two or three times and finally, she had to write it on a piece of paper. When she described it, sure enough, I recalled having seen those wrinkly green things in some markets but had no idea what they were or what to do with them
Here are a handful of things to try if you can get your hands on some mirlitons or chayotes.
Chayote slaw with avocado and jalapeno
The folks at Clean Eating Magazine have this recipe for a Mexican Chayote salad over at their blog. We have made this slaw a couple of times now, and Elise loves it! We leave out the radishes just from preference, but they do make for a beautiful color in the salad.
“In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, oil, cayenne, cumin and salt. Add radishes, chayote, avocado, jalapeño and cilantro; toss gently.”
You could probably do this same recipe with jicama instead of the chayote.
Shrimp stuffed mirlitons
This is pretty much the standard New Orleans treatment of mirlitons – create a shrimp stuffing and bake it inside mirliton canoes. I looked up a bunch of recipes for Shrimp stuffed mirliton and they are all largely the same, so I used this recipe from NOLA.com as the base and made a few modifications.
“Mound the stuffing in the 16 mirliton shells, using it all. Place the stuffed shells in a baking pan, such as a 12-by-17-inch baking pan, that will hold the shells in a single layer touching each other lightly to help support their shapes as they cook. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon more bread crumbs evenly over the top of each stuffed shell and center a scant 1 teaspoon butter on the top of each. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the tops are browned, about 1 hour more. Serve at once.”
My modifications were mostly in the breading. We try to do gluten free and stay as low-carb as possible, so for the breading, I used a mixture of crushed rice Chex, grated parmesan cheese, and garlic salt.
I also added several handfuls of spinach to the dressing for color and texture.
I think this was easily one of my most successful experiments ever! Delicious!
I have not tried any of the following recipes yet, but they sound really good and show some of the range of things you can do with mirlitons – so these recipes are definitely on the to-do list!
Caribbean veggie stew
“Combine okra, tomatoes, chayote squash, and 2 crushed garlic cloves in a separate large pot; bring to a boil and cook until okra has thawed, about 5 minutes. Reduce to a simmer; season with ground ginger, dill weed, ground cumin, and cilantro to taste. Add collard greens; simmer until flavors have blended, at least 40 minutes (1 hour for best flavor).”
Gratin de Christophine
“Spread ladles of the béchamel sauce to cover the chayotes and apple. Finish with a layer of Gruyère cheese. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F and broil for about 2-3 minutes to get a nice golden top. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm.“
Sauteed chayote with bacon & onion
“Add the chayote, onion, and garlic to the bacon fat in the skillet and toss to coat. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the chayote and onion begin to brown slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, rosemary, and thyme; continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the chayote is tender, about 8 minutes more. Remove from the heat, stir in the bacon, and season to taste with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.”