brief interlude with mirlitons
- 1,083 wds. long
Hi! I have a recipe for you today. Or, rather, I have a food experience which you may, if you wish, convert into a recipe of your very own. Basically, it starts with mirlitons.
I have gone mirliton-crazy as only a homesick New Orleanian can go. My grandmother used to bring a shrimp-and-mirliton casserole to family holiday gatherings; unil this year, that was the only mirliton I'd ever consumed. Recently I'd noticed that Asian Food Market has a produce slot that, despite containing bags of snow peas, was labeled "chayote" (that's what they call mirlitons round here). I started keeping my eyes on that slot. Never having handled an actual mirliton before, I wasn't 100% sure what I was looking for. Pictures on the internet helped, but I still wound up having exchanges like this one with the proprietor:
"No, bitter melon."
Earlier this year, hallelujah! there they were. I grabbed an armful and brought them to check-out.
"You going to make soup?"
"It's very good in soup with chicken. You should try it."
One day I will. So far, I have mostly just casseroled it up. I have made shrimp-mirliton casserole, vegan mirliton casserole, and vegan-and-gluten-free mirliton casserole (using gluten-free panko instead of breadcrumbs or saltines). I have briefly looked at a recipe for mirliton pickles and decided I wasn't quite ready to process 18 mirlitons in a single afternoon.
Today I had mirliton cheeseburger mac.
Brown 1 lb. ground beef with a chopped-up half onion. Ground beef courtesy Boulder Beef, who are not only local but part of my roller derby family. I also bought a beef tongue from them a few weeks ago--another cooking first for me--and made this fantastic tomato stew with it. This was good timing, because the very next day I was mildly sick, and the beef tongue stew turned out to be the platonic ideal of sick day comfort food.
Add two small chopped-up mirlitons. Before the chopping-up there are other preliminaries. Boil for about an hour in crab boil seasonings, let cool, cut in half lengthwise, scrape out the seed, peel the halves. Then chop. Try not to chop off the tip of your thumb, by the way. Pro-tip. Which I am stating for no reason whatsoever. Don't look at my thumbnail. Move along.
Add parsley. Everything is better with parsley. I had some in the fridge doing nothing with its life. I chopped it up and stirred it in. If you are the opposite of me, you probably hate parsley and think everything is better with cilantro. In that case, add cilantro. You do you, is what I'm saying.
Rethink everything. I had some idea this would be a casserole, because mirliton = casserole. But chopped-up mirliton doesn't just turn into mushy casserole matrix by itself. It needs a food processor (which I don't have) or at least a manual ricer (which I do). I'd already tossed it into the beef and onion mixture, so the ricer wasn't happening. The mirliton was chunks. Small chunks, but solid. I could eat the mixture with a spoon, but that seemed lacking in ambition.
Decide: Am not up to dealing with pie crust. Which is a shame, because this would make an excellent shepherd's pie. Only there's no potato in the house either.
Put it in mac & cheese. Basically, do like that "Pasta with Sausage" recipe that Debra Doyle described as "what Hamburger Helper wants to be after it grows up and goes to a good college." Start with Annie's Mac & Cheese (I used the shells and Wisconsin cheddar variety). Pour about a half cup heavy cream over about two cups of the beef-onion-mirliton mixture. Stir in Annie's cheese powder. Shred in some maple smoked cheddar that happened to be in the fridge. Add spices: Black pepper, garlic salt, Cajun Land table seasoning, alder smoked salt, fresh grated nutmeg. Definitely do the cognac thing. Simmer to thicken a bit. Stir in cooked pasta shells. Crumble up and stir in the last of that homemade chevre-style cheese we made after going to the Art of Cheese workshop.
Eat too much. Leave no leftovers. Take no prisoners. Fight off food coma.
I've still got another cup and a half of the beef-onion-mirliton mixture. WANNA DO IT AGAIN. Maybe Friday. This is not a meal for eating before roller derby practice, at least not until I can find the self-restraint necessary to eat a reasonable rather than gluttonous portion.
PS. The remaining bits of April 7 Friday Fictionette are up now: audiobook and excerpts (here and at Patreon and at Wattpad). The [ebooks] have been reuploaded because I couldn't refrain from making a couple more edits during the audiobook reading. So there you go.