Frank's Mirliton Soup with Shrimp

6 poached mirlitons, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 small white onion, chopped fine

3/4 cup celery, chopped fine

6 cups vegetable or shrimp stock

1 cup whole milk

1/2 stick butter

1/2 tsp. ground thyme

1 tsp. Frank Davis Vegetable Seasoning

Dash Garlic Hot Sauce

4 cups peeled and deveined shrimp, 80-100 count

2 Tbsp. gravy flour

2 smashed and creamed anchovies

Kosher or sea salt to taste

Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

1 cup pepper cheese, shredded for garnish

First, in an 8-quart stockpot bring to a boil enough water to completely cover the mirlitons.

Then reduce the heat to medium range and at a gentle bubble poach the mirlitons until you can pierce them easily through-and-through with an ice pick.

At that point, take them out of the water and allow them to cool to room temperature.

Then slice them in half, remove the center seed, peel away the outer skin, and cut them into medium-size cubes.

In the meantime, take a 5- quart heavy aluminum or stainless steel Dutch oven, heat the bacon drippings to high, toss in the chopped onions and the celery, and saute the mixture until it wilts (but don't let it brown).

Then, pour in the vegetable stock and bring it to a slow boil.

Add the chopped mirlitons, cover the pot, and simmer everything until piping hot (this should take about 20 minutes or so over medium-low heat).

Next, add the milk and the butter to the soup base and stir the mixture continuously until it, too, begins to bubble.

Then reduce the fire once again and stir in the thyme, the vegetable seasoning, the hot sauce, the shrimp, the gravy flour, and the anchovies

When all the ingredients are thoroughly blended, put the lid back on the pot, reduce the fire to low, and simmer the soup for another 20-25 minutes to allow all the flavors to marry.

Then, just before you're ready to eat, re-season the soup with a little extra salt and fresh-ground black pepper if it needs it and serve it up piping hot in large bowls (maybe with a stack of saltine crackers). Oh, yeah don't forget to sprinkle on a heaping handful of pepper cheese just before dishing it out to your Franksgiving dinner guests.

It's ready to chow down on when the cheese melts into the soup!

Chef's Notes:

  1. If you want to you can poach, peel, and cube the mirlitons well ahead of time and keep them in a covered non-reactive bowl in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them. And here's a variation: you can even peel the mirlitons uncooked, cut them into small chunks, and add them to the soup raw to give the soup a richer mirliton taste. Of course, be sure to remove the center seed if you elect to do this, and be sure to add a little extra simmering time to fully cook the vegetable.
  2. Gravy flour is a very fine white flour that is used to make sauces. Just sprinkle it directly into your stock and stir it in rapidly until smooth. It, too, can be purchased in one-pound canisters at most supermarkets.