Mirliton Casserole


6 medium mirlitons, boiled, peeled, and diced
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 whole green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and chopped
1 lb. Polish sausage, small diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 can chicken broth (if needed)
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 cups homemade French bread crumbs
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup buttered corn flakes, crumbled
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

InstructionsFirst, take your mirlitons and boil them whole in lightly salted water until an ice pick will pierce them all the way through without using excessive pressure. Then remove them from the pot and set them aside to cool (you can discard the water).
In the meantime, in a 5-quart Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, tomato, and mushrooms until everything is soft and tender (which should take about 5 minutes)

While the seasonings are simmering, slice the cooked mirlitons in half lengthwise, remove the center seedpods, and throw them away. Then take a paring knife and carefully peel the outer skin away from the pulp. Once the skin is removed, dice the pulp into small pieces and set it aside as well.

At this point, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Then turn the fire up under the Dutch oven to high and drop in the shrimp and the chopped sausage. Within 2 to 4 minutes time, the shrimp will turn pink, which is exactly the way you want them just pink, not cooked and the sausage will brown slightly around the edges.

When this happens, add to the mixture the mirliton pulp and the diced tomato. Then stir the pot constantly for 10-15 minutes, cooking the pulp and the vegetable seasonings together over medium-high heat until a chunky paste forms (it may turn slightly watery, but don't worry about it). When the texture is just the way you want it, drop in the spices and herbs the parsley, thyme, rosemary, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Be sure to fold them well into the mirliton, shrimp, and sausage blend.

Now it's time to begin working the French bread crumbs into the casserole mixture (and this is best done a little at a time). When all the bread is added, you should end up with a rather dry paste that tends to stick to the spoon. If it is still too moist, add a few extra breadcrumbs because if the mixture it too wet it will run during the baking process. If on the other hand your stuffing mix turns out too dry, simply moisten it to your liking with a little canned chicken broth. Then when you're satisfied with the final consistency, quickly stir in the egg to bind everything together.

Finally, transfer the mixture to a large casserole dish (I find that buttered Pyrex works best).

Then liberally top the casserole with the buttered cornflake crumbs, slide the dish into the oven on the center rack, and bake it uncovered for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the topping turns a toasty brown. All that's left is to spoon out the hot casserole on warm dinner plates, garnish with a little shredded Parmesan cheese, and serve it piping hot right from the oven.

Chef's Hints

1..) For a little extra enhancement, liberally sprinkle the casserole with shredded Parmesan cheese when it has 10 minutes left to bake in the oven. This will form a nice crusty topping on the dish.
2.) Remember that mirlitons go well with creamed peas, buttered carrots, and a crisp lettuce salad topped with French dressing.

3.) When adding the raw egg, stir it into the mixture quickly if the casserole hadn't cooled enough when it goes in, it could actually scramble the egg instead of incorporate it as a binder.

4.) I suggest you don't add the chicken broth to the mixture until after the shrimp and sausage has had a chance to cook for a while. There will be a certain amount of liquid released from the shrimp, the mirlitons, and the mushrooms as they simmer. All in all, you don't want the final concoction to be too watery or you'll have to add too much bread to the casserole.