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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Two stuffed dinner dishes

When thinking of a stuffed dish, many recipes come to mind. You can stuff pastas, fish, meats, mushrooms, and even shrimp. Today I wanted to concentrate on vegetables. So, I reached into my first cookbook to find today’s recipes.

The first one is Seafood Stuffed Mirlitons. These are often found on tables throughout South Louisiana. The second one is Stuffed Eggplant Pirogue Peggy. You know this dish is special to me since my wife inspired it. Gather up your ingredients and Let’s head to the kitchen.

Seafood Stuffed Mirlitons

Mirliton is also known as Chayote squash or pear in Arkansas. Many people in New Orleans and the surrounding areas grow them at home. While there are many ways to cook them, I often stuff mirlitons.

8 mirlitons, medium size

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced

1/4 lb ham, diced

1/2 lb crabmeat

1 3/4 cups onion, minced

1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/3 cup bell peppers, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

2 eggs, beaten

2 sticks butter

2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Place the mirlitons in a large saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove mirlitons from the water and allow them to cool on a platter until easy to handle. Cut the mirlitons in half, then remove the pit and scoop out all the meat. Reserve the shells and set the meat aside.

In a skillet over medium heat sauté onions, parsley, bell pepper, garlic, thyme and bay leaves in 1 1/4 stick of butter for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, ham, crabmeat, Creole seasoning and mirliton meat. Stir occasionally and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the beaten egg. Add enough bread crumbs to bind it all together.

Divide the stuffing among the mirliton halves, sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs on top and use the remaining 3/4 stick of butter to dot the top of each. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Stuffed Eggplant Pirogue Peggy

This dish is named for my wife. A pirogue is a small flat-bottomed boat often used in the swamp area of South Louisiana. The eggplant resembles the vessel when it is cooked and stuffed.

3 medium eggplant cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup ham, diced small

½ cup onion, chopped

¼ cup yellow bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

½ cup seafood stock or chicken stock

½ pound medium shrimp peeled, deveined and chopped

½ pound lump crabmeat cleaned of shells

½ cup crushed plain pork skins

6 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese grated and divided

¼ cup green onions finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped

1½ teaspoons fresh tarragon chopped

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning

Preheat over to 425℉.

Score cut side of each eggplant half in a crisscross pattern. Lightly coat the cut sides of eggplant with cooking spray. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Bake at 425℉ for 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant halves over and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove pulp for the eggplant, leaving a ¼ inch thick shell. Place eggplant shells on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Chop pulp and put aside.

Reduce oven to 350℉.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ham, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add reserved eggplant pulp and stock, cooking for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in shrimp and crabmeat, cook 1 minute and remove from heat. Add pork skins, three tablespoons Parmesan cheese, green onions, basil, tarragon, lemon zest, and Creole seasoning, stirring gently to combine. Mound about ½ cup of seafood mixture into each shell. Sprinkle each with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350℉ for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated and shrimp are done.

The key to these dishes is the use of the pulp inside the vegetable. They add plenty of flavor to the stuffing. If you don’t want to stuff the skins, you can always put the stuffing in a pan and serve it as a side dish. Either way, to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, these are good eats!

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