Crabmeat and Shrimp Stuffed Mirliton

I stole this recipe from Chef John Folse’s Site, halved the recipe and changed it somewhat to suit my taste. I made this on Saturday night and it tasted so much like the stuffed crab recipe my grandmother used to make, so comforting. This used to be the ONLY way to get me to eat seafood as a kid… I hated all of it (now I mainly just despise strong tasting fish like Salmon) and being from the gulf region, you could see where that might be a problem. Fortunately, living in the Bay Area, our seafood is as good as that from the gulf… especially shellfish. I served this with yukon gold mashed potatoes to which I added shredded pepper jack cheese and some creole seasoning. Yum.

Mirlitons: Say Melly-tawn or Mel-uh-tahn. They are the name for Chayote Squash in New Orleans. Yuppies here in the Bay Area pay upwards of several dollars for one as they are quite en vogue with the foodie crowd. Silly fools… they can get them for less than 50 cents apiece in Mexican markets… or for free in a New Orleans yard… if you have one, you have many as they are a “weed” there! Mirlitons have a delicate almost apple-y flavor when cooked and become quite soft when boiled, like a potato… they are actually pretty starchy for a squash. You can eat the entire shell, peel and all, when this dish is complete. John Folse’s site has several mirliton recipes that look quite tasty.

Crabmeat and Shrimp Stuffed Mirliton

Prep Time: 2 Hours
Yields: 3 Serving

Ingredients:
3 mirlitons (Chayote Squash), sliced lengthwise
1/2 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
1/2 pound (70-90 count) shrimp, peeled and de-veined (use gloves! some people are HIGHLY allergic to shellfish shells even if they aren’t allergic to the meat)
1/2 stick (1/8 lb) butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red or green bell peppers
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning (or Creole seasoning)
As many dashes Crystal hot sauce (or any other cayenne based pepper sauce) as you like, to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
6 pats butter

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil sliced mirlitons in lightly-salted water 30-40 minutes or until meat is tender enough to scoop from shells. Once tender, remove from water and cool. Using a teaspoon, remove seeds and gently scoop all meat out of shell, being careful not to tear shell. Discard excess liquid accumulated while scooping meat. Reserve meat and save shells for stuffing. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté; onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and basil 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Blend in shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes or until pink and curled. Mix in reserved meat from mirlitons and chop large pieces while cooking. Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring until flavors develop. After most of liquid has evaporated, remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, hot sauce and parsley. Fold in crabmeat, being careful to not break lumps. Sprinkle in approximately 3/4 cup of bread crumbs to absorb any excess liquid and to hold stuffing intact. Divide mixture into 6 equal portions and stuff into hollowed-out shells. Place stuffed mirlitons on baking pan and sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Top each mirliton with 1 pat of butter. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve 1 mirliton half as a vegetable or 2 halves as an entrée.

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Creole Tuna Casserole

What could be better? Elements of creole cooking combined with comfort food… for me that’s redundant, but that’s not the point…

Creole Tuna Casserole

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tins (12 oz. total) of tuna packed in water, drained
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic
1 can of Rotel or diced tomatoes
16 oz. shell-type or rotini pasta (any type that will hold sauce well)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups of milk
8 oz. SHARP cheddar cheese
a couple of dashes of Worchestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
hot sauce to taste
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs or Panko bread crumbs (depends on your taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees;. Start your pasta water boiling. Sautée onion and bell pepper in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and tomatoes and sautee mixture for another 2 minutes. Season vegetable mixture with creole seasoning, salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and hot sauce then remove from heat. Check pasta for just below al dente stage as the pasta will cook more in the oven, drain pasta when it’s done. The next step is to make a béchamel sauce. Start the roux by melting the butter and adding the flour to the melted butter. You only want this to be a blond roux, so you don’t need to cook it long, just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add cold milk to roux and whisk until smooth. Add 3/4 of your shredded cheddar cheese to béchamel and whisk until creamy smooth. Combine tuna, pasta and vegetable mixture in a bowl and mix together until all the ingredients are fairly integrated. Add béchamel to mixture and fold until blended. Transfer mixture into a casserole dish, top with leftover cheese and bread crumbs. To make bread crumbs turn out crunchy and golden brown, add a tablespoon more of butter, chopped, to the top. Bake at 350 degrees; for 30 minutes.

EDIT: you can try it with Fontina or Gruyere mixed in with the cheddar. Or better yet, try Pepper Jack.

Pralines

In the spirit of all things New Orleans… a Decatur Street favorite… mmm, I can smell ’em! The PRAH-leen (say PRAY-leen and die!). A perfect praline is crystalline in texture (it’s the sugar!) and creamy on the tongue almost like an overcooked caramel. While these aren’t hard to make, they can be testy if not watched… it’s easy to burn them if left alone. Get yourself a good candy thermometer and let’s make some…

Pralines

Ingredients:

1 pound light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups pecan halves

Mix the sugar, salt, milk and butter in a pot and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves in the evaporated milk. Add the pecans and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it reaches the soft ball stage (234-240 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat. It will continue to cook off the heat, let it cook for a few minutes (about 2), then quickly stir until the mixture begins to thicken. It will lightly coat the pecans at this point and look similar to dulce de leche (a close cousin!). Drop by tablespoons onto parchment paper. When the pralines have cooled, gently lift from the surface with a knife and store in an airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen.

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Turtle Cookies

I found this recipe on the web while searching for McKenzie’s Bakery (a one-time huge chain of bakeries across Greater Metropolitan New Orleans). My grandmother had one near her house on Gentilly Blvd. and Elysian Fields and needless to say, these were a LARGE part of my childhood (along with Russian Cakes from Mr. Lawrence’s Bakery). I hope I cleaned this up enough that the fractions came out alright. Enjoy.

Turtle Cookies

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon maple flavored extract
60 pecan halves

FROSTING:
2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Turtle Cookie.jpg

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, egg yolk, vanilla and maple flavoring. Set aside. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add dry ingredients gradually to the creamed mixture until you have smooth dough and then chill 2 hours. Shape dough into balls to make 12 equal balls. These should be shaped into ovals like a turtle body. Dip bottoms into little of egg white. Press pecan pieces into bottoms that have the egg white to form a head and the 4 feet for the turtles, place onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about 10 to 12 minutes or until set and when cool, frost.
FROSTING-Melt chocolate, milk and butter. Beat in the sifted powdered sugar until smooth. Enjoy!

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