Mirliton’s kind of sneaky. Your odds of finding it by that name outside of Louisiana are about as good as a collection agency making a successful phone call: “You’re looking for Mirliton? Yeah, sorry, he just stepped out. … Who, me? I’m, uuuhhh, Chayote. Oh, and Mango Squash is around, too, if you’d like to talk to her.” If you can’t tell, it goes by any number of aliases, so finding them in your neck of the woods shouldn’t be especially difficult.
Like a summer squash, it’s not exactly assertive on the flavor front, but does a great job absorbing seasonings from its dish-mates. My grandma used to make a wonderful mirliton bread (similar to zucchini bread) and a mirliton casserole with fresh shrimp and crabmeat that would be pretty familiar to most people of the Cajun persuasion. I may have to recreate that casserole soon, but first I had to attempt the pickles my cousin Darrin made last Christmas. Slightly sweet, spicy and just crispy enough to provide some resistance… well, I just had an envie, cher.
Luckily, chayotes were abundant at my grocery, so I picked up what felt like 10 pounds to my pipe cleaner arms for the recipe I’d chosen from Chef John Folse’s site. I knew these pickles would really cure any homesickness I was feeling thanks to the Zatarain’s bath and copious amounts of garlic that were featured.
Before getting started, I recalled my previous encounters with mirliton and pulled out the most important items for dealing with it in its raw state:
Seriously, these things are paradoxically slippery and sticky once you cut into them, so you’ll dearly regret it if you don’t invest in a cheap pair of gloves. They’re not especially hard to slice or to peel, but I’m a big proponent of sharp knives and it made for a better picture.
I didn’t bother canning them proper-like because I was sure that: 1) Refrigeration, plus the vinegar in the brine would keep them from spoiling, and 2) They wouldn’t be around for very long, anyway.
And I’m very happy to report that success was achieved. No picture of the finished product because they’re pickles, ya know? But they really set off a spicy Bloody Mary, and anyone I’ve shared them with has raved. Could be mere politeness, but I prefer to think Chef Folse hit another one out of the park.
recipe after the jump
Pickled Mirliton Sticks from Chef John Folse & Company
18 large mirlitons
1 bag Zatarain’s Dry Crab Boil Seasoning
2 quarts rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
1/4 pound dried whole cayenne peppers
4 pods fresh garlic, peeled
36-40 bay leaves
Slice the mirlitons lengthwise, carve out the seedpod and discard. Peel the skin from the mirlitons and cut them as you would 1/4-inch thick French fries. In a large stockpot over high heat, add crab boil, rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add sliced mirlitons, lower heat when liquid returns to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Taste the mirlitons for doneness. They should be slightly tender on the outside yet crisp on the inside. Remove the mirlitons from the pickling juice and reserve. Line up 12 pint-sized Mason jars and, using tongs, arrange the mirliton sticks as if standing on edge in the jars. Pack each jar tightly with mirliton sticks. Evenly divide the cayenne peppers, garlic and bay leaves into the jars. Divide the pickling juice evenly between the jars. If more liquid is needed, add water and white vinegar to ensure that all surface areas of the mirliton are immersed in juice.
Cover and allow to cool. Let stand for a minimum of one week before serving.