Stuffed Merlitons (Chayote Squash)
Merlitons have always been a favorite dish that my family cooked around the holidays. My dad would bring bags of them home and they covered our kitchen counter. I didn’t realize until years later that my grandmother had them growing on vines in her side yard. Of course, at a young age this was intriguing to me, so I had to go see for myself. There were merlitons everywhere along the fence, vines climbing up the side of the house and all over the ground. I watched my dad prepare this dish as a child and now I make this dish every holiday. Brings back so many wonderful memories helping my parents prepare holiday meals.
Purchase merlitons that are free of blemishes or brown spots. Boil them whole for about 45 minutes until you can poke a knife through. Once they are tender, take them out and let cool. Once cool, cut in half and let continue to cool. Take a spoon and take the seed out and discard. Then scoop the merliton out of the shell, leaving some of it around the rim. Place down on a paper towel to absorb some of the water. Chop the merliton coarsely and place on the side.
In a saucepan, add butter and sauté raw diced shrimp. Add the diced ham and stir until shrimp start turning pink. Add the seasoning and cook down until it is tender. The merliton is ready to add to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes and constantly stir, so there will be no sticking to the pot. Fold in breadcrumbs until everything is mixed together. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Also add the bay leaf into the mixture. After the merliton stuffing has cooled, take the bay leaf out.
Once the merliton stuffing has cooled, using a scoop, stuff the merliton stuffing into the scooped out shells.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes
Makes 24 halves
IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO STUFF THE MERLONS, YOU CAN MAKE THIS AS A CASSEROLE. INSTEAD OF SCOOPING MERLITON OUT YOU WOULD JUST COOK MERLITON UNTIL TENDER, PEEL AND DICE.