Ingredient Introduction #32 – Chayote Squash

My favorite farmers’ market vendor strikes again.

She always has the neatest things. I’ve gotten bitter melon, a monstrous squash, Thai chiles, and lemongrass from her.

I wish I had a picture of her to show you.

She’s a little Asian woman who is always smiling. If you ask her how much her treats cost, she giggles, holds up two fingers, and through her unmistakeable accent says, “Two dollars.” And if you ask her how to use what she sells, she always says, “You stir fry or add some chicken in the soup.” She’ll almost always let you try something before you commit to buying it.

I adore her.

Recently she’s had something I’ve seen in the mystery baskets on the blood pressure boiling show Chopped.

It kind of looks like like the squashy spawn of a risque blind date between a flattened pear and a cactus.

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It’s called chayote squash. Say it with me class… “chay-OH-tay.”

I’ve seen it two ways, prickly and smooth, but wrinkly. The prickles aren’t really sharp and go unnoticed after cooking.

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Chayote squash is native to Mexico.

You can eat it raw or cooked.

The flavor is pretty bland, like typical summer squash.

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It doesn’t have to be peeled. Cut it in half and you’ll find a seed (half on each side). Use a spoon to dig it out.

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In Louisiana, Chayote squash is called mirliton. The “r” is supposedly silent. I’ve never been to Louisiana, so I can’t confirm that, or the fact that mirlitons grow everywhere in the southern part of the state.

In cajun cuisine, chayote squash is typically stuffed with a mixture of crab, shrimp, seasonings, and bread crumbs… basically a stuffing. This is really genius, because when it comes to flavor, the squash needs as much help as it can get.

I went with the stuffed preparation because I wanted the squash to act as a meal, not a side dish.

Here’s what you need:

2 chayote squash
2 links of raw chorizo
1/2 of an onion, diced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
1 lime, juiced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a non-stick pan, squeeze the chorizo out of its casing, and begin browning. You’ll want to break it up as it cooks, just as you would ground beef.

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While the sausage cooks, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.

Place the squash cut side up in a 9×9 baking dish. Pour in 1/2 cup of water, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and microwave for 7 minutes. This basically steams the squash. It’s much faster than doing it on the stove. Plus, you’re going to use that same baking dish to finish the meal.

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As the squash cooks, go back to your pan. The sausage should be browning and there should be a good bit of flavored oil coming from it. Add the onion, stir, and continue to cook until the onion softens and the sausage is firm.

Add the spices, a good pinch of salt, and the lime juice, stir.

Using potholders, take the dish out of the microwave.

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Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the squash.

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Leave a bit of a border around the squash, because it’ll serve as a bowl for the filling.

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Chop up the flesh and add it to the pan of sausage. Stir. Add the Panko, stir.

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Drain the water from the dish. Put the squash halves back in, add a sprinkle of salt to each one, then fill them with the stuffing, mounding it.

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Put the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top of the stuffing is golden brown.

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Serve each side of squash with a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce, a dollop of Greek yogurt (healthier than sour cream), and a wedge of lime.

My partner in cuisine crime doesn’t like squash, but he really liked this. Score!

It boils down to this: the super flavor of the stuffing makes up for the blandness of the squash. The texture of the chayote is tender and soft, almost like a rutabaga or boiled potato.

The filling is slightly spicy. The breadcrumbs tie it all together and give you the comfort that comes with a helping of Thanksgiving stuffing.

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By using the chorizo and the Mexican seasonings, I felt like I paid tribute to the squash’s origin.

You can certainly use ground beef, Italian sausage, shrimp, or veggies in place of the chorizo.

Chayote squash is high in vitamin C, low in calories and carbs, doesn’t have cholesterol or fat, and gives you some fiber. How can you go wrong?

Take this squash and stuff it.

Tip: Keep hot sauce on hand at all times. I like Cholula. It’s an easy, guilt-free way to add flavor to just about anything. I love it on eggs. It can give just about any dish that little something extra. Depending on the kind you get, it’s not really that spicy.

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