- 6 mirlitons
- Salt, to taste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid crab boil, to taste
- 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1 ½ cups finely chopped celery
- ½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 cup small-diced ham, preferably Chisesi brand
- 1 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 pound peeled small Gulf shrimp (70 count per pound) – chop if shrimp are larger than this
- 1/2 pound crab claw meat
- 3 cups coarse French bread breadcrumbs or stale French bread, crumbled
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
- Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Emeril’s Vodka Sauce, or other warm tomato sauce, for serving (optional)
Peel and halve the mirlitons (leave the seed in, it’s edible and delicious) and place them in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and season the water to taste with salt and liquid crab boil. Cook the mirlitons at a simmer until the tip of a paring knife goes in easily, usually about 30 minutes. Remove them from the water and set aside to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, use a spoon or a melon baller to scoop out about half the flesh of the mirliton, leaving about a 1/3-inch shell on all sides to form the “pirogues”. Set the pirogues aside and then coarsely chop the scooped out flesh.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, ham, minced garlic, bay leaves and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender; do not allow the vegetables to brown. Fold in the shrimp and the reserved mirliton flesh and cook until the shrimp are opaque. Fold in the crab claw meat, 2 ½ cups of the breadcrumbs, the Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill each mirliton pirogue with a generous half cup of the filling and arrange them in shallow baking dishes or on baking sheets with low sides. Sprinkle some of the remaining breadcrumbs over each mirliton. Bake in the middle of the oven until hot throughout and the stuffing is golden brown on top, usually 25 to 30 minutes. (If your oven has a convection setting this will facilitate browning.)
Serve hot, over a spoonful of your favorite warmed tomato pasta sauce, such as Emeril’s Vodka Sauce.