Just one bite of these light, herb-filled savory muffins will awaken you to the depth of flavor hiding in the unique vegetable called mirliton. These Savory Mirliton Muffins bake up easy and cheesy with crusty outer edges encasing the moist, all-natural flavor within.
Mirliton is a workhorse in the Cajun kitchen. These little green vegetable “pears” begin showing up in the fall months, and throughout the holidays, they are a staple of the Acadiana table. In other parts of the world, you’ll see them go by names like chayote, christophene, or pear squash. But, whatever you call them, mirlitons are delicious in a variety of preparations. Stuffed, stewed, sautéed, pickled, or baked in a casserole, it is a versatile ingredient.
Recently, I began thinking of a traditional muffin recipe using the ingredient and then my mirliton imagination started swirling. Instead of a sweet recipe, my idea was to head in the opposite direction with the intent of turning it into a savory side dish. Forego the sugar and cinnamon, and layer on the onion and Cheddar; these little flavor bombs are about to rock my holiday table.
As a part of the gourd family, the experts at the LSU AgCenter describe the vegetable pear (mirliton) as a fruit grown much like a cucumber. And to describe it as a vegetable pear makes perfect sense since it is roughly pear-shaped, somewhat flattened and with coarse wrinkles. When at its peak (medium-size), it looks just like a green pear, and it has a thin, green skin fused with the green to white flesh, and a single, large, flattened pit. As for flavor, mirliton flesh is mild with a bland taste similar to squash, and a texture like a potato. That’s why you seldom see it eaten alone, but rather as a central ingredient in other dishes.
So, how did mirliton become a staple in Louisiana kitchens? It all started in the Creole kitchens of New Orleans where Caribbean immigrants brought the vines with them. To this day, backyard mirliton vines proliferate the New Orleans landscape, and there’s even a festival—the Bywater Mirliton Festival—that celebrates the popularity of this unique ingredient. Over the years, mirlitons made their way to Acadiana and into Cajun and Creole kitchens throughout Louisiana.
And speaking of mirliton, the pronunciation is crucial. To the English ear, mer-leh-ton is phonetically correct and for the most part, acceptable. But to Cajuns and Creoles raised along the bayous of South Louisiana, it’s a mel-lee-tawn or mel-lay-tawn they’re eating.
I love mirliton in this Savory Mirliton Muffins recipe for a few reasons. First, the outer skin is edible, so I don’t have to peel mirlitons which makes grating them a cinch. Using a box grater, I can go through a couple of mirlitons in sixty seconds, producing a huge mound of pulp. And I love the juice content of this vegetable that produces a moist muffin. In fact, there is so much juice that you must wring it out using a cheesecloth or thin dish towel. And while this is called a savory “muffin,” there is no flour; there’s just enough egg and bread crumbs to hold it all together without the texture of a dense bread.
So break out your box grater, grease up your muffin tin, and make these Savory Mirliton Muffins–a brunch main attraction or a unique new side dish for your holiday table.
- 2 medium-size mirlitons
- 1 cup diced onion
- ½ cup diced green onion tops
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
- 1 ½ cups bread crumbs
- 4 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Coat a muffin pan with non-stick spray.
- Slice the stem end off the mirlitons and using a box grater, grate both of them. Wrap the grated mirliton in a square of cheesecloth and squeeze out all moisture. Measure out 2 cups of the packed mirliton and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the onion, green onion, thyme, parsley, cheese, and bread crumbs. Break the eggs into the mixture and combine, equally distributing all ingredients. Season with Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper.
- Spoon the mixture into the holes of the muffin pan. Press down on the tops compacting the ingredients and fill each hole. Bake in the oven until the tops just begin to brown, and the muffins are firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Invert the muffin pan, tap the sides and the mirliton muffins should release. If not, run a sharp knife around the inside of the tin until they release. Serve warm or at room temperature.
YOUR SEAT AT THE TABLE: If you like this Cajun cooking story and Cajun recipe then accept my personal invitation to subscribe by entering your email at the bottom or top right of this page. It’s quick and painless. You will receive an email alert and be the first to see when new Cajun cooking stories and Cajun recipes are added. Thanks, George.