In the south, or at least in Louisiana, we call Chayotes or Vegetable Pears, Mirlitons (MEL-a-tawn or MERL-a-tawn), depending on what New Orleans neighborhood you're from. It's a part of the squash family but it has a mild sweet flavor and can be used so many different ways. Here's my version of Traditional Mirliton Casserole.
1Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the mirlitons and cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat, drain, and set aside to cool completely.
2Sprinkle ground beef, pork or sausage with 1 tablespoon creole seasoning and brown in heavy skillet. Drain and set aside.
3When the mirlitons are cool, cut them in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, peel, and coarsely chop. Set aside.
4Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, carrots, celery, green onions and jalapeno. Add remaining creole seasoning and the thyme. Cook slowly, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and lightly golden, about 30 minutes.
5Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the mirlitons and cook, mashing them with a potato masher, until very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes.
6At this point, if you want a smoother textured casserole use an immersion blender or put mixture into a food processor or blender in small batches until everything is pureed. If you like a chunkier casserole then skip this step.
7Add the meats or seafood, salt, black pepper, and parsley. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat.
8Add the eggs and toasted bread crumbs and mix well. You want the mixture to be tight, not too wet. Spoon the mixture into a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella or parmesan cheese (optional), or with about 1-2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
9Bake at 350 until the topping is lightly browned and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Serve warm.
10*NOTES: In a skillet, toast the breadcrumbs in a little olive oil over medium heat until it turns 2 shades darker. This will keep the casserole from being gummy.
11If you make extra toasted breadcrumbs you can freeze them in a ziplock bag until you're ready to use them again.