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Gratin of Chayote
Gardener and Gourmet Newsletter

Prepare the chayote as described previously, peeling and slicing the cooked squash halves crosswise into 1/8 inch slices. Place the slices in the bottom of a greased ovenproof gratin dish. Sprinkle the chayote with salt and pepper and a tiny grating of nutmeg. Cover with Bechamel sauce and sprinkle generously with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and browned slightly. Serve as a side dish with grilled meats.

Chayote Asian Style

Prepare the chayote as directed in the previous recipe, placing the slices on paper towels to dry thoroughly. Have ready three small bowls containing cornstarch, beaten egg and panko (Japanese style bread crumbs) respectively. Dredge the chayote, one piece at a time, in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess. Dip in beaten egg to completely coat, allowing the extra egg to drain back into the bowl. Roll in panko, pressing gently to adhere the coating. Transfer the prepared pieces to a rack. Use immediately or allow to rest in the refrigerator a few hours before completing the dish. Just prior to serving, shallow fry the chayote pieces in vegetable oil until they are golden, turning once. Transfer them as they are cooked to paper towels to drain. Serve with your favorite Asian dipping sauce, or this version of Japanese tonkatsu sauce:

Combine 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon mirin, 1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon ginger juice, and 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic in a small bowl. Let stand, covered, in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Mirliton Pirogues

As noted previously, "mirliton" is the Creole word for "chayote." A "pirogue" is a type of boat used by Cajun and Creole folks to navigate the bayous. The shell of the squash only vaguely reminds one of a boat, but the name sounds nice. This dish is hot! You may want to reduce the amount of pepper if you have tender taste buds, although we like it with additional hot sauce. A salad and bread would complete an easy supper for a week night.

You will need one hefty mirliton for two servings. The recipe doubles easily. Prepare the chayote as directed previously, scooping out the flesh and reserving the shells for the "pirogues." Chop the flesh into fine dice and reserve.

Prepare the following ingredients:
1/4 cup diced cooked ham
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced

Combine in a small bowl 1/2 teaspoon each paprika and ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. In another bowl combine 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese. Reserve. Heat one cup of stock in a small saucepan and keep hot. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet and saute the ham until lightly browned on the edges. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve in a bowl. Add the onions, celery and peppers to the skillet, along with half of the seasoning mixture and a good pinch of salt. Saute until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic cloves and saute another minute or two, until their fragrance is released. Add the reserved chayote, the reserved ham, the remaining seasoning mix, and 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour. Mix well to combine, then add the hot stock, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened, and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Remove from the heat.

Fill the reserved chayote shells with the ham and vegetable mixture, mounding them generously. Top with the cheese and bread crumb mixture, dividing it evenly between the two servings. Place in a greased baking dish. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the filling is hot, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

John's Individual Sweet Potato Pies

I have eaten sweet potato pie at family gatherings and church suppers for as long as I can remember. Every cook seems to have a slightly different recipe. Mine was created with simplicity in mind, allowing the flavor of the sweet potato to dominate. It is also tailored to preparation in small quantity, although it can easily be doubled or quadrupled. This dish could make a fine dessert for the meal just described, or can be used as a side dish for pork or game.

Roast enough whole sweet potatoes to yield about 1 cup cooked. This should be about one average root. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and combine the flesh with 1 tablespoon of butter, mashing and stirring as the butter melts. Thin with orange juice to the consistency of creamy mashed Idaho potatoes. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool completely, or refrigerate overnight. (If the potatoes are too hot, they will cook the eggs when the pies are completed.)

Combine the crumbs from 3 graham crackers, crushed well, with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Line four small ramekins with equal parts of this mixture, or use a single, larger ovenproof dish. Reserve.

In a bowl combine the sweet potatoes with 1 egg, beaten, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Spoon into the prepared ramekins. Top with miniature marshmallows "church supper" style, or use your favorite streusel topping, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. These are actually better if held, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours after cooking, and then reheated directly from the refrigerator in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes longer. As such, they are a cinch to make for a crowd.

Japanese Style Braised Sweet Potatoes

This dish is an exception to the no-peel rule for sweet potatoes. Work quickly, dropping the potatoes directly into the hot dashi, to prevent any discoloration. If you do not have dashi available, substitute canned or homemade chicken stock, diluted by half with water. This recipe also works with winter squash, although the cooking time may be a bit longer.

Bring 1-1/2 cups dashi, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon mirin, and 1 tablespoon sake to a slow simmer in a medium saucepan. Trim, peel and cut into large chunks 1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, dropping the pieces into the boiling stock as they are cut. Reduce heat to low, cover loosely and simmer 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato pieces are tender and the sauce is reduced. Serve immediately as part of an Asian meal, garnished with thinly sliced green onions. Serves four. This and the chayote dish should pair well, since the tonkatsu sauce has a sweet component.

Gardener and Gourmet Newsletter
January 7, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 1
Copyright (C) 1999, John H. Tullock. All rights reserved.
Published twice a month by Gardener and Gourmet,
3405 East Red Bud Drive, Knoxville, TN 37920-3655
(423) 573-0373

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