Saturday, December 26, 2009


Oh, Christmas has officially been over for one day and my stomach is still recovering. I ate way too much! And how is it possible not to, I ask you? I wish I was home to visit with family, but we had a pretty good time here with friends.

On the menu, a ham courtesy of my Aunt Liz. I also made broccoli rice with fresh broccoli from the produce box, a pecan pie/cheesecake mash-up made with some of the Texas pecans my grandmother sends over every year, and stuffed eggplant -- and that's just what I made! We also had fabulous corn casserole, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, and some of our friend's mom's famous caponata as an appetizer. Hm, I think I'm getting hungry again -- leftovers of everything in the fridge!

Since I couldn't be home this year, thanks to the injury (Mike's, I'm fine), and the fact that we both started new jobs this month, I figured the next best thing is always to do it up big and right here in my own kitchen. I had a little help from a new cookbook in my collection, too.

Pamela Lyles's Da Cajn Critter is full of interesting family-style favorites. Well, my family's style that is. And a new Cajun cookbook is always a welcome addition to my collection. Some of the recipes are traditional southern favorites, like the "Red Beans and Rice," or "Aunt Rhonda's Jambalaya." Lyles tells you how to make a roux (the base for many of my own favorites), fry a turkey, and even how to do your own crawfish boil as well (I miss crawfish boils!). Other dishes in the book are all-over family favorites like "Sally Rue's Tuna Casserole" and "Mom's Pecan Pie." And there are even tips for buying bread and roasting meats.

I used Lyles's recipe for "Cajun-Style Stuffed Mirlitons" to make my eggplant, and they turned out damn tasty, if I do say so myself.

First off, I know what you saying: but it's supposed to be mirlitons. Or you're asking what mirliton is. It's chayote squash, aka in my house vegetable pears. My dad cuts them up and puts them in vegetable soups, or even serves them cooked with a little butter. I know I've seen them here in Colorado but they're not part of my regular shopping list and unfortunately they were not to be found this month. I tried two stores before deciding to use Lyles's suggested alternative of eggplant.

You should know that I'm something of an eggplant novice who really wasn't looking for anything too difficult for this holiday meal. So it was fortunate, then, that Lyles's presents her recipes in an easy-to-understand way. And take it from me, nothing in this book is beyond the average home chef.

I've been on the fence about whether or not I actually like eggplant and I can tell you that at least in this preparation I am definitely a fan. The best thing, though, the stuffing is really versatile and can be tweaked to fit what you have on hand. My aunt makes these with smoked Louisiana sausage. In my case, I actually cheated and used mushrooms in place of the crabmeat. They were a big hit and will definitely be on my favorites list of recipes from here on out. And next time I happen to run across mirlitons, I'll know exactly what to do with them!

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