Mirliton and Root Vegetable Gratin

I originally served this dish at one of my Christmas dinners, and it was so well received that I’ve made it often since. Lately, a lot of people have called me to ask for mirliton recipes, and here is a good one. It’s a variation on the French classic gratin Savoyard, with other root vegetables instead of the usual potatoes and mirlitons, a favorite vegetable around New Orleans. It’s called chayote elsewhere.

Gratin of various vegetables, including mirlitons.

  • 2 slices lemon
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 rutabagas, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch-thick slices
  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/4-inch-thick coins
  • 2 lbs. parsnips, prepared the same way as the carrots (substitute: turnips)
  • 4 mirlitons, halved, seed removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1 tsp, white pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil with the lemon, cloves, and peppercorns. Add the rutabagas (it helps to do this in a large sieve or a chinoise), boil for about two minutes, remove and drain. Repeat with the carrots, parsnips, and mirlitons. (The mirlitons will only require about one minute.)

2. Crush the garlic cloves, and use them to wipe the inside of a two-inch-deep, 12-by-9-inch glass baking dish. Discard what’s left of the garlic.

3. Layer the vegetables in the baking dish, in the order listed. Sprinkle a mixture of the cheeses between the layers. Season with white pepper and (sparingly) nutmeg. The cheeses will provide all the salt this needs.

4. Combine the whipping cream and the egg yolks thoroughly. Pour the mixture over the vegetables. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated 400-degree oven for one hour.

5. Remove the foil, sprinkle bread crumbs in a thin layer over the top, and return to the oven. Continue baking until the crust browns.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least ten minutes before serving. This is better warm than hot.

Makes about 12 side portions.

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