Davina Lambreaux: When my mother was alive, she and our neighbor had a standing arrangement. When the mirlitons got ready in the fall, Mama would send me or Delmond or Cheri, or sometimes all three of us, to go around the corner and pick all the mirlitons we could. It seems like there would be hundreds of them. I know it was dozens at least. Then Mama would boil them and scoop the meat out of them. She would stuff the meat back into their skins with some shrimp or some ham and some seasoning. We would keep about half of those for Sunday dinner and send some to our neighbor. There was still plenty of mirliton left. So Mama would freeze the rest of the meat and cook it a little at a time until Christmas. That’s when she cooked the last of it.
This is my favorite of my mother’s recipes. (It’s also my daddy’s favorite.) My mother always hated it when people made ground beef the main ingredient in their oyster dressing or their stuffed mirliton. Why call it oyster dressing? Why call it stuffed mirliton? She would say it’s really just beef seasoned with oysters or mirliton or eggplant whatever. I hear her voice echoing with that whenever I eat other’s people’s versions of one of these dishes. The mirliton and the shrimp are the stars here. Mostly, it’s the mirliton.
My mama died years ago. That neighbor never came back after the storm. The mirliton vine drowned in the flood. It wasn’t until the year after Katrina that it hit me. We had us a little ritual. And as much as I used to hate pick¬ing mirlitons and helping Mama clean them and cook them, it was one of the things that we did together. When I would walk back to the neighbor’s house and see how happy she was to get the stuffed mirlitons, it all seemed worth it.
If you can’t find a neighbor with a mirliton vine, then try to find a neighbor without one. When you buy the mirlitons from the store, get two or three extra ones and fix them for your neighbor. That’s about the best advice I can give you to make your mirlitons taste like Mama’s used to.
From Treme, by Lolis Eric Elie
"Gado" in Bahasa Indonesia usually means one of two things: 1) to eat something raw or 2) to eat something without rice. So important is rice in the typical Indonesian meal that one word has been set aside to designate the unusual practice of eating something without the staple crop.
Since most of the vegetables in this salad are cooked, and as far as I can recall, I have never seen someone enjoy this dish with rice, it's probably safe to go with the second definition in this context.
Saying something descriptive twice, though, is a way of denoting emphasis, as in, "really really." And so, in reading "gado gado," or "gado²" the translation could be roughly interpreted as "you really, really shouldn't eat this with rice." Why? Because it would be weird.
This is a light and refreshing salad popular in many parts of Indonesia. I suspect it is of Javanese origin because of its notably sweet flavor profile and use of (ideally) Javanese palm sugar. No palm sugar? No problem — dark brown sugar makes a decent substitute. Same thing with the "kangkung" — it's a green leafy Chinese vegetable for which spinach is a good substitute; for those of you familiar with Malaysian cuisine, it's the vegetable that's in kangkung belacan. And if the shrimp paste has you worried, no sweat — it's not completely necessary. The most important thing to remember about this salad is that when you serve it, eat it right off the bat. Don’t let it sit, because the vegetables have a lot of water that thins out the dressing (a good thing, at first, since it's pretty thick), but after awhile... not so good.
Anyway, the next time it's 100 degrees out at 100-percent humidity and hazy (normal weather in the capital, Jakarta), give this recipe a whirl.
Many thanks to Zulinda Budiaman, my mother, for helping me with this recipe.
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Mirlitons are plentiful in Louisiana around November, so this is a great side dish for Thanksgiving. This is a family recipe from a friend of mine from New Orleans. Shrimp can be substituted for the ham in this recipe.
Per www.freetranslation.com, farci (fahr-SEE) means stuffed. Vegetables pears and Chayote squash are mirliton to Cajuns but are all the same vegetable just different names based on the region one is from.
Chayote, a type of squash about the size of a pear, goes by many names, including vegetable pear and mirliton in Louisiana. According to chef Frank Brigtsen, Thanksgiving in Louisiana means oysters and, yes, mirliton: