Chayotes Rellenos Dulces
I’d almost given up on the stuffed chayotes when I put them in the oven. Bright green and plump, they’re available year round and go by christophene (France), mirliton (Caribbean), chu-chu (Brazil), güisquil (Central America), depending on where you find them. Bought the week before, they kept well so it was easy put them off for another day. I’d had them sauteed and lightly dressed and filled with chorizo before, but there was a sweeter variation I came across in older Cuban cookbooks that I decided to try.
Once the chayotes are boiled, hollowed out, and processed, the puree is combined with breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, sugar and raisins, sprinkled with almonds and baked into the reserved shells. Seemingly simple, all the directions were vague, the puree was a watered down, and there was way too much filling for the few shells that had survived my scooping. Despite the missteps, what came out was like a zucchini bread pudding but more delicate and absolutely worth a second attempt.
Deciding they needed more spice, I upped the cinnamon and added ginger. I also ground more bread crumbs so the filling would mound more easily. I sliced the chayotes in half before simmering them and made sure they’d cooked through (the seeds should be removed but are delicious with a little salt). My scooping improved the second time around, leaving the shells (mostly) intact. I considered baking them off in ramekins but decided to stick with the shells – spooning out a little bit of the chayote with pudding was the best part after all.
Chayotes Rellenos Dulces/Sweet Stuffed Chayotes
3 medium sized chayotes, cut in half lengthwise (also known as christophenes and mirlitons)
3 cups fresh bread crumbs, finely ground (Pullman loaf or similar)
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, well-beaten
1/2 cup raisins
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt to taste
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
Grease a large baking pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Set aside.
Soak the bread crumbs in milk.
Place the halved chayotes in a large, heavy pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a high simmer and cook until just tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool. Without breaking the skin, carefully remove the pulp with a melon-baller or spoon. Set aside the shells until ready to fill. Add the pulp to a food processor and pulp until it forms a smooth puree. Drain to remove excess water.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine bread crumbs with milk, butter, eggs, sugar, spices, and raisin in a large mixing bowl. Mix into a paste (it should hold it’s shape when mounded). Fill the emptied shells with the mixture. Combined one tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Sprinkle the top of each half with the cinnamon-sugar and the chopped almonds. Dot with butter on each and bake until browned, about 30-40 minutes.
Serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream.