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[Photograph: Ed Anderson]

Before opening up the new Treme cookbook, I couldn't pick out a mirliton if it was thrown in my face. But the squash, originally native to the region, appears so frequently in Treme, I now consider myself a relative expert. I had, as it turns out, known the squash by its other name, chayote, and it appears on Latin American menus just as frequently as the traditional Louisiana ones. This particular mirliton recipe takes advantage of the squash's shape by hollowing them out and stuffing them full of creole staples. The stuffing is jam-packed with shrimp, mirliton innards, spicy creole seasoning, butter, and the Louisiana trinity of onion, celery, and green bell pepper.

Why I picked this recipe: Working with a new ingredient is always an exciting prospect.

What worked: These stuffed squashes were a surprising hit in my house. Despite the unfamiliar ingredients and technique, the dish turned out boldly flavored yet homey and comforting.

What didn't: Take care when hollowing out the boiled mirlitons, and leave a generous border around the edges of the shells. The skin is super soft and can tear a hole. My stuffed mirlitons also didn't need as much time in the oven as advertised. Check to see how they're coming along after 30 minutes.

Suggested tweaks: When shopping for miritons, look for firm, bright green squash without blemishes. They are often labeled chayote squash and can be found in Hispanic grocery stores. Because the mirlitons are pretty bland on their own, I seasoned them with extra salt before stuffing and didn't regret it. If you're good at estimating half an egg, this recipe can easily be cut in half.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Treme to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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