Thursday, December 27, 2018

Thirsty Thursday: Strawberry Ginger Smash with Homemade Ginger Beer

In case you didn't know, the Hubs (and me, technically...I'm more of an assistant) is a home brewer.  We've been brewing for several years now.  It's a fun if periodically frustrating hobby (like most hobbies, probably), that gives you a tangible result in the end...that can also get you buzzed.  Earlier this year we decided to branch out from our usual beermaking to make some spicy ginger beer from an extract kit we found at our local homebrewing store.
The full packet makes 16 Liters, so we bottled four 2-Liters, and then put the rest in the fermenter with some yeast.  The yeast gobbles up some of the sugar and converts it to alcohol, and have hard ginger beer.
BOOM, is right...since we decided to use champagne yeast.  Which not surprisingly, makes the bottles fizz up like crazy when you open them...much like a bottle of champagne.

Anyway, aside from those incidents, it's tasty stuff...providing you like ginger. Like, REALLY like ginger.  This stuff will go up your nose and make you cough.

Much like the other super-spicy ginger beer, Q, this makes an excellent moscow mule. Or Dark & Stormy  But since we've already made those here before, I wanted to try something a little different.
INGREDIENTS: (per cocktail)
4 hulled strawberries
1 tsp honey
5-7 mint leaves (note: I think this would be equally delicious with basil)
1/2 lime juice
3-4 oz strawberry infused vodka 
8 oz homemade ginger beer 
Crushed ice

Place the strawberries, mint, and honey in the bottom of the glass and muddle with a wooden spoon.  Then top with crushed ice.
Add the lime juice, vodka, and ginger beer.  Garnish as desired.  Kick back and enjoy with a nice cheese plate.
Featured cheese: Mango Ginger Stilton


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Steen's & Tabasco Spiced Pecans

Hey y'all!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!  I hope you're having a wonderfully relaxing day full of mulled wine, cider, and hot cocoa (while your kids play quietly/destroy your in-laws house).  I wanted to share a little Christmas snack with you (that pairs well with beverages of all types).
This idea came to me while I was having a beer at Lost Forty Brewing down in Little Rock, Arkansas.  They have these AMAZING molasses & black pepper glazed pecans that I have to get every time I'm down there.  
I like to make glazed pecans around the holidays (because they're delicious and make your whole house smell like a spice factory). I've shared a few different recipes for spiced pecans with you before--some in the oven, and some made using the microwave.

But this time I decided to "Cajun" the recipe up a using Steen's Cane Syrup instead of molasses.  Steen's has been around since the early 1900's, based out of Abbeville, LA (just south of Lafayette).  Sugar cane is big business in that part of the state: about $2 Billion worth of business, covering about 400,000 acres of farmland across 22 parishes, and providing jobs to about 17,000 Louisianians.  

I see Steen's used much like some folks would maple syrup or honey--drizzled over pancakes, served with biscuits, mixed in with glazes for BBQ...there's tons of recipe ideas on their website.
Also, because I like my spiced pecans to be sweet, smoky, salty, and spicy, I wanted to add in some Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce.  If you haven't tried this yet...MAN.  You are missing out. It is the #1 used condiment in our house, and goes great with nearly everything.  Scrambled eggs, chili, grilled meat, pepper jelly, queso sauce... I even added some to a beef stroganoff the other night. It's a really well rounded, balanced flavor profile with just enough heat.

This is a super-easy, quick recipe. Takes about 10 minutes of actual labor to make, then you just let them cool and package them up!  I made several batches this Christmas to share with coworkers.

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp Steen's cane syrup
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups pecans (about one 12 oz bag)

Preheat your oven to 350*F.
In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the pecans and stir over high heat, until it comes to a boil.  Then add your pecans and stir continuously for about 3 minutes--the syrup will start to thicken (but don't let the syrup  burn).

Then transfer the pecans to a parchment-lined baking sheet pan, and separate as much as possible using a spatula.
Bake for about 7 minutes, then remove from the oven, separate pecans more if needed (otherwise they'll cluster together when cooled), and let cool completely.
Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks. If you try them, please let me know what you think!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Dickey's Pralines

So earlier in the week I shared the first half of my candy-making adventure with my friend Amy. Now it's time for the rest: PRALINES!
I've made pralines before, from my friend Nana D's recipe. So this time, Amy brought her brother-in-law Dickey's recipe.

2 cups sugar
1 stick butter
16 large marshmallows
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 cups chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla

These are another candy that can be a bit finicky about weather, but not as much as divinity.  Even so, best to make this on a low humidity day.

Put all the ingredients in a pot, except the vanilla.  Cook over medium heat until the marshmallows melt.  Stir constantly, until at soft ball stage (about 240-250*F).  
Remove from the stove, add vanilla, and beat until thick.  Then spoon onto parchment paper and let rest until cooled completely.
So--in the interest of candor:  Our first batch didn't set up properly.  We only brought them up to about 236*F, forgot to add the vanilla, and then didn't really do the whole "beat until thick".  As such, the batch we made at my house stayed soft, like a caramel.  Still super delicious, but a little limp and sticky*.  They did finally start to properly harden the next day.*

* "That's what she said."

As I mentioned in the last post, I decided to dip some of them in chocolate.  I figured if they didn't harden up, at least the chocolate would add some structural integrity.
Amy decided not to accept defeat, and made a second batch at her house the next day.  We met up during the work week and swapped candies: I gave her half of the divinity (and some of the chocolate dipped pralines) and she shared some of her properly set pralines.  And I gotta say--while the first batch were really tasty, the second batch with the vanilla---man.  It's crazy to think how much just a tiny bit of vanilla rounds out a flavor profile.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Divinity

When I was a kid, my family used to have candy making days around the holidays. We'd go over to my Grandma's house, or an aunt's house, divvy up the roles and duties, and make big batches of fudge, divinity, sugar cookies, rice crispy treats...all the yummy sugary things. And then everyone would split them and take them home.  Well, after all the fun I had with my friend Amy and our gumbo-making adventure, we decided that WE would have a candy-making day!

We decided on divinity, and pralines.  Today's post will talk about the divinity, and the praline post will go up later this week! (edited: It's up now, here's a link!)

Now, I have my Grandmother's recipe for divinity, but Amy was wanting to try a recipe from Sucre in New Orleans that looked super-yummy.  (For those who want it, I've shared my grandmother's recipe at the bottom of this post.)  The main difference between the recipe we tested is...Jello. My grandma always made "Jello divinity".  Called such because... you guessed it... it has Jello in the recipe.  Since divinity base is just vanilla flavored, using Jello is an easy way to add flavor--my Grandma always used cherry Jello.  Divinity is one of those finicky candies that really needs to be made on a day with very low humidity (preferably <50%).  Adding gelatin helps ensure that the candy sets up properly, and helps it to dry faster.  

To be honest, I'd never had NON-cherry flavored divinity. So I was interested in testing out Amy's recipe.  And we were completely delighted with the results.
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
3 egg whites, room temp (tip:  I made scrambled eggs for breakfast that morning, so I used the 3 egg yolks in that--no waste!)
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin (we added this to the original recipe, to expedite drying)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup candy cane bits (I used crushed Starbrite mints)
16 oz bag dark chocolate (63% or higher) for melting 
Optional toppings: pecan halves, crushed peppermints
also need - parchment paper

First, I cannot reiterate this enough--you need a LOW HUMIDITY DAY. Below 50% is ideal.  My weather app said we had 60% on the day we did this and that worked out okay.  But part of the divinity process is letting it dry out--and if the air is too humid, that won't happen, and you'll have a sticky mess on your hands.

In a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, glass, enamel, ceramic), combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Then heat to 250*F.  Don't stir until 2/3 of the mixture has melted and become transparent.  Once you hit this point, you can put your egg whites in a stand mixture and beat them until stiff peaks form.  (Timing can be tricky, so it helps to have a second person to manage this.)  Use a candy thermometer to keep constant watch on your sugar/mix temp (or a probe-type thermometer affixed so it's not touching the bottom or sides of the pan).
Once you're at 250*F, add the gelatin to the egg whites, and then slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the egg whites while beating at a low speed (another reason a stand mixer is a must for this).  The syrup will "cook" the egg whites in the process.  Keep the syrup in the center of the bowl--if you get syrup on the bowl it will form crystals instead of combining with the divinity.  Increase the mixer speed to high once all the syrup has been added.and continue to whip until the mixture cools and looks slightly glossy.  
Then fold in the vanilla and the candy cane bits, and then you can either put it into a piping bag (FYI, this stuff is SUPER STICKY, like making marshmallows), or just drop it by spoonfuls onto the parchment paper.  If you're feeling fancy, drop some extra bits of candy cane onto the top, or top with some pecan halves.

Now...chill out.  Or go make pralines.  Because it's gonna be about 3 hours before these guys are dry enough to do anything with.

BUT...once they're dry, you can get ready to dip them!  Put the chocolate bits into a microwave safe bowl, nuke for 1 minute, stir, and then nuke for another 30 seconds or so, and stir again.  Use a small spatula (or your fingers) to dip the bottoms of the divinity one at a time into the chocolate, and then use the spatula to lift them out and place back on the parchment paper.  
Let set until chocolate is fully hardened. (They'll cool faster if it's cool in your kitchen. We generally keep our house around 68*F in the winter, but on this particular day, we did a self-cleaning cycle on our oven, so the kitchen was at about 74 degrees...I had to open a window to get the temperature to drop so that the chocolate would finally harden.)

We had some extra chocolate left over at the end, so we also tried dipping a few of the pralines, and made some pecan clusters.
Once fully dry, store in an airtight container.  This recipe made a BUNCH, so I divvied most of them up as gifts for my coworkers.

Grandma's Divinity
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup karo syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 small package of Cherry Jello

  1. In 2-quart saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Stirring constantly, bring to boil over medium heat. Without stirring, cook over low heat (small to medium bubbles breaking across surface of liquid) until temperature on candy thermometer reaches 260°F or small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water forms a hard ball which doesn’t flatten until pressed, about 40 minutes.
  2. In large bowl with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Beating at high speed, gradually add hot syrup in a thin, steady stream. DO NOT SCRAPE SIDE OF SAUCEPAN. Continue beating at high speed until mixture begins to lose its gloss, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to low. Beat in vanilla. Continue beating at low speed until mixture holds a peak and does not spread when dropped from a spoon, about 8 minutes. (If mixture becomes too stiff for mixer, beat with wooden spoon.) Immediately stir in nuts.
  4. Working quickly, drop mixture by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper* Let stand until set. Store in tightly-covered container.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

So up to this point (yes, 10 years into this blog) I have only ever shared recipes for "shortcut" gumbos--i.e, gumbo using an instant roux.  Because honestly, that's what my life demands most of the time.  Real, true, made from scratch gumbo starts with a roux, and takes about 2-3 hours to make.  And when you're a working mom, that's a time commitment most of us don't have on a weekday.  And making a roux means standing by the stove, stirring for about 40-45 minutes, so if you've got a busy weekend, it can be hard to fit then as well.

BUT...I did it.  With the help of my friend Amy.
Amy & I met through a friend, who basically said, "hey--you used to live in Louisiana, and Amy's from Louisiana.  You should meet."  So we did, and thank goodness.  Amy is one of the sweetest people on the planet, full of Southern hospitality and a big, beautiful laugh.  Her family hails from Napoleonville (aka "up da bayou"), and Amy was gracious enough to let me help her make her mama's gumbo recipe.  (She was also gracious enough to let me borrow her camera, after I left mine at my house.)  

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1.5 cups chopped onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell pepper
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
4 bay leaves
1 lb andouille or smoked sausage (Johnsonville New Orleans style sausage works well if you can't find andouille)
1 lb raw chicken, cubed
1 Tbsp cajun seasoning (or to taste)

To accompany:
cooked rice (white or brown, about 1/2-1 cup per person)
potato salad
French bread
green onions

First up--clear your schedule for about 2 hours.  Amy says her mama would always say, "if you need something from me you better ask now, because I'm gettin' ready to start the gumbo."

Step 1 - ROUX
Many recipes vary on ratios, but ours calls for a 1:1 ratio of oil to flour.  In a large cast iron pot, heat the oil over medium heat, until shiny but not smoking.  Then stir in the flour.  Some folks use a whisk, but depending on your whisk it can be really hard to get the corners of the pot.  So Amy recommends a flat bottomed wooden spoon.  There is such a thing as a "roux spoon", but really, any spoon or spatula with a flat edge will work (or a flat whisk would probably be perfect). (Note: if you're using a cast iron pot, don't use a metal spoon.) 

And most importantly: KEEP STIRRING.  YES. THE WHOLE TIME.  (Amy & I tag-teamed this stage.)
Set a timer, counting up from the time you add the flour.  This is just a reference, because in general, it's going to take about 40-45 minutes to get from white to the beautiful chocolate brown you want for gumbo base.  You'll go through stages:  blonde (which would be a perfect place to start for a alfredo or bechamel sauce), cafe au lait... 
Which is why it's handy to have a cup of coffee while cooking.

...peanut butter, and then finally to dark chocolate.  

Amy has this article in her recipe binder that makes a good reference (particularly the "bless your heart" on the last one).  
This was really helpful for me because I tend to get nervous and jump off around the "peanut butter stage"--which won't ruin your gumbo, but it also won't have the same depth of flavor you get from a chocolate roux.

Step 1a - Heat the other things
You're going to need hot water and hot chicken stock later.  These need to be hot or they'll cause the roux to break when you add them to the main pot.  So go ahead and get these going on your other burners so they're ready to rock when you are.

Step 1b - Cook Sausage
In a small skillet, while the roux is going, brown your sausage.  Once cooked, transfer it to a bowl to wait. 
Step 2 - Add Veggies
Amy had prepped all the veggies before I got there, so we piled them in together and dumped 'em all in once we hit our chocolate roux stage. 
These will need to soften with periodic stirring for about 10-12 minutes (so this is a good time to sit with a cup of coffee and flip through old issues of "Louisiana Cooking" or coffee table books with tasty sounding recipes).
Note:  Amy's recipe didn't call for okra, but you can add it if you like.  You would cook about 1 cup of sliced okra in a separate pan (called "stringing", it removes much of the sliminess from the okra), stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. Though, Amy told me she's always been told not to use okra if you're cooking in cast iron because the okra will turn black.  So...there you go. You've been warned.

Step 3 - Add Sausage (okra if using), Chicken Stock, Hot Water, and Bay Leaves
So ideally, here you want your main pot, water, and chicken stock to be as close to the same temp as possible.  If your roux is hot and you add a bunch of cold liquid, the roux will break.  Conversely, if your roux mixture is starting to cool down and you add stuff that's too hot your roux will also break (but should come back together as it simmers).

Once that's all in the pot, simmer for about 30 min - 1 hour.

Step 4 - Add Chicken & Cajun Seasoning
Seems pretty self-explanatory.
Then cover and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  You can let it simmer longer than this--the flavors will only get more rich and delicious.
Serve with rice, green onions, potato salad, sweet tea, and French bread...and plenty of good friends!
The beautiful Amy!

Her mama's recipe is even kiddo-approved!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Hush Puppy Muffins

The Hubs whipped these up the other night to accompany some fish tacos (is it still a taco if you use a lettuce leaf)?  They're a nice healthier alternative to fried hush puppies, but still with that yummy hush puppy flavor.

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped ( suggest half white onion, half green onion)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp parsley
olive oil in a mister (or olive oil spray)

Heat the oven to 350F.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. 
Line a muffin tin with paper wrappers (because we are all about easy cleanup), and then lightly spritz the muffin papers with olive oil (this helps prevent sticking to the muffin wrapper, and also seemed to help the part inside the wrapper get crispy as well).
Divide the batter equally among 12 muffin cups,and then lightly spritz the tops of the batter with olive oil as well. 
Bake for about 12 minutes or until brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  

Serve warm with fish....tacos? Lettuce wraps?  Whatever. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Blackberry Chipotle Freezer Jam

My cousin sometimes lets us come raid the blackberry bush at their farm when they've got a surplus.  I was itching to make some freezer jam, but didn't want to make plain ol' regular boring blackberry jam.  No...I wanted to do something INTERESTING. retrospect, I really should have split the batch, and been boring with half and then played with the other half, because now I have 6 pints of INTERESTING jam when I would occasionally really like some regular ol' blackberry freezer jam.  But not to worry. I'll share the recipe for both, so you can learn from my mistakes.
INGREDIENTS (makes 4 jars):
4 cups crushed blackberries (you can use a potato masher or pastry cutter, but I'd shy away from a food processor, otherwise you'll end up with puree. A few pulses with a stick blender might work well.)
4 Tbsp Instant (no cook) pectin (or one 1.35 oz packet)
1.5 cups  Sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice


Combine the pectin and the sugar and mix well, then add the lemon juice and the blackberries, and stir well until fully incorporated.  At this point, if you're making straight up regular blackberry jam, you can go ahead and divvy these into half-pint jars.  Let sit at room temp for 30 minutes, at which point it should be soft-set. Then you can put one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer for later.

However, if you want to ramp things up a bit, then add the following to the mix:

1/4 tsp Chipotle powder (per jar)
1/4 tsp Cumin (per jar)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon (per jar)
1/4 tsp Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
a pinch of smoked salt (per jar)

I'm providing these as "per jar" ratios so that if you want, you can make a full batch of the base, and then make the Chipotle version in one or two of the jars.  Just make sure you label them appropriately! 
The Chipotle version is pretty versatile. It makes a great grilled cheese (like this one), or you can put it in a Crockpot with a pork tenderloin for a delicious dinner. And of course it goes great on a biscuit.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Mom's Meatloaf

"Really Bobbi?  MEATLOAF?  This is what your blog has come to?  Where are the Cajun recipes? Is there something unique about this meatloaf?  Does it at least have like, alligator or ground shrimp and Cajun seasoning in it?"

Nope.  It does not.  But it doesn't need to.  Because there's something special about a recipe that comes from your mom.  
Even if it *technically* doesn't come from your mom, because it's actually from Betty Crocker's "Dinner for Two" cookbook, circa 1960s. 
Because your mom got this as a wedding gift when she got married in 1974.

And because your mom used to make it all the time.  Possibly once a week, even.  These are the flavors of your childhood.
And, because it's one of the first things your mom taught you to cook.  You remember smooshing all those ingredients together with your bare mitts inside a burnt orange Tupperware bowl.

You remember it being served with potatoes au gratin and sweet peas.  And having meatloaf sandwiches with the leftovers for lunch.

And you also remember it because, while you don't make it nearly as often as your mom did, you did make it while your son "helped" you cook.
Because spices make great towers.

And even though there's absolutely nothing sexy or unique about meatloaf, and it's incredibly difficult to take Instagram-worthy photos of a meatwad... there is absolutely something special about sharing recipes and moments with your kids.

*Note: my recipe varies slightly from the original, just because I like more veggies in it.

INGREDIENTS: (makes 4-6 servings)
1 lb Boston Burger (80/20 mix of ground beef & pork)
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, celery salt, and dry mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
1.5 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4-1/2 cup BBQ sauce (we had Fiery Habanero in the fridge, so that's what we used--added a really nice level of heat)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and smoosh 'til combined. Don't overwork--just mix until everything is integrated.  If you mix it too much the meatloaf will get really tough.  Then plop into a loaf pan...
...then top with BBQ sauce...
My attempt at getting an action shot.

Spread evenly across the top and then bake for 1 hour.  Use a kitchen thermometer to monitor for when it hits 160F and you'll ensure that you don't overcook it--nobody likes dry meatloaf.
Serve with potatoes & peas (or rice and watermelon, because that's what you have on-hand).


Monday, July 23, 2018

Stuffed Mirlitons


It's one of those words, much like "maringouin" and "Tchoupitoulas", that if you cannot pronounce correctly, will announce your Yankee-ness to all your southern brethren and sisters (sistren?).

Now, if you live outside The South, you probably know this lil' guy as something entirely different:
Chayote, or, pear squash.  The latter coming from it's both visual and textural similarities to a pear. It's popular in Latin cuisine, where they originate from. In the mid-1700s, when the Spanish took over New Orleans from France after the 7 Years War, trade began to flow between the Caribbean and New Orleans, including the "vegetable pear".  In the late 1700's, there was a massive influx of immigrants to the area from Haiti, where the squash was known as a "mirliton".  And so, the name stuck.

Up until more recent history, they were a common backyard vegetable--the plants climb very well and so homeowners would use their chain-link fences as a trellis.  However, since wooden privacy fences have become more popular for curb appeal, this trend has declined considerably.

So, how are they used?  Well, raw they're crunchy and great in salads.  Cooked, they're very mild and take on the flavor of whatever they're cooked with.  The Creole-Acadians loved to put them in gumbos, or stuff them with a meat/seafood and breadcrumb mixture.  So that's what we went with here.

Now--let's be honest for a moment.  Stuffing a gourd is purely for aesthetics.  You can easily achieve the exact same flavor profile by making a delicious casserole or dressing. But it's just not as attractive.  (I've been food blogging for almost a decade and I can't figure out how to make casseroles photogenic. Please share any tips in the comments section.)

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)
2 large mirlitons, salt & bay leaf
5 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, divided (2 for filling, 3 for topping)
1 4-ounce link Andouille sausage, diced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 small bell pepper, finely diced
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/2 lb raw shrimp, diced
1.5 cups of bread crumbs, divided (1 cup for filling, 1/2 cup for topping)
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

First, cut the mirlitons in half and remove the seeds.  Bring a pot of water to boil; once boiling, add about 1 Tsp of salt and a bay leaf.  Then add the mirlitons, drop the temp and simmer for about 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the water and allow to cool. 

(Tip:  Because cooking the mirliton takes a while, if you're wanting a quick after-work meal, cook these the night before, then make the filling the day you're wanting to eat, then bake and BOOM, you're done!)

Once they've cooled, scrape out most of the pulp, leaving about 1/2 inch in the shell.  Dry the pulp and then chop.

Then, pre-heat your oven to 350F.

While the mirlitons are cooling, in a large cast iron pan, heat the 2 Tbsp of butter until melted over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and Cajun seasoning, and saute for 5 minutes, then add the diced andouille. Cook for 5 more minutes, then add the mirliton pulp that you scooped out, garlic, shrimp, and green onions, cooking until the shrimp turn pink.  Add 1/2 cup of water (or seafood stock if you have it) and 1 cup of breadcrumbs.  Stir until it all comes together--it should be moist, but somewhat thick and clump when you smoosh it together (so it doesn't get crumbly when you cook it later). Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or hot sauce (if you like).

Place the 4 shells in a oven-safe pan (depending on the size of your mirlitons, a loaf pan or 8x8 square pan should work best), and then divide the stuffing mixture between them.  Then in a small bowl, combine the other 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, 3 Tbsp of butter (melted), Parmesan cheese, and salt to taste (if your breadcrumbs are seasoned, you may not need this).  Sprinkle over the top of the shells, and then bake until hot and the topping is golden (I turned my broiler on at the very end just for a couple minutes).

Serve with a vegetable side (I did garlic-sauteed kale, but a salad would also be great) and enjoy!