Yield: 12 servings

6 firm, plump mirliton squash
5 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 pound large peeled shrimp, deveined and cut into thirds
1 1/2 cups finely chopped ham steak
6 cups breadcrumbs, divided

Preheat oven to 325F.

Place mirliton in a large pot and fill with salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes or until tender. Remove from pot and allow to cool. Cut mirlitons in half lengthwise and discard the seeds. Scoop out the flesh, being careful to keep the outer shell intact. Chop the scooped out portion and set aside until ready to use.

Cook the bacon in a large sautÚ pan over medium-low heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Add onions, celery and garlic and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Season with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Add ╝ cup (4 tablespoons) of the butter to the vegetables. Stir in the shrimp and cook until pink and cooked through (3 to 4 minutes). Add reserved chopped squash flesh and the ham steak and cook for 2 minutes or until heated through. Add 2 cups of the breadcrumbs to the shrimp and ham mixture and toss until well combined. Remove from the heat and spoon the mixture into the mirliton shells.

Combine remaining 4 cups breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup melted butter, tossing well to combine. Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumb mixture over stuffed mirlitons and bake until mirlitons are heated through and tops are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.