Recently a Canadian reader, Anita, who has fallen in love with Southern food asked me for my squash casserole recipe. I said I’d be happy to oblige but would need a few weeks for two reasons: first, the squash crop around here was in the summer lull (argh, squash bugs!), but most importantly because I needed to actually come up with a recipe. I make mine a little differently every time, just as I do with most things that I cook and bake. Anita remembered a casserole she’d had in Georgia that was creamy, with a buttery flavor. She hoped it did not involve the ubiquitous can of Campbell’s soup that has made most “casseroles” since the 1950s. I’ve certainly had the souped up casserole at many a potluck, but that was not my favorite squash casserole; my favorite was my grandmother’s.
While my mother-in-law was visiting, I made a squash casserole as my mother-in-law said she did, using milk, mayonnaise, and egg as the binding agent. It definitely was not what we were looking for, having a heavy feel, and I knew my own grandmother had used a white sauce. I hunted to see if my grandmother ever wrote down her recipe, or if she had gotten it from that trusty 1899 cookbook that belonged to her mother. No, that cookbook made no mention of a casserole at all, the concept of a casserole having been foreign (literally) in much of the Southern United States until the introduction of Campbell’s “casseroles” in the mid-twentieth century. (The infamous green bean casserole with canned soup dates from 1955, by the way.) I surrendered to the inevitable; I had learned how to make squash casserole at my grandmother’s side, and I needed to just give up looking for a recipe and create my own.
My grandmother’s version of squash casserole would have involved either a standard white sauce with cheese and egg or evaporated milk with cheese and egg. Today I’ll give you my white sauce version, using the dangerously easy cheese sauce with all real-dairy ingredients that I posted in May. I’m going to give the recipe in proportions for one or two medium yellow squash, with the variations for more. Remember as you select your casserole dish to keep the squash mixture at about 2 inches depth in the dish. That way, every serving can have a good amount of the crunchy topping.
A couple of casserole sizes:
- 1-2 squash: Try using one of those cute little .4 L Corning casseroles
- 7-8 squash: Go for a 2-quart casserole dish.
Recipe for 1-2 medium-sized yellow squash:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and tiny pat of butter (better!)
- 1/3 – 1/2 medium-sized sweet yellow onion, cut into very thin slices (If the onion makes you cry when you cut into it, use less.)
- 1-2 medium-sized yellow squash, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
- dash of salt, pepper, and, if you want, a pinch of Italian herbs
- 1 egg, beaten with a fork
- 1/4 cup dangerously easy cheese sauce, cooled sufficiently to avoid cooking the egg.
- 1/4 cup more freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- fine, dry bread crumbs (like Panko) or fine cracker crumbs, sufficient to cover the top of the casserole in a thin layer (about 1/4 cup)
Saute the onion in a heavy pan in the olive oil and butter mix just until the onion starts to get a little color. Add the squash and saute it with the salt, pepper, and herbs until a bit of the liquid in it yields and is cooked off. (The salt will help this process.) Let the mixture cool a bit. In a measuring cup, add the cheese sauce to the beaten egg and stir well to combine. Start layering the squash and onions in a lightly greased casserole dish, then pour on a little cheese-egg mixture, then more squash and onions, then more cheese until you’ve used it all. Sprinkle the grated sharp cheddar on top, add your bread crumbs, and bake, covered, in a 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes. Take off the lid and let the casserole brown on top, about 5-10 minutes more depending on what type of crumbs you used. Let the casserole cool about 5 minutes and then serve.
Let’s multiply to make bigger casseroles:
For 3-4 squash, use 2/3-1 onion, 2 eggs, and 1/2 cup of cheese sauce. For 5-6 squash, use 1 to 1 1/2 onion, 3 eggs, and 3/4 cup cheese sauce. For 7-8 squash, use 1 1/3 to 2 sweet onions, 4 eggs, and 1 cup cheese sauce.
As my husband tucked his fork into his serving of casserole last night and put it in his mouth, he sort of made a face. I was downhearted. I’d already tasted the casserole and thought it was blog worthy. I waited a few minutes and asked him what he thought, explaining my quest. It turned out, he was thinking about his master’s class in statistics when he made the face. He went into Food Network judge mode to extoll the virtues of the casserole. He described the squashy, cheesy portion of the casserole as almost custardy, with a fluffy lightness that balanced the richness of the cheese. He pointed out that the fine crumbs had contributed to the lightness of the dish with their crisp coating on the top. He liked the flavor too.
To be sure, there are plenty of squash casserole recipes out there, and this is just one, Anita. If it doesn’t fit your memories of the squash casserole you had in Georgia, I’ll happily go back to the kitchen to work on it more. My late-planted squash is about to produce a bonanza. I’ll end up freezing a few squash casseroles by the time the season is over, for use in the winter.
Do you have a favorite squash casserole recipe, with or without canned soup? Please share!
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.
Read Full Post »