Sunday, July 25, 2010
It's that time of year when the squash and zucchini start rolling in as if someone has opened the flood gates. They begin to pile up in the kitchen, in the garage and finally by the garden when space everywhere else runs out. You've probably already steamed, grilled, sauteed, baked and fried* as much as you possibly can, leaving you to think "What on earth am I supposed to do with the rest of this stuff?" Well, you can follow the lead of us Southerners and put it in a casserole.
A Southern squash casserole, much like my favorite baked macaroni and cheese, is basically a gratin. According to cookthink, the word gratin originally referred to the tasty, well-cooked bits left behind on the baking dish, which were often eaten by the chef. Seeing as those are actually my favorite bits of any baked dish I'd say I was destined to be a chef. (Or a home cook. Or what have you.) Cooking something au gratin generally means you are preparing a dish in the oven or combining ingredients in casserole form. Gratins are typically topped with cheese and breadcrumbs, and adding cream will create a brown crust during baking. Call it what you will, but it's a great way to use up the squash and zucchini proliferating in your yard. And if you, like me, are so inclined to freeze sliced squash for the winter months you can eat Southern squash casserole - or, excuse me, gratins - all year long.
Southern Squash Casserole
By Confabulation in the Kitchen
5 to 7 medium-size squash and/or zucchini, washed and sliced
1 medium white onion, chopped or sliced
1 cup cornbread stuffing or plain white breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup milk
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2- to 3-quart casserole (or gratin) dish with cooking spray or butter.
2. Steam (or boil) squash and onion together until tender. Remove from heat (draining if necessary) and slightly break up pieces using fork, potato masher or pastry blender.
3. Using half the squash and onion mix make a layer in the casserole dish. Top with half the bread crumbs and half the cheese. Repeat with remaining squash, bread crumbs and cheese. Dot top with the butter. Pour milk over casserole. Season with salt, pepper and paprika, if desired.
4. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until gold and bubbly around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes great leftovers, too, and served with an egg it's a fabulous breakfast.
* Want to eat squash in an even more traditional, Southern way? Slice it then dredge it in cornmeal and sautee it in oil until browned on both sides. Sure, you can get fancy with the dredging, and maybe give it an egg wash first, but we're traditionalists around here. Simply coated in cornmeal, fried and sprinkled with salt is the way we like it. Making it this way is the first thing I ever remember "cooking" by myself. I was little, standing on a chair pulled up to the side of the stove, and in charge of keeping watch over those little, gold coins of goodness.