It’s been nearly a week since my visit to Bernice Garden Farmers’ Market. Although I seem to be growing Hardin Farms squash out of my ears, I still had quite a bit left today.
Solution: Squash casserole.
Thing is, I don’t even like squash casserole that much. It’s usually really soft and squishy. And really oniony, which doesn’t always agree with my tummy. And kinda bland.
Time for a remodel.
1. First, to tackle the squishy squash problem. Most recipes require boiling the veggie. Um, how about not. Let’s try sautéing instead, over fairly high heat. This will give the squash some nice caramelization while cooking it just a bit, not to death.
2. Next, the onion. Freshness matters, so I used one from the North Little Rock Community Farm, also at the Bernice Gardens market. Cooking it way down helps me be able to eat it, so after a small dice I added it to the same pan in which I had sautéed the squash. (The veggies had since been moved to a buttered casserole dish.) I immediately added a half-cup of chicken broth and a good pinch of salt, both of which will help soften the onion and cook it to translucent without burning. When the onion was almost ready, I added one large clove of garlic, minced.
3. Lastly, I added flavor and creaminess using low-fat cream cheese. Borrowing from Crescent Dragonwagon’s renowned recipe for Featherbed Eggs, I cut half a block of cream cheese into cubes, 12 total, and pressed them down into the casserole dish of squash. Because, really, what can’t be improved by cream cheese?
For the entire recipe, see below. But know this…I don’t like squash casserole, and I just ate three plates of this stuff.
Squash Casserole for People Who Don’t Like Squash Casserole
Serves 8 (or fewer, depending on how much you end up liking it!)
- About 6 cups diced squash, any kind (I used zucchini, Zephyr and pattypan)
- 1 T. butter
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, small dice
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup chicken broth, divided
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 4 oz. cream cheese (can use low-fat/Neufchatel), cut into cubes
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 c. dry bread crumbs (I used gluten free, from leftover bread)
Slice squash into approximate 1/2″ pieces. For larger squash, quarter them before slicing; halve smaller ones. Butter the inside of a large, oven-safe casserole dish.
Sauté the squash over medium-high heat with a half-teaspoon of olive oil in multiple batches, only using enough squash each time to cover the bottom of your pan. Cast iron works well for this. Place the squash in a single layer and let it sit for about a minute, then stir to turn and let sit another minute. Once the squash is sautéed, move each batch to the buttered dish. You may need to add a bit more oil with subsequent batches to prevent burning.
Next, place the diced onion, broth and a heavy pinch of kosher salt into the empty pan; no need to clean any residue from the squash. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add more water or broth as needed to avoid burning the onion when it dries out. Add the minced garlic when the onion is almost translucent and cook another minute. Stir the mixture into the squash in the casserole dish.
Press the cut cubes of cream cheese down into the casserole dish, nestling them slightly under the squash mixture.
In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 c. chicken broth with three eggs. Pour the mixture over the casserole.
Top with fresh thyme, cheddar cheese and bread crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the egg mixture is no longer liquid.