As Nathalie Dupree explains in her and Cynthia Graubart's new cookbook, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, squash casserole is an enduring favorite at Southern potlucks. I know that I ate plenty of the stuff growing up, but it was mostly because the flavor of the squash was covered up by ungodly amounts of cheese and butter. These days, I prefer actually tasting my vegetables. Luckily, Dupree's version contains enough squash, onion, and peppers to taste more of summer produce than bulk cheese.
Why I picked this recipe: This dish is a potluck classic for a reason: buttery squash meets cheesy custard meets butter and pecans. What's not to love?
What worked: Dupree's version is certainly the most colorful squash casserole I've encountered, and these extra vegetables serve double duty as a lightener amongst all that butter and cheese. The nutty pecan and breadcrumb topping offered excellent contrast to the tender squash mixture.
What didn't: Next time, I'd cook the casserole for a shorter time, as the eggs were a bit overdone went I pulled it at 45 minutes. Start checking after 30 and you should be good to go.
Suggested tweaks: I opted to forgo boiling the squash, instead sautéing it until mashable. This saved an extra pot and added a bit more flavor. Be sure to drain the squash well before mashing it and adding it to the rest of the ingredients—vegetable water is the enemy of a good casserole.
Reprinted with permission from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. Copyright 2012. Published by Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 1 1/4 cups butter, divided
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 pounds yellow crookneck or zucchini squash, sliced
- 2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese or Gruyère, divided
- 4 large eggs, beaten to mix
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
- Dash hot sauce or Tabasco, optional
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish and set aside.
Melt 1/4 cup of the butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions and peppers until soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute then set aside.
Bring to the boil a pot filled with enough water to cover the squash, and add the squash. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return squash to the pot. Mash the squash until thoroughly broken into small pieces. Add 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup cheese, eggs, onion mixture, and 1 cup pecans. Season to taste with hot sauce if desired, and stir well to mix.
Move mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining cheese and pecans. Spread evenly over squash mixture. Dot with remaining butter and bake 45 to 60 minutes, until bubbly. Serve hot. Dish can be made ahead several days, covered and refrigerated, or frozen. Defrost before reheating.