Growing up I was served a lot of squash casserole. Eating so many casseroles I learned what I liked and what I didn’t like. What I didn’t like were the ones with large chunks of overcooked squash with seeds and skins falling apart into a watery mess. I didn’t like chunks of soggy cracker, slimy textures and I didn’t like the taste of processed ingredients like canned soups and processed cheese. Occasionally, you would come across one that was just a little different. These usually they had vibrate flavors, smoother textures and unusual crunchy toppings.
Since leaving the south I’ve largely abandoned this classic dish. Then this summer my CSA box allotment of squash started building up in the fridge; two pattypan one week plus three assorted summer squash the next. Then this week my box was bursting with five squash of all different varieties. All those Sunday pot-luck squash casseroles came back to haunt me telling me it was time to introduce the next generation to what a good squash casserole should taste like.
The versions I liked did not have noticeable seeds in them, so for my recipe I decided to get rid of the seeds from the start, and since I’ve always felt that overcooked squash is slimy, I steam and mash the squash to make a more even texture. Onions are also here, minced finely and lightly browned to bring out the most of the sweet flavors. I also throw in a minced poblano pepper for additional flavor. While cheese is a traditional addition, I opt for a hefty dose of extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Instead of hiding the squash under a blanket of cream soup, I use eggs and a splash of half and half for body.
My recipe is an adaptation of a Squash Souffle recipe in Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook. The Southern Foodways Alliance is an organization dedicated to celebrating and documenting the ever-changing southern table in all it’s different representations. Unlike Slow Food the Southern Foodways Alliance celebrates not only the historical southern diet but also embraces the evolution of southern recipes. My recipe is highly inspired by both the recipe in the book as well as all the good and bad versions of squash casseroles I’ve had in my life. To order a copy of the book you can click on the Amazon link in the image below.
One thing I love about this recipe is how versitle it is. It tastes good along side a dinner of barbecued chicken, on a Thanksgiving table or even as part of a good old fashioned Southern Veggie Plate. If you want to experiment with bolder flavors substitute a jalapeno or two for the poblano or use pepper-jack in place of the cheddar cheese. Even the leftovers are delicious since the flavors just get better after a day or two. Enjoy!