Squash casserole is a true old school southern recipe. Almost every family has a version. Traditionally, squash casserole is made with yellow crookneck squash. As a child, I thought yellow squash was the only type of squash, because that was all my grandfathers grew. Well, I am all grown up now and I know there are many squash choices and they all have different flavors and textures. Still, yellow crookneck will always be my favorite.
Squash casserole can be a main dish with a big salad on the side for “Meatless Monday.” In a southern home, you will most likely find squash casserole as a warm side dish. It amazes me how many foods we love in the summer are best eaten hot. If I find myself with squash casserole leftovers, it is a favorite breakfast…….
Yellow crookneck squash is sweeter than zucchini and has a thinner skin. You can use any squash variety in this recipe. The color will change but the flavor, while slightly different, will still be great. Think of this more as a method than a rule following recipe, as a little too much here and not enough there doesn’t really matter.
The squash is thickly sliced and then boiled in salted water until it is tender. I use a potato masher to press it into a chunky mix. You need to make sure to drain most of the excess water before and after mashing. Too much water will affect the creamy texture. The texture of southern squash casserole falls somewhere between an au gratin and a quiche.
While the squash is cooking, I mix the custard. Reason - the pulled fresh bread crumbs get a chance to breakdown a bit. For the bread crumbs, use a soft bread and pinch it into small pieces. A southerner might use leftover biscuits and if I have them, I use them. Otherwise, a soft Italian bread or even plain white bread are good choices.
Pour the custard mix into the drained squash and loosely mix. Put the mixture in your prepared casserole dish and bake. If you want an even more cheesy flavor, top with additional grated cheese before baking. This is like that old mac and cheese debate - top with extra cheese or not? It is your casserole so you make it the way you like it. I will do extra cheese on top if we are having it with a salad and not do it if it is a side dish. Either way, bake it until the top is crunchy and you can see no liquid.
Cheesy Southern Squash Casserole
8-10 cups chunky sliced yellow squash
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup pulled fresh soft bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare a 8-9 inch casserole dish by rubbing the inside with butter.
Boil sliced squash in about 2 inches of salted water until tender. The squash will cook down quite a bit.
While the squash is cooking prepare the custard. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk in the buttermilk. Stir in bread crumbs, onion and cheddar cheese. Set aside. The bread will start to break down and absorb the liquid.
When the squash is done, drain it well. Use a potato masher to press the squash into chunky pieces and drain any additional excess water.
Stir the custard mixture into the squash and pour it all into the prepared casserole dish.
Bake for about 45 minutes until cooked through and well browned on the top.
Serve hot from the oven!
For a crunchier bottom, sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese into the buttered casserole dish.
You can top with additional cheese before cooking if you want for a cheesy top.