Saturday, January 3, 2009

Squash Casserole

Squash casserole, that would be yellow crook-neck squash, is one of our favorite vegetable casseroles. I'm not normally a big casserole maker, but I have a few that we love. You start with some crook-neck squash.
Wash them up... I scrub them with my little scrubber I got a Sur-la-Table... which I've also seen at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Just wash them.
Then whack off the ends...and slice them up into your pot. Now I steam them, not boil. I use one of those collapseable steamer baskets. If you look carefully, you can see it in the pot.

It's best if you wear a University of Texas Longhorns volleyball T-shirt while you're doing it.
Here they are... all ready to be steamed.
Now take your Texas cutting board...
and chop up an onion. I use a lot of onion - we love onion and Joshua won't eat it if it has ANY onion in I load it up. I used one large onion.
After you've cut the onion one way, turn it, and cut again. This makes perfect little pieces.
You may have noticed that I started with half an onion. So I just used half of another onion.
1/2 + 1/2 = 1 whole.
Next take out your very old, very seasoned, cast-iron skillet. I love my cast-iron skillet!
Put some butter - that's butter, not margerine - in and heat it up... I think I have it on medium to medium-high heat.
I imagine I put in close to 1/4 cup of butter - or 1/2 a stick.
After the butter has melted, add the onion.
Put all of it in the skillet...
While the onions are cooking - you want to get them nice and soft - look down in the cabinet for the perfect size pan. I think I used a 7 x 10" pyrex, but it doesn't really make any difference. I've also used a 10" square... just whatever you have.
Occasionally give the onions a stir.
As they get soft, they'll get a bit translucent.
It's time to test the squash...remember it's in the steamer basket in the large pot - commonly called a Dutch Oven. I don't know why they're called 'Dutch' ovens... maybe one of the definitions of Dutch (to have each pay his own expenses) has something to do with it. You can cook things in these all by themself... oh well, it's time to check the squash.

You want it tender, but not mush.
When the squash is tender, turn off the heat and drain them in a colander.After they're drained, put them in a bowl...a large enough bowl so you can do some stirring without some spilling over the top.

Now you need some crackers, just plain ole saltine crackers. I found these little ones at the store and so I bought them. They were easier to crush and tasty to munch on. Plus, they would be perfect for a garnish.
Now don't do what I did and buy WHOLE water chestnuts... you want SLICED water chestnuts. I mean, you can buy whole ones, but you just have to slice them. Really give the water chestnuts a good rinsing before you use them. I don't know why, it's just what I've always heard.
These are the WHOLE water chestnuts...
Start slicing the water chestnuts into the bowl with the squash. If you bought sliced ones, just add them AFTER you rinse them well.Now, add the onion in with the squash and water chestnuts.
Give it a stir...
Yum...Monterey Jack cheese. I ended up using this whole container - 8 ounces.
Cut it up into little squares - or rectangles - or just in smaller pieces...
Add the cheese to the squash, onion, water chestnuts mix. It might start to melt a little if the squash is still warm... that's just fine.
Stir it up...
Add some pepper... I probably added about 3/4 teaspoon...
and some sea salt... regular ole Morton's will work just fine. I probably used a teaspoon. You'll have to taste to see if you want more. Actually, if you want, you might start with less salt and then gradually add more.
Ok, now remember those crackers? Time to crush them up.
Here you go. How much is this? I don't know. You'll have to judge. You want enough to cover the entire top of your casserole. This is the topping. But don't put it on yet, we're not finished.
Put the squash mixture in the pyrex. I lied. I didn't use a 7" x 10", looks like about a 10" square.
Wipe out that cast-iron skillet with a paper towel and add some more butter... I'd start with another 1/4 cup (1/2 stick). Melt it.Add the crushed cracker crumbs...
Give it a stir. Now you want to watch these... stirring pretty often. You want them to get lightly browned.
I don't think I started with 1/4 cup of butter, so it seemed too dry... in other words, the cracker crumbs weren't being browned in any butter, so I added some more.
Just put it right in there and start stirring. I like to break the butter up with the spoon. It gives me something to do and it melts faster.
Look at it sizzle.
Remember to keep stirring - doesn't have to be constant, but you don't want of those little morsels to burn. You can sort of see how some are getting a bit brown... this picture looks different because I took it without my flash. I'm experimenting - with my camera, not the squash casserole.
Ok, these are about done. See how golden they are turning?
Now put these cracker crumbs cooked in butter on top of the squash mix.
There you go... all ready to stick in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. What you're looking for is bubbles around the edges. That'll tell you it's heated throughout... that Monterey Jack cheese will be good and melted and it'll be DE-licious!