Gramma’s squash casserole is, hands down, the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it’s the best thing anyone has ever eaten, but no one has eaten it since the Christmas before she died. Not that we don’t have the recipe. We do. It’s just not the same.
I first made this recipe by myself a couple of years ago when I was feeling homesick. I looked online for something that seemed right to me, but nothing did. I called my mama to ask how to make it, but she couldn’t remember the specifics. I’ve said time and time again that I’m not the best cook–Michael does most of our day-to-day kitchen chores–but then I was even worse, even less confident than I am now. She sent me to our family’s website, where she thought my aunt might have posted the explicit how-to I was looking for. As it is with most family recipes, apparently, there weren’t so many specifics to remember. Here is what I read:
canned squash or cooked frozen squash drained well
shredded cheese about 2 cups
mayonaise 1/2 to 1 cup
salt & pepper to taste
mix everything together and put in greased casserole dish.
Top with bread crumbs ( I [my aunt writing] mix a little metled butter with boxed bread crumbs from store.) Mom just broke up loaf bread into small pieces and covered the top of casserole. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.
There’s a bit of difference between a half cup and a whole cup of mayo, right? What kind of cheese? How much onion? How much squash? And what if I have fresh squash?
My first attempt at my grandmother’s squash casserole was…passable. Since then I’ve worked to perfect it, to recapture the excellent comfort food of my past in all its cheesy glory. I’m getting better. Michael is a fan, for sure. Today, another attempt…and a gift for you! Here’s my version of my grandmother’s squash casserole. If you hurry, you can probably make it over in time for dinner. If you want to make it yourself, though, you’ll need:
at least 4 large yellow squash
one yellow onion (medium or large, depending on how you like onions)
butter, about three tablespoons
two cups cheddar cheese per 4-6 large yellow squash
one cup mayo
salt, about one teaspoon
pepper, about one teaspoon
three slices of wheat bread
Start with the ingredients you’ll need to chop. If you’re working by hand, just slice the squash and onion into pieces as you would to saute them, since that’s what you’ll be doing, and shred your cheese to your liking if you don’t usually buy shredded cheese. If you’re using a food processor (which makes this SO much easier!), just slice the squash and onions using your slicing attachment. Grate the cheese in there, too. I didn’t have a block of cheese today, but I had most of a bag of sharp cheddar from Publix and some cheese Michael didn’t use in a recipe this weekend, so I combined them to make up my two cups. Set aside the cheese for now.
That skillet is large, but not so gigantic as it looks in this photo. It’s our stove that’s small!
Combine the sliced squash and onion and put into a skillet over low-to-medium heat. (I use “4” on our little stove.) You’ll also add butter in this step to (a) flavor the squash and (b) keep the onions from burning or sticking to the pan. Cover the skillet and go do something else while the squash and onions cook down. It’ll take a while, but check on things and stir periodically.
Eventually, your squash and onion will look like this. When they do, turn off the skillet and let some of the liquid evaporate/cook off/whatever it does as the skillet cools. Once the squash has cooled just a bit, strain it in a colander, and set it aside.
Now you’re ready for the second phase of casserole construction. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and continue on!
Break one large egg into the casserole dish you plan to use. Put a bit of mayo and cheese into the dish, too. Stir all this well, until it’s completely combined.
You want to stir this quite well because next you’ll be adding warm squash. If you haven’t stirred well, your egg will scramble! Gross. Just to be safe, add the squash bit by bit.
Stir until you’re satisfied that the egg isn’t scrambling, then add the rest of the squash.
Now you’ll add the rest of your cheese, bit by bit, stirring quickly so that it mostly melts with the heat of the squash.
Once you’ve added the last of the cheese, you’ll add in the salt and pepper. You can see the pepper here–I use a lot, probably a little more than a teaspoon. Stir it all together. Now you’re ready for the last preparation step. Tear three slices of white bread into pieces and place them on top of the casserole mixture. It’ll look something like this:
Once the oven’s hot, put the casserole in. Check as your particular oven demands. Once the bread looks toasted and the casserole doesn’t jiggle when you shake the dish, it’s done. That’ll take about half an hour.
Try to wait for it to cool before you taste it. (I sometimes have trouble with that.)
If you do try it, I’d love to hear about your results.