Saturday, August 04, 2012

A New Turn in the South: Squash Casserole

I have my usual squash casserole standby, and I like it just fine.  It's traditional...cracker crumbs and boiled squash and cheese.  The whole shebang.  But what if it could be fancier?  What if I could add some oomph to the old standby?  What if it doesn't end up cooking through in the time the recipe says it should?  This one is definitely delish with the leek crema, but keep a look out for the squash taking quite a bit longer than 35 minutes to get soft.  Unless you like raw squash, of course.

Squash Casserole
From A New Turn in the South by Hugh Acheson

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
3 pounds summer squash sliced lengthwise to 1/4-inch thick slices on a mandoline or with a knife
2 cups Leek Crema
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
½ cup freshly made bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Coat an 8x10-inch casserole dish with the butter by rubbing it as if you were waxing a car.  Arrange the squash in a single layer in the dish.  It's all right if you shingle and overlap edges minimally.  We are making a six-layer casserole, so think about that in the next few steps.  We need to allocate the ingredients accordingly.

Evenly coat the first level of squash with a ladle of crema, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, a bit of thyme, a sixth of the bread crumbs, and a sixth of the Parmigiano.  Repeat these steps five more times, and then cover the casserole with a fitted lid or foil.  Bake for 25 minutes covered and 10 minutes more uncovered, or until the top becomes nice and golden brown.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings

Leek Crema
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and minced
Pinch of kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the leek and 2 tablespoons water.  Cover and cook, steaming the leek for about 5 minutes, until very tender.  Add the salt and cream and warm through.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, puree the mixture in a blender, and strain through a fine strainer.

Makes 3 cups

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