Adapted from But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria! by Julia Reed. I bought the book on the strength of its title, which promised great beach reading. Yes, it was great reading and unexpectedly Julia Reed’s book also turned out to contain a bunch of excellent recipes.
(Julia Reed contributed a different recipe for squash casserole to the New York Times. The NYT recipe includes red, green, and jalapeno peppers and while delicious, for me it just doesn’t hit the high notes that Judy’s Squash Casserole does. So be aware there are two Julia Reed squash casserole recipes in circulation, and make sure you have the one you want.)
At the beach in the summer of 2014, Mariana and Grayson and I went to the produce market in Swansboro and saw some nice-looking squash. I had just read the squash casserole recipe in But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria! so we called Grandpa back at the beach cottage. He found the book under the bed, looked up the recipe, and told us how much squash to buy. In fact we bought enough squash for a double recipe.
Fortunately we had brought the food processor to the beach. The squash casserole was a hit with the crowd at the beach. Confirmed squash-haters (and some who had never tried squash) went back for seconds and thirds. As for the Ritz crackers, I agree with Julia Reed, “There is no shame in the occasional canned or packaged ingredient.”
If you want to double the recipe, you need a really huge skillet or else you can cook the squash and other ingredients in batches. As a side dish, the regular recipe will serve 6-8.
8 yellow crookneck squash, about 2 ½ to 3 pounds
1 stick butter, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing casserole and 3 tablespoons for topping
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons diced fresh basil
2 hard-boiled eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
(Much as I love the quantity “1 sleeve”, Ritz packaging has recently changed from a rectangular package to a squarish one. I don’t know how many crackers were in a sleeve in the old package, but there are 29 crackers in a new package sleeve. I would add about 6 more crackers, let’s say 35 crackers total. Or an old rectangular package sleeve.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish, such as an 8 x 8-inch glass or ceramic dish.
Chop the onion fine in a food processor. Melt stick of butter in large heavy skillet and sauté onion until translucent.
Scrub and trim squash and slice thickly. Place slices in the bowl of the food processor, and process until diced fairly finely. (You will likely have to do this in at least two batches.)
Add squash, sugar, salt, pepper, and basil to the onion. Cook until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Push eggs through a sieve and add to squash with sour cream and heavy cream. Mix well. Pour squash mixture into baking dish.
Crush crackers. (You don’t want to get them too fine—the easiest way to do it is to roll up the cracker sleeve in a dish towel and pound with a rolling pin.) Melt 3 tablespoons butter in pan and toss with crumbs.
Top squash mixture with the buttered crumbs. Bake for about 45 minutes until the squash is bubbling and the topping is nice and brown.
The casserole in the background of the picture hasn’t been baked yet–I made two 1-quart pie plates instead of the 2-quart casserole this time.