Saturday, June 5, 2010

Casserole? Really?

Everyday the dinner conversation in my head goes pretty much the same way.
What's in the house? Should I use what I have or go to the store? Anything ready in the garden I could whip up and get an extra pat on the back for growing it myself -- and subtly pointing it out at the dinner table? And these days, what will make a nice picture?
Today I had a small harvest of yellow squash. I usually sauté squash with mint and garlic or roast it in the oven or even fry thin sticks like battered French fries. None of that felt right. I was looking for a little comfort, something homey.
For whatever reason I kept flashing back to squash casserole. I'm not sure, if you haven't eaten at Southern cafeterias or family gatherings that you would even know squash casserole and I can't even swear where I first saw it. It's just always been there.
We always have eggs, and I happened to have a quart of milk -- which is rare for us. Cheese in the drawer -- check. And, in an unseasonable combination of Southern summer and winter fare, I happened to have a few pints of shucked oysters in the fridge. Dinner was starting to take shape.
I sliced the squash and chopped one brown onion and put them together in a sauce pan with water to cover and brought the pot to a gentle boil. The vegetables were soft in about 5 minutes. I added the drained onion and squash to a baking dish. In a separate bowl I combined about 1 1/2 cup of cracker crumbs with 1 cup of shredded cheese. Most recipes use cheddar but were not all that crazy about cheddar so I used what we had on hand, a good sized block of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a Wisconsin artisanal cheese with a nutty Gruyère like flavor. I sprinkled half of the cracker cheese mixture over the squash in the pan and then placed the drained oysters around the baking dish, nestled in among the squash slices. I mixed together 1 cup of milk, two eggs, and 1/4 cup of melted butter and poured that over the assembled veggies and oysters in the pan and topped it all with the rest of the cracker and cheese mixture, drizzling a little more melted butter on top before baking for 30 minutes at 400º.
On the side of our side dish for dinner? A crisp salad (with leaves from our garden, back pat number 2) with creamy feta cheese dressing -- the new house favorite.
Another day's dinner done.

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