Squash Casserole with Cornbread

It took me a long time to find a squash casserole recipe that was actually a casserole and not just another way to cook squash. I was through with baking the squash in sour cream or under melted cheese; even with breadcrumbs, they just came out in a limp spoonful on the plate.

I found plenty of recipes that promised me what I wanted — a big, hearty. main-dish sized casserole — but they all seemed to be loaded with bad stuff. Condensed cream of mushroom soup and whole sticks of butter are delicious, but I was looking for something healthier. And I didn’t want to drown out the flavor of the wonderful yellow squash.

Bingo. After trying several recipes and tossing aside a dozen more, I found what seems to be the copy-cat recipe for a squash casserole at a U.S. restaurant chain. I don’t know if it’s the real thing, but it was the winner for me. The big difference with the others is that it calls for cornbread, which adds a nice amount of sweetness and enough volume to ensure a big, hearty (and not so unhealthy) casserole.

A note on the cornbread: The recipe calls for Jiffy corn muffin mix, which may not be available where you live, but you could easily use another cornbread mix or even your own recipe. Here’s one from Paula Deen I found in a quick search just now that could probably work.

Serves 8
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
6 regular-size yellow squash, diced
1/3 cup butter
1 regular-size yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 chicken boullion cubes
2 cups canned corn kernels
8 oz. mild cheddar cheese, grated

Prepare cornbread mix as directed for an 8×8-inch pan and let cool.

For the casserole, preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees. Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.

Place diced squash in a large saucepan, cover with water, then bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, just until tender. Remove from heat. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Place the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat, then saute the onions until translucent. Add salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, and bouillon cubes and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Add drained squash, corn, and cheese, and stir to combine. Crumble cornbread and add to the mixture, then pour in the reserved water and mix well.

Pour mixture into prepared dish and cover. Bake for 50 minutes, then remove cover and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes, until lightly browned or you just get too hungry to wait any longer.

NOTE: I halved this recipe and baked it in a 7-inch round cake form with good results. Also, the recipe can be made ahead — prepare and pour into the casserole dish, then refrigerate or even freeze until ready to bake (though if you freeze it, make sure to thaw it before you put it in the oven).

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