Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tex-Mex squash casserole

squash casserole
I took a wrong exit on my way to the Birmingham Airport. I don’t usually mind getting lost because this can often lead to discovery. But after meandering endlessly down tree-lined country roads I realized that my journey, while beautiful, needed to have a focus or I would miss my flight back to New York. I pulled into the first parking lot I saw. It was for a restaurant—Joel’s Restaurant of Trussville, Alabama. The lot was packed with cars, which is always a good sign. But that’s not why I decided to stay and eat lunch. Nope, I decided to sit a spell because they had on the buffet squash casserole. And I adore squash casserole.

I’ve always thought it strange that I love squash casserole so much considering how little I enjoy eating squash any other way. Steamed, grilled, sautéed—no matter how it’s prepared I often pick at it and push it to the side of a plate. I’m just not a fan of its soft texture and abundance of flat, slimy seeds. But serve me squash in a casserole and I’ll eat seconds or even thirds.

OK, perhaps it’s not that odd that I love squash casserole since it’s a creamy, crunchy mass that’s closer to the fattening family than the vegetable family. But this doesn’t make it even less delicious. And I always rationalize eating it by telling myself that certainly some of the squash’s vitamins would have leached into the swirls of dairy that hold the squash in suspension.

squash casserole

This squash casserole on offer at Joel’s that day was the same kind that my mom and my grandma make: yellow summer squash cut into rounds, baked with a mix of cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup and a package of corn bread stuffing. Yes, it qualifies as semi-homemade but it sure is good. That said, when I picked up a few pounds of yellow squash and zucchini at the farmers market recently, I didn’t have any of these squash casserole ingredients on hand. So I knew if this squash was going to be eaten I’d just have to improvise.

I made my first batch of squash casserole, thinking that it was going to be swell and I was going to be able to tell the world, “You don’t need cream of mushroom soup!” But what I made wasn’t all that good. I then made two more pans and had a casserole bake off—me vs. the mushroom soup. A fine idea in practice, yes, but not necessarily execution when it’s hot and humid both inside and out.

I was about ready to admit defeat when I hit on the bright idea to adapt my King Ranch recipe into a squash casserole. And, it worked! At last I had a squash casserole that could rub shoulders with my mom’s squash casserole.

squash casserole

Does mine taste the same? No, it's different but no less equal. So now we'll just have to make room on the table for two squash casseroles, which isn't a bad thing at all.

Tex-Mex squash casserole

2 yellow squash and 2 zucchini, cut into coins (4 cups)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tablespoons of butter
1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained or two cups of diced fresh tomatoes with 1/4 cup of diced green chiles, such as a jalapeno
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup of half and half
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
2 cups total of grated pepper jack and cheddar
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. When melted, add the squash, onion and jalapeno, and sauté until onions are translucent and the squash is soft, about ten minutes.

Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper and cook for a minute. Then stir in the flour and cook until a light-brown past forms, about a minute.

Now add the broth and tomatoes and stir until the mixture thickens, which should happen in a couple of minutes. Add the half and half, sour cream and cilantro and turn off the heat.

In a greased casserole dish, layer the bottom with the crushed tortilla chips. Pour on top of the chips the creamy squash mixture and then cover the whole dish with the grated cheese.

Cook uncovered for thirty minutes, or until top is brown and bubbling.

Serves 6-8.

Mom's squash casserole

Ingredients:
5 yellow squash, cut into rounds (4 cups)
1 stick of butter
1 package herb stuffing mix (Pepperidge Farm preferred)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 carrot, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Melt butter and mix with herb stuffing mix.

Meanwhile, cook 5 yellow squash till soft.

Mash squash and mix with onion, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, grated carrot, salt and pepper.

Layer dressing and squash mixture in casserole, ending with dressing.

Bake covered for 30 minutes.

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68 comments:

California Country said...

Can we get the semi-homemade version recipe as well? You posted both for the King Ranch casserole. I made both and love both. I apologize for my unsophisticated desire to use a can of 'cream of' soup ahead of time.

Alta said...

Ooh, yum! Never thought of a squash casserole in this manner - and I do adore squash casserole as well! I'll have to try this. Might get some non-squash eaters in our house to convert, extra calories or not!

Jami said...

Thanks for this! I love squash casserole when I have it in a restaurant but I've never had a recipe for it. This sounds delicious!

HoustonGurly said...

Sounds delicious!

Lisa (dinner party) said...

The first time I had squash casserole was at Niki's West in Birmingham, a great meat-and-three restaurant. Healthy it ain't, but it's so worth the calories.

jennifer said...

Wow! I never thought I'd see Joel's Restaurant featured on one of my favorite food blogs. Trussville is my hometown and the blue plate specials are all I dream about now that I live out on the west coast. This makes me happy and a wee bit homesick. Can't wait to try your version of squash casserole!

Anonymous said...

I love squash. My favorite way to cook it is to oven roast it with baby bella mushrooms, garlic and onion.

Can't wait to try your casserole.
When I saw melted cheese and the little Rotel tomatoes in your beautiful pictures, I knew you were on to something big! :)

Texann

Tommy said...

Thanks for the recipe. I always have issues with the water that comes out of the zucchini, but your method looks like it will remedy that. Never even thought about using crushed tortilla chips.
Brilliant idea.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

California Country--I'll ask her for the recipe and post it for you.

Alta--It definitely converted me!

Jami--It's simple and delicious.

HoustonGurly--It is!

Lisa--I'll have to try Niki's West next time I'm there.

Jennifer--Finding Joel's was like finding an oasis as I was so completely lost. And such good food too boot!

Anon--You can never go wrong with cheese and Ro-Tel!

Tommy--I learned that trick when I posted about King Ranch. Apparently a lot of people do that instead of using proper tortillas. And it still tastes good!

laura said...

Yummy! This reminds me of my dad's Pastel Azteca. It's so delicious spooned over home-made tortillas.

lisa said...

Your version sounds great! I've gone out of my way converting a casserole or two of my mom's into non-soup versions. It's always worth the extra effort.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

No Way! You should have called me and I would have gotten you to the airport... after we stopped by Joel's for a meat and 3.

Gabrielaskitchen said...

I love calabacitas! Both recipes seem to have their Tex-Mex merits, you're braaaaave going up against your mom (win or lose). Yum, anyhow, they both sound delicious.

Jesse said...

Squash casserole is my second favorite casserole ever - right after King Ranch! So this must be divine!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Laura--Your dad's pastel azteca sounds divine!

Lisa--I agree it's worth the effort, but that said there's something comforting about the old-school semi-homemade recipes as well.

Sandi--Next time I'm in town (which I hope is SOON) I'll definitely give you a call!

Jesse--It's my favorite after King Ranch as well, which is why I think my adaption was so pleasing.

SamO said...

I just made this, and it's delicious, thank you. But I noticed half way through that the recipe doesn't say when to put the tomatoes. I put them in after the broth. Is that what you had in mind?

deceiverofmen said...

Did you ever try it at Whole Foods Kirby? Maybe I should send you that recipe....

Edelweiss Cowgirl said...

Mmmmm, looks heavenly!

The Friendly Table said...

I love squash casserole! Another good source of recipes for such is just about any Mississippi cookbook. One thing I've noticed is that it's important to cook it plenty long enough-- "crisp-tender" has no place in this dish!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try. . .my family will love it and my garden has produced a lot of squash, zucchini & tomatoes. I personally love the fact that it is made from scratch! Thanks! Ann in Indy

Courtney said...

Wow, you were here in Trussville and I didn't know it!!! I love Joel's too and eat there at least every other week - I would eat there more often but I wear their food too well! Let us know the next time you are in the area and we can plan on an eating meeting. Maybe Jennifer will be home visiting. Your squash casserole recipe is very close to mine. I love ALL your recipes and many of them end up on my table at home.
Courtney

Jocelyn said...

Love me some squash casserole, and Lisa, puhleeeeez do a Fideo recipe so I can find out what all the fuss is about - your twist has got to be delicioso!!!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

SamO--Oops! Yes, that's when they're supposed to be added. I'll correct the recipe. Glad you liked it and thanks for the edit!

Deceiverofmen--Nope, never tried it--what was it like? And I'd love it if you'd send me the recipe.

Edelweiss Cowgirl--Thank you!

The Friendly Table--Indeed--I love old Southern community cookbooks.

Ann--Yep, this is an awesome way to get rid of your squash harvest.

Courtney--Thank you! And I hear you about wearing their food too well, but it is indeed soooooo good! Sadly, we don't have meat and threes up here in NYC. Someone needs to open one!

Jennifer said...

I'm sorry, can I please ask a stupid question? On the grated cheese, is it 2 Cups total or 2 cups of EACH cheese? I love cheese but I'd just like some clarification, thanks!

thecosmiccowgirl said...

yum-- looking forward to trying this. i haven't mentioned this, but a few months back, i made the fancy-pants king ranch for a baby shower for a bunch texans/oklahomans. they loved it!

p.s. heard you were coming back to austin to help us judge hot sauce again next month--can't wait!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jocelyn--Yes, I must!

Jennifer--Two cups total--will clarify in the recipe. Thank you!

the cosmic cowgirl--I plan on it, though I've taken on some projects which might prevent me from coming. Are you going to be there?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much - our farmshare turned into all squash for the last 2 weeks and John was on the verge of giving most of it away! I know what's for dinner tonight now.
xoxo, Monica

Anne Stesney said...

I will never say no to a casserole...with or without Cream of Mushroom soup. And especially one as delectable looking as yours.

thecosmiccowgirl said...

yes- my husband, houston, and i have been prelim judges for the last 4-5 years. it is one of our very favorite things to do. we are part of the frantex posse. we loved having you a few years back--hope you are able to come!

California Country said...

Thank you so much for posting your Mom's recipe. I can't wait until the yellow squash is ripe in my garden. I will make both versions.

On another selfish note I am heading to New Braunfels/San Marcos area for business in early September. Any recommendations on good grub spots for me? I will also have some time in Austin. What are the musts?

Ulla said...

holy goodness that looks so good! i just shared this on facebook and everyone is commenting on it. squash can become boring and you just made it crave worthy!

rooth said...

This is great - I have a bunch of friends who are vegetarian and will love this. Thanks again and again for your recipes.

tripletmom said...

Love that recipe. A friend of mine here in Alabama (believe it or not) makes something similar to that. It is made with zucchini and squash, is spicy and topped with tortilla chips. It is always a hit!

I was reading an old post of yours about taco shells. There is a restaurant in Victoria, TX ( my hometown) that makes the most unique and delicious taco shells. It is a very old recipe that they bought from a local taco factory. They sell them by the dozen in the restaurant and I always get plenty when I am there. I give as gifts to friends here in AL. I would love for you to try them and see if you could recreate them. I don't think they ship them anymore, but I could send you some. Let me know if you would like to try.

Amy Shelley

Judy said...

I will try this:
1. because it looks great
2. because I'm a big fan
3. because your Uncle Richard's salsa, King Ranch Casserole, Ninfa's green Sauce and green chili ROCK

Thanks for bringing Texas to NY.

Judy

Heidi said...

I'm a homesick MD girl who now happens to live in TX. When I was in MD for a visit, I requested my mom's Scalloped Squash Casserole and then hi-jacked the recipe. Yum! Can't wait to try your Tex Mex version.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, sounds very much like one my mom used to make - crookneck squash, Rotel tomatoes, onions, chilies, cheese, and sour cream on top. Our family still loves it, and wants it at family get-togethers.

Kevin said...

This sounds like a great way to enjoy summer squash.

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog - my first visit! I live in TX and am heading to Trussville to see my family next week - and can't wait to visit this restaurant! And I look forward to following your blog now!

Jennifer said...

I love your thinking in rationalizing eating this yummy squash dish!! I think your creation sounds fabulous!!

Barbara said...

Made this last night...wonderful! This is a great main dish for a meatless meal. There was no indication of what size casserole dish to use. I used a 11x7 oblong. Can't wait for tonight's leftovers!

Sally said...

This turned out pretty awesome, and by the end of the day my mom was taking down the recipe for her garden full of squash as well.

AT said...

My handed-down squash casserole recipe is almost exactly your mom's except we cook the onions with the squash and don't add carrots. Maybe I'll try adding those next time... Oh and we don't layer, we just churn. Yum.

I insist on making it at Easter always cos it tastes so good with ham!

Pat said...

I plan to make your recipe as well as your Mom's. The posting for your Mom's doesn't list the cream of mushroom soup, is that a misprint?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Monica--Happy to help!

Anne Stesney--I can't say no to casserole either--such awesome comfort food!

CosmicCowgirl--Of course! Remember that pickle-juice salsa? Look forward to seeing y'all again!

California Country--I don't know the New Braunfels/San Marcos area very well, but you should go to City Market in Luling, Lockhart for more BBQ, And in Austin, Jo's, Tamale House; Guerro's Taco Bar; Maria's Taco Express; Pink; Lambert's; Frisco's; Angie's; Kerbey Lane and Magnolia Cafe, Hoover's--it's hard to go wrong anywhere you eat!

Ulla--Thanks for sharing!

Rooth--You're very welcome.

Tripletmom--That's very gracious of you! What's the name of the restaurant?

Judy--Happy to help!

Heidi--Hope you enjoy it!

Anon--Very similar! Yum!

Kevin--It is!

Anon--Have fun at Joel's--I can't wait to return!

Jennifer--Why thank you!

Barbara--Yay! I'm so happy you enjoyed it!

Sally--Excellent, glad y'all like it!

AT--You know, the layering is kind of silly because it turns out all churned by the time you scoop it out of the pan. And that's the way I like it!

Pat--No, it's cream of chicken, no mushroom. I was surprised myself!

class-factotum said...

I am getting zucchini and summer squash from my garden that weigh four pounds (!!!) and ones that are 3" long. How many cups of squash should I use for these recipes?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Class-factotum--You brought up a very good point! I'd say four cups of squash. (And the recipe has been corrected, thank you!)

Melissa said...

Definitely going to try this!!! I love squash

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Melissa--Enjoy!

Andrew said...

Sounds great - will definately try this one!!!

Thanks - http://onceuponathyme.wordpress.com/

Carolyn said...

Oh my gosh, I can't believe you were in Birmingham! And at Joel's! As another homesick Texan, I have to say, you picked a solid Birmingham meat & 3 -- hope you also got their fried chicken, it's legendary. :)

texaswatch said...

Thanks for the recipe. This food from Texas is really delicious.

Sarah said...

I made your version last week for three hungry Texan boys, one of whom proclaimed it was the best vegetarian entree he'd ever eaten. Of course, with squash being so fabulous these days, I'm making it again tomorrow and plan on actually enjoying leftovers this time around! Thanks for another knockout recipe!

Anonymous said...

I made your version over the weekend and have shared it w/co-workers at lunch this week. We all agree it is devine!

Texann

texasgirl said...

I just happened across your site in a google search for King Ranch Chicken, and fixed the healthier version (less sodium!). I substituted zucchini that I had in my fridge for the bell peppers (which I don't care for anyway), and ended up with something pretty much like your squash casserole--but a one-dish meal that my kids would eat! It was great! Thanks!

Cowgirl Chef said...

Howdy right back 'atcha, and oh my lordy -- another way to use my favorite summer veggie. Can't wait to make your Tex-Mexified squash casserole. It sounds fantastic.

Randi Lynne said...

I made this last night and it was delicious. My husband commented that the flavors involved would be the "perfect cheese dip seasoning." Thanks for the great recipe!

Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks said...

we've been absolutely addicted to summer squash recently, and can't seem to find enough uses for them. Usually we tend to keep things simple: chips, cakes, finely shredded pasta tossings.

http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/2009/07/big-girls-test-kitchen-summer-squash.html

BUt I'm getting a little mored with the lack of spice and flavor combinations.

This looks like a wonderful solution.

Thank you thank you!!

Sally said...

This stuff is fabulous (your recipe). I made it last weekend and all my rotel loving friends and I devoured it. Thanks for something different from the standard cheese on top squash casserole!

austin frugal foodie said...

I love squash almost any old way and your casseroles sure sound good and squashy! I'll have to try your Tex Mex version to sneak some more (presently abundant!) squash into my family.

JO said...

We made this and the okra with bacon for supper tonight (hit the farmers' market earlier and had so much good fresh stuff to work with). It was delicious. I will definitely make this again and file it as something to serve when we have guests.

Jennifer R said...

I am makeing this a second time and it has been a fool proof recipe, great since I tend to set my kitchen on fire at least once a month. My husband, a vegi hater couldn't even tell it was squash! This was also a hit with my picky four year old. Thank you so much.

Carol said...

THANK YOU, Lisa, for this fantastic recipe. I've made it with the 2 kinds of squash or just zucchini and it's always a hit at this house.
The garden is about to burst open again with both summer squash and zucchini so I know this will be on the table soon!

Carol :)

Davin said...

I was just telling my boy friend about squash casserole and how much I love it. He's never had it here in LA. As a kid I would beg my parents to take me to the BlackEyedPea. And I would always get two helpings of squash casserole. I'm going to try these two recipes. Do you know if the BlackEyedPea recipe is much different?

Sarah said...

Ms. Homesick Texan,
I stumbled upon your website the other day whilst looking for Mexican recipes I can manage to throw together in London. England isn't the best place to get Mexican food, and we have quite a few homesick ex-pats over here craving something cheesy and spicy. I tried out this recipe plus the pico de gallo and I have to say, it was incredible. It was so easy to throw together. It required few and cheap ingredients. It tasted like magic. M-A-G-I-C. I am now going to make everything with a crust of broken tortilla chips. Thank you.

Melanie said...

I loved this recipe! It is so different from the squash casserole i grew up with in GA, which was basically squash, onions, cheese and ritz crackers...very boring!

I loved all the different peppers...it was a spicy dish but VERY addicting! The leftovers were just as delicious! Definitely a keeper!!

Thank you for the great recipes!!

Anonymous said...

Made this last night for my in-laws who are all native Texans. Huge hit! Thanks muchly!

Unknown said...

Ok, my husband hates squash... or so he believes. He absolutely demolishes a mock apple pie, and loves squash in anything if he doesn't know it's there (as well as many, many other veggies) as long as it's chopped up and he can't tell what it is! So, I'll be chopping and mixing it, but both sure sound wonderful!

Cecilia said...

We have a family member who is gluten intolerate and allergic to eggs. Your Tex-Mex squash casserole is perfect and delicious and now a family favorite. I just substitute gluten-free flour mix for the 2 tablespoons of regular flour. Thank you!

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