Zucchini Casserole is better with cheddar

Illustration for article titled Zucchini Casserole is better with cheddar
Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

Last summer, my son and I took a road trip to Lancaster County in Pennsylvania—colloquially known as Amish Country—to visit six all-you-can-eat smorgasbords in two days. Primarily this was an excuse to eat slices of Pennsylvania Dutch pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner under the guise of mother-and-son bonding, and I’m proud to say that I not only succeeded in doing that, but I also forced my son to watch every single moment of it, which is how I got him to start eating more vegetables.

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Of the non-pie food we tasted, some meals were so good that over a year later, we can practically still taste them: the fried chicken at Hershey Farms, the roast chicken at Dienner’s Country Restaurant, the stewed chicken at Miller’s Smorgasboard. And then, there was the local zucchini casserole at Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant, which was so good that neither of us ate any chicken. It filled me up so much that I could only eat four slices of pie for dessert. I did not grow up in a casserole culture, and every single bite left me kicking myself for not embracing it as an adult. It was cheesy and buttery and unbelievably rich, yet it was still vegetables, so it was good for us.

We had planned on taking another mother-and-son trip to Amish Country this summer for more pie and casserole, but, alas, coronavirus had other plans. And while I tried a number of Amish zucchini casserole recipes I found online, none of them matched the one in my memories. I came up with this one by taking bits and pieces from multiple recipes in the Amish casserole catalog. It’s kept me and the boy satiated this summer as the two of us patiently await our next road trip. Maybe next year.

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Zucchini Casserole
Zucchini Casserole
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Zucchini Casserole

  • 4-6 good sized zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground cracker crumbs (such as Ritz)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheese, your choice (I used aged Irish cheddar)

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, then saute the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden. Set aside to cool slightly, then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

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While the aromatics are cooking, trim the ends off the squash, then shred using the large holes of a box grater. Use your hands to wring all the extra water out of the squash straight into the sink, then set aside. You should have anywhere between 4-6 cups of shredded squash; the exact yield doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the recipe, so don’t fret about precise measurements.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the eggs for about 2 minutes until they’re pale yellow and doubled in size, then add the cracker crumbs, milk, salt, and pepper. Switch from the mixer to a large spoon or spatula, then stir in the shredded squash, sauteed aromatics, and two-thirds of the shredded cheese. Lightly grease a 9-by-13 baking dish with oil or cooking spray, then pour in the zucchini mixture and even out the top. Bake for 25 minutes without opening the oven.

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Once the 25 minutes are up, set the broiler to high. Scatter the remaining shredded cheese over the casserole, then broil until the top is browned to your liking.

If served immediately, the casserole will be puffy like a souffle; it will deflate a bit as it sits, but will still taste awesome (as will any leftovers, which are great when eaten cold for breakfast).

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Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

avclub-ae1846aa63a2c9a5b1d528b1a1d507f7--disqus
PedanticEditorType

Hmm I wonder if any of my cookbooks have zucchini casserole in it. That’s not a dish I grew up with (but despite 10 years in Philly, my people are mostly Indiana Mennonites). (Also, fun fact, PA Dutch is actually a separate, overlapping subgroup from the Amish - there are Lutherans and whatnot in there too)

There’s a vague notion among some people that Amish food is “natural” or “healthy” but let me tell you those folks love their butter and corn syrup.

Allison, what were your favorite pies? And please tell me you ate some shoofly pie for breakfast? My favorite dessert pie is peanut butter; shoofly is a breakfast food.