I wrote this all out once before, but somehow I overwrote it with the curried cauliflower post. Not quite sure how. It was a pain to figure out how to change the permalink, too, because the cauliflower had the casserole’s link still!
So, I don’t historically like squash. Like at all. I don’t even care for pumpkin pie, which is why I always make pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Because I know there will be pumpkin pie, and I don’t want to have to eat it. But some years ago, a friend grew and cooked buttercup squash, and I was surprised to find I liked it. Experimenting, I discovered I liked other types of kabocha squash as well. Recently, I found I liked Italian summer squash and yellow crookneck squash when marinated and grilled, and also when prepared in the broiler… but that is a subject of another post, because that recipe deserves a dedicated post. And pictures.
Anyway, back to squash. I don’t care for it, generally speaking. But I got a butternut squash in the CSA box, and I’m not going to let it go to waste. I figured chicken would go fine with it, and I had two largish cans of chicken breast. Not the little ones, but not the giant ones. 10 oz cans, maybe? But one squash and some chicken wasn’t going to be enough to make a meal. It would make an oddly textured soup, and I wasn’t going to make mashed squash and chicken salad, either. So I started thinking about casseroles. I was in a casserole mood anyway. I read on some website somewhere that rosemary was tasty with butternut squash, so I sent Saul to get some from my friend down the street, who grows a huge bush of it. And I noticed I had some celery that was wilting and would soon be too soggy to eat, and half a loaf of mostly stale french bread, so I decided on a layered casserole. Chicken and squash on the bottom, and crispy stuffing on top. With cheese. The internet said cheddar for butternut squash, so I sent poor Saul off again to get some shredded mild cheddar.
Bread and Celery Stuffing: <– the recipe I used as a guideline.
From 2 rosemary branches about 8″ long, pinch off the clusters of leaves. With kitchen shears, snip them into tiny pieces.
Cut the bread into cubes, about bite sized, and put in a biggish bowl. In a small pan, sautee the 3 stalks of diced celery in a tablespoon or two of oil, with some minced garlic, salt and pepper, dill, and snipped rosemary. Drizzle the celery mixture over the bread and toss to coat. Add a little more oil if necessary, but remember not to saturate the bread. I didn’t have chicken stock, so I used canned beef broth. I also didn’t use a whole cup; I used between 1/2 and 3/4 of a cup. Save the rest of the can of broth, you’ll use it later. Anyway, after drizzling on the broth, tossing the bread all the while, I put it all in the fridge to chill.
Chicken and Squash Casserole:
This is only loosely based on this meatless butternut squash casserole recipe. To make mine, use a potato peeler to remove the squash’s rind. Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and string, then cut it in to chunks about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Put them in a pot with enough water to cover, and bring it to a boil. Boil for six or eight minutes, then drain.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
In a big bowl, dump the drained canned chicken. Add a half a cup or so of mayo, salt and pepper, the rest of the beef broth, another two branches of snipped rosemary leaves (prepared the same as for the stuffing), a little sesame or olive oil, and maybe some other seasonings. I made this four days ago, and no longer remember what exactly I put in. I think some parsley, basil, and oregano. Also 4 ounces of shredded mild cheddar, and a couple of cups of fresh spinach leaves. Mix that all up briskly to shred the chicken, add the drained squash and stir gently to avoid mashing the squash. Pour the whole bowlful into a 9×13″ glass casserole pan. Top with the stuffing mixture and place in the oven until the stuffing gets crispy and a little brown. I think it took 20 or 30 minutes. Take it out and turn on the broiler. Add another 4 ounces of cheese over the top, and place it under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and browning.
Then eat it.
This turned out really well. The squash was a little sweeter than I expected, but the rosemary offset this nicely. It was creamy, but the shredded chicken kept it from being mushy like baby food, and complex without the individual flavors getting lost in the jumble. You could taste the squash, the chicken, the rosemary, the spinach, and the cheddar, but they didn’t overwhelm each other. And it reheated nicely in the microwave.