Everything tastes better with Ritz crackers on top

by CountryFriedMama on August 22, 2009

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Country-Fried Daddy came home the other night and asked what we were having for dinner.  When I told him, he made a noise that wasn’t quite, “yuck,” but it was pretty close.  I was not pleased.

In defense of poor CFD, to whom I did not speak for some time, he rarely complains about my cooking.  And he certainly could, because this man grew up eating some goooood food.

I was joking with my brother-in-law recently that I decided to marry into the family after CFD invited me to Thanksgiving dinner a few months after we met.

His dad fried a turkey.  Have you ever had fried turkey?  Find someone who knows how to fry a turkey, and beg him to make you one.  It is amazing — potentially lethal to prepare, but fabulous to eat.

Next to that beautiful Thanksgiving bird, my mother-in-law served cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, a creamy fruit salad she calls, “something good,” and endless additional sides; at least that’s how I remember it.  I thought it was all “something good.”  I had never eaten food quite like that.

I joke that CFD and I got together because of that meal.

It isn’t really true.

Okay, it’s a little true.

Over the years, my in-laws have been generous in sharing their cooking tips with me, but I don’t often try to replicate those dishes I have come to crave as Thanksgiving nears.  That is the food of CFD’s childhood, and while I can follow a recipe as well as the next person, I’m sure it never tastes quite the same as when he eats it in his parents’ kitchen.

There are a few recipes, though, that I attempt on special occasions, or when I am feeling particularly industrious, or when certain vegetables are in season.

Miss D. and I planted squash in the spring.  Right about now, we should be drowning in squash, but I somehow managed to kill our poor little plants.  The farmers’ markets are overflowing with squash, though, and this is one of my favorite ways to use it.

Here, I offer you my mother-in-law’s squash casserole recipe.  It contains the word “roux,” but don’t be scared.  You can make roux.  Really.  Even I can make roux now, after many ruinous roux experiments over the years.

Country Granny’s Squash Casserole

1. Turn on Sesame Street or Sleeping Beauty, or pull out that battery-operated toy you hate but your kids love.  You’re going to need some alone time to do this.

2. Take about three pounds or so of summer squash and cut it into medium-sized slices.

2. If you can find a Vidalia onion where you live, get a big one and cut it into chunks.  When we lived in Massachusetts, I had a hard time finding Vidalias, so I substituted yellow onions.  I’m sure every Southerner reading this finds that blasphemous.  Sorry.

3. Put your squash and onion in a pot and put in enough water to cover the veggies.

4. Boil with the lid on until sort of done but not mushy, about 10 minutes.

5. Drain.

6. Grate about 8-10 ounces of medium cheddar cheese. Or just buy it grated and save yourself some trouble.

7. Beat two eggs.

8. Make a medium white sauce.

This is the part where I probably mess things up a bit, but I think the end result is still good.

Mix 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons flour, and whisk together over heat for about a minute and a half.

Gradually add 1 cup of milk.

Stir until thick.  This can take awhile.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Country Granny advises white pepper to avoid ugly black flakes in the casserole.  This is especially important if you have a three-year-old who will not eat anything with “black things” in it.

9. Combine squash, cheese, eggs and white sauce. Be careful with the eggs.  If they combine with the hot stuff they’ll cook, so put the eggs on the cheese first, and combine that before adding squash and white sauce.

10. Dump into a 3-quart greased casserole dish.

11. Cover with one sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers. (You knew there would be Ritz crackers, right?)

12. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top.

13. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

14. Leave the dishes in the sink for your husband to clean up.  That’s what I do.

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{ 2 trackbacks }

Mmm, Mmm, Memory giveaway | Country-Fried Mama
August 30, 2009 at 9:04 am
A pictorial love letter to the Southern-fried turkey | Country-Fried Mama
November 26, 2009 at 9:33 pm

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Stefany August 22, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I do not have any recipes right now but I can think of some and will have to ask my mom for them! :)

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

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Country Granny August 23, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I did not know how to cook when CFGrandpa and I got married – my first present from my in-laws was “The Art of Southern Cooking” – talk about imtinidating! CFGP ate a lot of bad meals without complaining.

Eventually, I learned to cook better than my MIL and so will you.

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Country Granny August 23, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Actually, you already cook better (healthier) than I do—I’ve gotten as many recipes from you as you have from me.

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Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings August 24, 2009 at 7:18 am

Well, I don’t have one off the top of my head, but this one sounds amazing. I may think of one later and if I do I will post it and link back here. This was a great story and a great recipe! It sounds amazing! I’m not sure i have the patience to make it, but I’m willing to try!

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Elle August 24, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Great post… try using rice bran oil for your deep frying needs. It’s hard to find but can be ordered from http://www.californiariceoil.com. The smoke point is 490 plus you get heatlh benefits as well!!!

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faemom August 24, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Luckily for me my MIL was a horrible cook, but my husband adores my mom’s cooking to the point that I will follow a recipe line by line and he still tells me my mom’s is better.
P.S. I’m going to start hounding the Mom Blog Network to get you on it.

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faemom August 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm

All it took was two messages and you’re up on Mom Blog Network. YEA!

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CountryFriedMama August 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Faemom: You’re awesome! (Will you call the cable company for me? I can’t get any response out of them, either.)

Thanks for your help. :-D

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Dee August 26, 2009 at 9:07 am

This made me laugh! I love yellow squash like nobody’s business. I have a very similar recipe but instead of a white sauce, I use mayonnaise. Don’t laugh. It’s a lot easier than a white sauce. However, I will confess when I make asparagus casserole I make a white sauce and it’s almost identical to your squash recipe; it’s soooo yummy!

This is a recipe you might enjoy. I call it Eggroll Cabbage. I hate boiled, limp cabbage. Buy a bag of shredded cabbage – it’s usually next to the bagged salads. Heat up oil in a skillet and throw in chopped onion, cooking it until it’s caramelized. throw in your cabbage, and add a lot of soy sauce and salt and pepper. Cook until desired crispness, usually just a couple of minutes for us.

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ck August 26, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Is it okay if I stop at step #1? I feel like the hour would be much more enjoyable if I didn’t try my best and then wind up obliterating someone else’s delicious recipe anyway.

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yulz August 31, 2009 at 6:02 am

Congratulation on being featured on SITS :)

Love the recipe, I’ll better try them when I had the time

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Amber August 31, 2009 at 8:13 am

Happy SITS day. You blog is cool.

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Disney August 31, 2009 at 1:06 pm

This is adorable! what a sweet little girl :o )

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Deb Rox January 26, 2010 at 11:08 am

Yum, a version similar to this is one of the reasons I moved to Tallahassee after having it at a friend’s mama’s house, though she cooks it to mush and it’s all carmelized with the onions. Oh my. My favorite part of your recipe is “sleeve” of crackers. Any recipe needing a sleeve of crackers is good stuff.

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