(Not Bad at All) Winter Squash Casserole
I’ve mentioned, I think, that I sometimes work with old and historic recipes for fun. I’ll happily venture into the land of butter the size of an egg (what egg? Small? Jumbo?) and Enough flour (Enough for a batter? A dough? Library paste??) and go ahead and cook something Until Done… I have enough of a clue of what I am doing that I’m not likely to make something truly awful, and I’ve found some gems, whether from my grandmother’s books, or 14th Century manuscripts. (And, without realizing it, I honed my Recipe Development skills doing just that.)
Shortly before I started seeing Rich, I’d worked on, and, I thought, perfected a Jacobean cookie recipe that modestly proclaimed itself to be Excellent. And, indeed, I thought those cookies were. Then, when I first moved here (but had not yet unpacked) someone asked me to make them for a reception – so I happily did – in his kitchen, with his tools. And… the recipe didn’t work. I gave Rich one, and he said it was Not Bad at All… but they were certainly not Excellent. I tried again, having figured out part of the problem… these were Really Rather Good. (And they were good enough to go to the reception, where people who’d never had the Excellent ones enjoyed them – but those who had eaten them looked… politely bewildered…)
I haven’t tried them since (that was around the time I stopped eating sugar, so I wasn’t spending a lot of energy on perfecting cookie recipes…) but I think I know what the problem was – ambient temperature. And one of these days there will be an entire post about factors we don’t think of, when we wonder why recipes do or do not work…
Meanwhile, though, it’s become a family catch phrase. Not Bad at All is perfectly adequate. If I get home late and tired, and sling some food in a pan and call it dinner, it is usually Not Bad at All. It is several steps above merely edible – I’m a good cook – but it is not particularly interesting or exciting, or memorable. (And, realistically, many of the “combine these three precooked ingredients” meals fall into this category.) Perfectly all right for an ordinary family meal, not something I would serve on a holiday or to guests.
Really Rather Good is a step up. I try to make sure that actual recipes – as opposed to “get food on the table” posts – are at least Really Rather Good. That’s something I make and think “I need to do that again!” As an example, the Not Eggplant Parm was in this category… It was not, in and of itself, an exciting or Excellent dish. I was excited because it was so much less effort than the truly exciting dish of Eggplant Parmigiana… and therefore something I would make more often… Still wouldn’t hit the holiday table, or an elegant dinner party, but might be served in a “have friends over” casual meal, and certainly would be featured for family meals when I wanted something Nice.
I strive, of course, for Excellent. I can’t always get there – if I held out for that on every post I couldn’t write several posts a week. If I were writing a cookbook, now… that would be different – but writing a blog has its own rhythm and requirements. It’s the house band at a bar, not the featured artist at Carnegie Hall… Something presentable every week, and a few real highlights, but not enough time to perfect everything.
A major holiday, though, like Carnegie Hall, really deserves Excellent (though neither always happens, tell the truth… As long as one or two pieces are truly Excellent – say, the Aria and the Turkey – a merely Really Rather Good recitative or sweet potato can be forgiven.) But that means that right now I’m deep in
rehearsal recipe testing…
So, anyway, I had this great idea (I thought…) for a winter squash casserole, dressed up a bit. And I have several butternut squash… And thought this might be a nice Thanksgiving dish, and (instead of just waiting for next week) I should make it in time to share it with you.
Basically, I had 2 cups of cooked squash, which I’d cooked in the microwave, because that’s easier and faster, if I don’t have the oven on anyway. I wanted to add some substance and flavor… so I stirred it all into 2 beaten eggs, and mixed in 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice mix. (The premade mix is convenient to have on hand, as I can use small amounts when I’m making something for just one or two of us… but you can also use any combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and/or allspice that pleases you.)
Then I stirred in half a cup of cranberries, and 1/4 cup of roughly chopped pecans. Poured it all in my one quart shallow baking dish, and baked it at 350 for half an hour.
And it was perfectly all right… but much less interesting than I had expected. Troubleshooting – the squash might have had more flavor if it had been baked, not microwaved… a pinch of salt might have helped… but otherwise… It’s not going on my Thanksgiving table, and I’m not really suggesting it for yours.
So – why do I write about it? (Because it’s Monday and I need a post…) Because sometimes it is Monday and you need dinner. Because the Monday after Thanksgiving some of you will have half a cooked Hubbard or Long Island Cheese squash (those things are big!) and need some ideas for it. Because it was still a little more interesting than just heating up cooked squash…
Because sometimes All Right really is good enough. Not always, not too often, not for a special meal – but sometimes.
Meanwhile, I continue recipe testing, and hopefully on Friday I’ll have something more… exciting!
10 minPrep Time
30 minCook Time
40 minTotal Time
- 2 c cooked winter squash (Butternut, acorn, Hubbard, cheese, whatever you like and have)
- 2 eggs
- 2 t Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
- 1/2 cup raw cranberries
- 1/4 roughly chopped pecans
- Beat the eggs in a bowl. Mix the squash into the beaten eggs thoroughly. Beat in the spice mix
- More gently, stir in the cranberries and the chopped nuts. Pour into a baking dish.
- Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.