Hot Pursuit, A Crazy Casserole Recipe for the 5th Annual Casserole Crazy Party

I have participated in countless food and beverage events all over New York City since I moved here. Countless. I have eaten my way through them, written about them and even judged one.

Tonight, I finally compete in one!
I never seem to have the time to actually prep and get a dish together for one of these, but one of my very favorite people is the mastermistress behind the annual Casserole Crazy Party so I said yes, yes, yes. I made a quick video about the cheese I used here (FYI this is the first video I recorded, edited and sent straight to YouTube using my new iPhone 3Gs. Very cool.)

I wrote about meeting Emily Farris a few months ago here. I’ve been saying ever since we met in person that she is the cooler Emily, and now I’ll have proof after seeing her do her thing.

My dish is called “Hot Pursuit.” The title is inspired by a goth-y, brooding Sylvia Plath poem called Pursuit.

He eats, and still his need seeks food,
Compels a total sacrifice.
His voice waylays me, spells a trance,
The gutted forest falls to ash;
Appalled by secret want, I rush
From such assault of radiance.

Here are a few shots from prepping the casserole last night.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

My dish will probably be the only one who quotes Plath. It’s the quiet casserole who sits in the corner, watching and waiting. When you finally get around to paying attention, you get to know her a little better then OH HOLY JESUS, IS THAT HOT, MELTY CHEESE? AND SWEET, SWEET BUTTERNUT SQUASH?!!! AND, AND … NO, DON’T TELL ME… (I won’t. Just eat it.)

I hope she totally owns the competition. If she does, then some of you are here right now because you just ate it at the party … maybe even reading this on your iPhone, empty plate in hand, whilst still recovering from the mouthbomb of cheesy squashy goodness.

In that case, here is the recipe.

I adapted the recipe from a recipe published on Foodwoolf.com. < Click for the original. I made the author's "Butternut Squash Gratin, 2009 Revisited" dish for a special dinner over the winter and was blown away by it. It's so special that it deserves to be made on its own first before you even think about making a casserole based on it. And the story that goes with it is probably just as memorable to me. (Thank you, Brooke, for sharing.)

Hot Pursuit

Ingredients

(Yields 12 large servings)

4 large Butternut squash necks, cut into inch-thick rounds or chunks of uniform shape
2 lbs Pecorino Fresca or Idiazábal (hard Spanish sheep’s milk cheese)
1 cup olive oil
½ cup bread crumbs
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 boxes bread stuffing mix (or make from scratch)
3 1/2 c. chicken broth1-2 sticks butter
1 large Spanish onion, chopped medium

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Peel the squash, cut into rounds or chunks, depending on your preference (for the casserole, it doesn’t matter so long as the pieces are uniform).

3. Toss squash to coat with about half of the olive oil and arrange squash on baking sheets with a little bit of overlap (I laid the pieces on the baking sheets, drizzled with the oil, then tossed with my hands). Bake squash until the fork-tender, but not mushy (about 30 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool.

4. While the squash bakes, caramelize the onions in olive oil and half a stick of butter, reserving 2 tsbp. of oil for later.

5. Prepare the 2 boxes of bread stuffing according to package directions but using broth in place of water and adding 1 stick of butter. You can make your stuffing from scratch (I’m more than happy to share my family recipe for stuffing with you if you prefer to DIY all-the-way).

6. Mix the caramelized onions with the stuffing and set aside.

7. Once the squash is cool, it’s time to layer it all up. Start with a layer of butternut squash, top with slices of the cheese, then top with layer of stuffing. Monitor your stuffing layer so as to not take up too much space, as you should be able to make two another complete layer. Finish with a layer of squash.

8. Sprinkle the top layer with the bread crumbs, then top with chopped pistachio nuts. Drizzle the remaining 2 tsbp. of olive oil evenly across the breadcrumbs. Finish with a smidge of sea salt and pepper to your liking (but be wary, the cheese – if you somehow made it this far without tasting it – is quite salty in its own right).

9. Bake that whole thing up at 375 for another 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the squash is totally soft. Since this is the casserole version, it’s okay if the squash gets a bit mushy if that’s how you like it.

** You can get crazy fancy and broil the top of the casserole under the flame for just a couple of minutes. Add ons can include crushed red pepper flakes or fried sage leaves.

Thanks to Emily Farris, for being so cool to throw this party every year and to teach us the seductive ways of the casserole. Wanna know more about the party? Check out a video from last year’s event here.

Edit: If you’re on Twitter, you can follow smack talk and live commentary on the event by searching for the hashtag #casscrazy09.

You can also follow my inspiration for the dish on her Twitter account: @foodwoolf.

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