We we looking through The Way to Cook, by Julia Child, just the other day, hoping to find an interesting way to cook up a few potatoes, when we stumbled upon a picture of stuffed pattypan squash. Naturally, since the book was published in the early 1990s, it doesn’t have the slick, glossy food-styled shots that you see in today’s cookbooks (You do know that much of that stuff isn’t even food, right? The stuff is just props. And, in the spirit of full disclosure, everything we photograph is part of our meals. No props, no styling.), so it didn’t really stand out as anything very interesting.
But, we’d picked up several small pattypan squash as part of our CSA share last week; since we had to eat them, perhaps stuffed would be good. We looked down the ingredients list — naturally, we didn’t have everything — but we figured Julia would just soldier on and make them anyway, using whatever was on hand, so we’d take her cue and go with it. Besides, the main thing to take away from this recipe is the technique of parboiling the squash.
We changed this recipe so much from its original form that it’s almost unrecognizable: we used mozzarella instead of Swiss, didn’t have vermouth or dry wine, used sage instead of thyme, bread pieces instead of crumbs, and crème fraîche instead of sour cream, so change it the way you see fit, too. As we said above, the real key is parboiling the squash to make sure they’re tender all the way through, and, to a lesser extent, cooking the excess liquid out of the squash pulp before making the stuffing.
Procedure in detail:
Parboil squash. Bring a kettle of salted water to a boil over high heat, add squash, and reduce to a simmer. Cook squash until they feel slightly soft when pressed, about 15 minutes, depending on the size and type of squash. Drain and let cool. You might be tempted to skip this step, believing that the squash will cook in the oven later, anyway. You could, but then you might end up with crunchy, raw bites of squash. Parboil them and they’ll be tender all the way through.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil an 8×8-inch baking pan.
Scoop squash. If needed, trim off just a bit of the stem end so the squash will sit flat when filled. Then, cut off the blossom end and scoop out the pulp, leaving a squash shell about 1/4-inch thick.
Chop pulp. Chop all that squash pulp into pieces about 1/4-inch on a side. Naturally, it doesn’t matter if they’re perfect, as these will be part of your stuffing.
Cook onion. Melt butter over medium heat in a small skillet or saucepan. We used the same saucepan that we used for parboiling — less cleanup. Once melted, add the onion, lightly season with a bit of salt and pepper, stir, and cook until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add pulp. Add the squash pulp and cook, stirring often, until any liquid released is nearly evaporated. This may take a few minutes, or as long as 10 minutes. Just keep cooking and stirring until the squash starts to brown a bit and seems as though it’ll stick to the pan soon. Remove from heat and let cool.
Make stuffing. Once the squash and onion mixture has cooled a bit — enough so the egg won’t cook when added — add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Stuff. Pick up each squash in turn and fill the cavity with about a quarter of the stuffing. You’ll have a bunch of stuffing, so you’ll really have to press it in and mound it over the top, but you might as well try to use it all. Once filled, place in the prepared pan.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake until golden-brown on top and slightly crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes.
A good way to use up some of those summer squash, huh? Generally, they’re a somewhat bland, slightly mushy addition to other dishes, but here they stand on their own. They still aren’t super flavorful, but you’d never expect that from a summer squash. The stuffing does add a nice amount of sage and cheese; plus, it gets a little crisp, avoiding the soggy texture of most squash dishes. Four stars, but we really will work hard to remember the parboiling step.