Oozing with creamy cheese and baked to golden perfection, I’m a sucker for most anything done au gratin, but when I discovered a stack of locally grown cucuzza squash piled up at my green grocer, cheesy inspiration came over me. My Cucuzza Squash Au Gratin is a fresh take on the legendary potato dish, and it just may be in a class of its own.
I’ve written about the cucuzza before, and it is a traditional ingredient of the New Orleans region of Louisiana. From the gourd family, the cucuzza is an Italian squash that is steeped in the Sicilian culinary culture of New Orleans, and cooks have been creating dishes with them for generations.
I’ve prepared them stuffed with sausage and baked in casseroles, but when I began thinking about substituting regular potatoes with cucuzza in my au gratin, I knew I was on to something. Cucuzza are easy to work with and just need a little prep. Unlike the tender-skinned mirliton, cucuzza must be peeled to break through the tough green outer skin. But once you’ve exposed the white flesh of the squash and remove the seeds and spongy membrane inside, you have a tasty ingredient that takes to a variety of seasonings.
Cucuzza, like most squash, loves to soak up flavor and I add layers in this recipe. First, I boil the cubed squash with chopped onions in chicken stock until tender. Then, I simmer them again in a cream reduction infused with grated Parmesan and Vermont cheddar. And finally, a blast of herbs and spices finish out the seasonings. Baked off golden brown delicious, my Cucuzza Squash Au Gratin is perfect for your dinner table.
- 1 large (18-inch) cucuzza squash, peeled, seeds and membrane removed, cubed
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning blend
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- In a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over high heat, add the squash, onions, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes until the squash is tender. Drain off the stock and keep the squash warm.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the cream and once it starts bubbling, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until it begins to reduce. Add the cheeses and continue simmering, stirring occasionally.
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the butter and once it melts, sprinkle in the flour. Stirring with a rubber spatula, make a blonde roux by cooking just until the flour is incorporated into the butter and looses its raw taste. Add the roux to the cream mixture and stir to combine.
- Once the mixture is thickened, add the squash and onions. Over low heat, let cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring to prevent scorching on the bottom.
- In a shallow, ovenproof dish coated with non-stick spray, pour the squash mixture and bake for 45 minutes just until the top begins to brown and the casserole is bubbly. Serve immediately.
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