A few years back when my husband called his 90-something-year-old mother to get the recipe for this holiday favorite, she laughed and said no one ever had bothered to write it down. “You just make it!” she told him, but did eventually walk him through the method. The exact makeup of this Eastern Carolina dish varies from family to family, but in the Wagner kitchen, gooey cheese and a crisp potato chip topping is key, and if you’re worried that you’re cooking down the vegetables too much—you’re not. Gloriously caramelized mush is the goal and when done just right, this casserole can be filed under “looks like hell, tastes like heaven.” READ: Never Be Ashamed of Your Family's Casserole

Kat Kinsman
Douglas Wagner

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Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Recipe Summary

active:
1 hr 45 mins
total:
2 hrs 35 mins
Yield:
6 to 8
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt butter in a deep skillet over high. Add squash and onion; cook, stirring every 8 to 10 minutes, until liquid has evaporated and squash starts to stick to bottom of skillet, 45 to 50 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until bottom of skillet is mostly covered in a deeply browned layer of squash mush, 10 to 15 minutes; it’s OK if the mixture looks lightly burned in spots.

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  • Add 1/4 cup broth to squash mixture, stirring and scraping bottom and edges of skillet using a wooden spoon to dissolve residue; mixture will darken as you do this. From this point, you’ll want to give the mixture your patient attention. Continue cooking until mixture is caramelized with a jammy consistency and you can no longer distinguish between squash and onion, about 30 minutes total, adding about 1/4 cup broth and re-stirring to scrape up browned parts every 5 or 6 minutes. You may end up adding a little more or less than 1 1/2 cups broth total. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Scrape mixture into a medium bowl; let cool 10 minutes. Stir in egg until combined.

  • Spoon squash mixture into a lightly buttered 8-inch square baking dish; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, until cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle evenly with crushed chips. Return to oven; bake at 375°F until chips are browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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