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​​ Cornbread-Crusted Butternut Squash Casserole
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This recipe was the result of a whim. As winter was drawing to a close, I had an intense craving for butternut squash and decided to try a recipe for Shredded Butternut Squash Pot Pies that Jerrelle Guy (of Chocolate for Basil and Black Girl Baking) posted back in 2016. The recipe calls for a homemade tortilla lattice crust, which seemed a little complicated for my taste, especially since it required tracking down masa harina. Too impatient to wait for masa to arrive off of Amazon, I improvised based on what I had on hand.  I added a tomale pie style cornbread topping to the dish, along with some black beans in the filling (mostly because I had half a can leftover in the fridge).

The result was an incredibly flavorful, fast, vegetable-packed dish with a weeknight friendly (aka, short) ingredient list and cook time. The dried peppers add heat and smokiness to the sauce, balancing out the sweetness of the squash and giving the dish depth. Shredding the squash means the meal can be thrown together with only 20 minutes of cook time (and easily in under an hour total  if you have a food processor with a shredding disk...which I do not).

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​​​​​​​​​​​​Cornbread-Crusted Butternut Squash Casserole
 Adapted from the Chocolate for Basil and the NYT

 Serves 6

 For Butternut Squash Filling:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek, chopped (make sure to clean thoroughly & discard leafy ends)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can crushed plum tomatoes
  • 2 dried Mexican chilies, torn into small pieces (preferably, Pasilla de Oaxaca)
  • 1 cup lightly crushed plain corn tortilla chips
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 medium butternut squash (2.5 to 3 lbs)
  • ½ cup black beans, from a can, drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Cornbread Crust:
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • ½ tbsp sugar (the original NYT recipe used a full tbsp, but I found that too sweet)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. While oven preheats, peel the squash and cut off base, saving it for another use. Take the top of the squash, cut in 4 long pieces, and shred using a box grater.
  3. In a 3-quart pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil and sauté the leeks until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and the torn pieces of chili and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant.
  4. Add crushed tortilla chips and toast for two minutes or until lightly golden brown, adding more olive oil if necessary. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tomatoes begin to thicken slightly. Add the vegetable stock and shredded squash. Stir to coat the squash thoroughly in the sauce. Adjust seasoning as necessary (if the pepper aren’t very spicy, add some red pepper flakes for heat or cumin for smokiness).
  5. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and teaspoon salt. In a small bowl whisk the egg, milk and oil until combined and add liquids to the flour mixture. Stir until combined, don’t worry if the batter seems thin.
  6. Spread the squash mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Smooth the cornbread mix evenly on top.
  7. Bake until the corn bread is brown and sauce is bubbling at the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Leftovers will keep for about a week in the fridge, and freeze and reheat wonderfully.