Squished Squash

Remember those squash my husband bought from Robinson Farm’s produce stand last weekend? Some of them were still sitting in my fridge come Sunday afternoon. I mean, you can only eat squash and onions so many times, am I right? I hated to let the last of them go to waste – which seems increasingly common with the small bounty our garden is producing, mixed with my overly-enthusiastic Farmers’ Market purchases. But Sunday afternoon I was determined not to let the yellow squash go brown, so I put on my lucky apron and came up with a delicious new recipe to add to my collection: squash fritters.

After I formed a basic recipe, I googled “squash fritters” to see if anything similar was out there. Lo and behold, I was not nearly as gloriously brilliant as I’d originally thought – squash fritters are a Southern staple, according to some! The majority of the recipes I came across boiled the squash first, then added the mushy, stewed vegetables to a plain fritter batter – blech, talk about tasteless. I wanted to make mine a little fresher and a lot more flavorful.

Squash Fritter Ingredients

I started by grating the raw squash with a cheese grater and allowing it to drain in a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Cheesecloth is an ingenious product with multiple uses in the kitchen (including, of course, making cheese), and can be found at any major grocery store. I drained a good cup of liquid out of the squash, and then rung it out to get the last of it. I added the drained squash to a simple fritter batter of eggs, flour, milk and breadcrumbs, and then added a few things that gave the batter a real wallop of flavor: garlic, bacon and cheese. I had some goat cheese on hand but any cheese would do, like sharp cheddar, Monterrey jack, or even brie. After a small handful of chopped parsley for color and some salt and pepper to enhance the flavors, I was ready to fry these little dollops of squished squash.

Using a small ice cream scoop to ensure even sizes, I fried the fritters in a deep cast iron pan until golden brown on each side, about three minutes per side. If the oil gets to hot they can brown too quickly, so be sure to keep a close eye on them and adjust the heat accordingly. While the fritters drained on a paper towel, I got to work on a dipping sauce – garlic aioli. Traditionally, aioli (pronounced “ay-OH-lee”) is a dipping sauce made of garlic, olive oil and egg yolk, with origins in the Provence region of France (although most cultures have their own similar version). The egg yolk acts as an emulsifier in this sauce, creating a super rich, velvety texture, and the garlic packs a pungent, spicy punch. Dip at your own risk: this stuff will have you reeking so bad, Bill Compton would be quaking in his boots.

These fritters are light, crispy and satisfying, perfect as a side dish (think replacement for French fries), or as an appetizer. Play around with the ingredients, if you like – add herbs, different cheeses, or even try different vegetables: eggplant fritters, pumpkin fritters, sweet potato fritters, you name it… Enjoy!

Squash Fritters with Garlic Aioli

Garlic Aioli
4 small garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Squash Fritters
2 medium squash, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 eggs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 strips of bacon, cooked, diced
4 oz. goat cheese
Small handful of parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups canola oil, for frying

Grating the squash

Grate the squash and allow it to sit in a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth for at least 20 minutes. Gently squeeze the extra liquid out of the squash and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the breadcrumbs and flour to the eggs, whisking to get out any major lumps. Whisk the milk into the egg mixture. Add the squash, garlic, bacon, goat cheese and parsley to the mixture, and stir to combine. Salt and pepper the batter to taste.

In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil to about 350°. Using a small ice cream scoop or soup spoon, gently add the fritter batter to the oil in dollops, being careful not to let them touch. Brown the fritters on both sides, flipping them once. Remove from the oil when browned and allow them to drain on a paper towel.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the egg yolks, salt and chopped garlic and run the food processor until the garlic is finely minced. Add the lemon juice and water, and run briefly to combine. Add the olive oil and allow the processor to run until the aioli has emulsified, about 30 seconds. Serve alongside the warm squash fritters.

(Side note on the aioli: When I made it Sunday, the egg and oil didn’t completely emulsify, creating a slightly lumpy texture. A night in the fridge and a vigorous shake seemed to cure that – Monday afternoon, the aioli was thick and homogenous.)

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Laura Hobbs is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Laura is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.