This recipe is a variation of a dish served at Pere Antoine Restaurant on the corner of Royal Street and St. Ann in the Vieux Carré, where mushroom caps are stuffed with the creamed spinach-mushroom-crab mixture then breaded and deep-fried. Here the dish is served en casserole, with a more substantial emphasis on the crab, making it much less time-consuming and more suitable for a buffet. In formal culinary parlance, this would likely be called a crab Florentine bon femme but Pere Antoine calls it Tchoupitoulas after a tribe of Native Americans who settled in the area during their Pre-Columbian wanderings along the Mississippi River.
Sauté a half pound of fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced, a 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, drained (squeeze it!), a half pound lump crab meat (picked through), a few ounces of finely julienned fresh sweet red pepper, a few tablespoons of grated onion and a finely minced clove of garlic in butter. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Make a rich white sauce with a blond roux of two tablespoons butter, three of plain flour, a cup of whole cream and a cup of whole milk. Add spinach and crab mixture to sauce along with a half cup of freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or another hard-sharp cheese. You can add a ground pepper of your choice (I recommend white) for a little zip, and as with all seafood, lemon or lime is always a welcome accent. Place in a very hot oven until browned and bubbling. Serve with well-buttered toast. This dish can be made up to three days before and frozen until the occasion.
In her splendid work The Southern Hospitality Cookbook Jackson native Winifred Green Cheney includes this savory and unusual tribute to Eudora Welty. I always include much more curry and sauté the livers with some onion; it’s delicious. Winifred writes:
“A tribute in the field of cookery is called a ‘signature recipe.’ Squash Eudora is just such a tribute—a toast to my friend and neighbor Eudora Welty for her perfection in expressing the written word in both the novel and the short story. ‘In these dark days,’ writes Martha Graham, the great dancer, in the 1969 Spring issue of the Washington and Lee University’s Shenandoah, ‘it is all the clearer that Miss Welty’s novels and stories are a national treasure. We must guard it zealously for such a glory as Eudora does not often come to look at us, study us, and sing about us. For those who would enjoy an unforgettable meal using Squash Eudora as an entrée, serve a chilled garden tomato, peeled and stuffed with cottage cheese mixed with well-seasoned mayonnaise; tender Kentucky Wonder pole beans cooked with ham nubbins; a pickled peach; hot buttered biscuits; and your own blackberry jelly.”
2 pounds tender yellow squash
3 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried green onion
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
¾ pound chicken livers
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon curry powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
Grated Parmesan cheese
Wash squash but do not peel. Slice as thinly as possible, and place slices in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons butter, ½ tablespoon salt, dried green onion, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and paprika. Simmer over low heat about 25 minutes or until squash is tender when tested with a fork. Wash chicken livers and cut in halves. Melt 3 tablespoons butter; put in a 2-quart baking dish and add Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Marinate livers in this mixture for 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350̊ oven about 25 minutes. Turn livers after 10 minutes. Add cooked chicken livers to cooked squash, celery seeds, curry powder, and lightly beaten egg. Mix lightly and taste to see if more salt is needed. Place mixture in the same baking dish. Sprinkle top with grated Parmesan cheese, and bake in a 350̊ oven about 25 minutes. Yield: 6 to 8 servings. Variation: You may substitute 1 pound lump crabmeat for the chicken livers. Carefully pick through crabmeat for bits of shell. Delete marinating ingredients and add crabmeat directly to cooked squash. Proceed as directed above.