stuffed overblown zucchini

This recipe is inspired by Darina Allen's recipe for Roast Stuffed Vegetable Marrow in her book Forgotten Skills of Cooking.  There is no better reference if you want to cook like a turn of the century farm wife. It's all old school with a modern twist:  fresh eggs and still-warm-from-the-cow milk.

I had never heard of vegetable marrow before and am not likely to encounter one any time soon, but an oversized zucchini works just as well.

Serves 6 - 8

1 super large or 2 large zucchini (about 5 1/2 lbs)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Mornay-esque sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 buttered bread crumbs

For the stuffing:
bacon grease ( or 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green pepper, chopped
salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 lb ground beef
1 TBS parsley
14 oz fresh or canned tomatoes
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

First, make the stuffing. Heat bacon grease in a wide saucepan or saute pan. On medium heat, saute the onions, garlic and green pepper and sweat for a few minutes. Do not allow them to brown. Add additional cooking oil or bacon grease if needed and add ground beef - cook until color changes.

Add the parsley and tomatoes.  Increase the heat and cook until the mixture is thick and concentrated, but still juicy.  When the filling has thickened, taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper if needed. The flavor should be intense and lively.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Split your zucchini in half lengthwise (I split mine again horizontally into quarters to fit my baking dish) and scoop out the seeds. Set aside 6 oz of seeded, peeled zucchini for sauce.

Season the cavities of your zucchini with salt and freshly ground pepper, then fill with the stuffing.

Coat stuffed zucchinis with thick, well-seasoned Mornay-esque sauce then sprinkle the top generously with a mixture of grated cheese and buttered bread crumbs. Bake for about 1 hour, until the squash is very tender - it is cooked when a knife can pierce it without any resistance.

Buttered Bread Crumbs
Sprinkle over the top of creamy gratins. These will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.
4 TBS butter
2 cups soft white bread crumbs
Melt butter in a pan and stir in the bread crumbs. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Mornay-esque Sauce
1/3 cup chopped shallots or onion
2 TBS butter
6 oz. peeled, seeded zucchini, chopped
2 heaping TBS all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the shallots or onions gently in butter for about 5 - 6 minutes, until soft. Take care not to brown.  Add the chopped zucchini and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Add the milk slowly, stirring well. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Sauce should reduce to a thick, creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



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