Sunday, May 08, 2011

Tuna Casserole

I have a whole bunch of egg noodles that I bought on sale so I wanted to use them up, and this sounded like a really nice way to do it. It's a revisiting of traditional tuna casserole. I lightened it by using significantly less butter (even for the roux), half and half instead of whole milk, low-fat cheese, and panko instead of regular bread crumbs. God, the panko was a great choice. It made for an extra delicious topping.

I thought this was really great, which means a lot since I am so finicky with tuna and stuff. He wasn't very impressed, other than with the topping. I suspect it may have been because of the mushrooms, but whatever. Win some, lose some. This is another recipe to go in the "worth keeping" folder.


Tuna Noodle Casserole
Gourmet, May 2004

My mother came from a long line of New England women who cooked from scratch, but with four kids in the early 1950s, she quickly embraced canned cream of mushroom soup as the all-purpose binding sauce for casseroles, which were the backbone of her meal planning. Tuna noodle was the hands-down family favorite, which was a boon to my mother because she could make everyone happy with the contents of two cans (tuna and soup) and a partial box of egg noodles. When I'm feeling nostalgic, I make it for my own family. I have to admit I now prepare it with my own sauce, embellishing it with extra mushrooms and a little Sherry for flavor.

1 medium onion -- finely chopped
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces mushrooms -- trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick (4 cups)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup Sherry
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces tuna in olive oil -- drained
6 ounces dried curly egg noodles -- (preferably Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs -- (from 3 slices firm white sandwich bread)
4 ounces coarsely grated Cheddar -- (1 cup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

2. Cook onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to sauté mushrooms, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.

3. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice, and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and stir gently. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

4. Cook noodles in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain noodles in a colander and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading evenly.

5. Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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