Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Tuna Casserole

I don't know if I have ever had the standard American tuna casserole made with chunk tuna, canned cream of mushroom soup, and a topping of corn flakes. It's probably declicious. I don't knock it. But this is better.

We begin with mushrooms. These were in the fridge for at least three weeks. Some say when in doubt, throw it out. I say when in doubt, taste and count to ten. If you're still standing, keep eating. But seriously, Jacques Pépin said on his TV show that old button mushrooms turn into cremini mushrooms when they get really brown and those sell for twice as much or more. Take that freshness police!

I sauted them in smoking hot oil, added minced garlic and thyme, deglazed with Shaoxing wine and reduced that to nothing. Then the shrooms waited in a bowl.

Meanwhile, these Manischewitz noodles boiled a minute short of the package directions. Manischewitz used to have fantastic radio commercials, which (if I recall correctly) are part of the Yiddish Radio Project.

I drained and rinsed these. At this point I took a break to color with crayons and watch a bit of Noggin.

When I made it back to the kitchen I fired my big pan up and made a roux of butter, flour and onions.

After a few minutes I started adding liquid: lowfat milk and chicken stock. Stirring, whisking, getting out the lumps. When it was smooth I tossed the cooked mushrooms in and seasoned it well with salt and white pepper.

By now you're saying: you can't make a tuna casserole--THE tuna casserole--without tuna! Indeed the tuna is the best part, but the stuff you put in your tuna salad sandwich won't cut it. You don't need the premium tuna that fetches upwards of $10 a jar. I use Genova Tonno, actually an imprint of Chicken of the Sea, which my local fancy-pants grocery store sells for $1.99 a can. I bet the tuna tastes better in Genova, mind you. But Genova Tonno is packed in olive oil and it's delicious stuff. I also recommend it in salade Niçoise (French) or in tuna and white bean salad (Italian). Perhaps if this Haverchuk thing keeps going I'll make some of that stuff and share it with you.

Before dumping the tuna in, though, I remembered that a casserole needs a topping. I melted some butter by floating it in a stainless steel bowl in my roux-thickened sauce. I was pleased with this innovation.

And I got out some panko. These little pellets of Japanese crunch are killer.

I tossed the panko with the butter to coat it and mixed that with grated sharp cheddar. If you're ever really stuck for a snack, you could do worse than this little crust concoction microwaved for about 30 seconds.

We return to our sauce, bubbling away on the stove. I dumped the tuna into it, which by now was thickened nicely, and gave it a stir.

After that I folded in the noodles. Then I turned the mixture into a well-greased 9x9 pan.
I topped this with my crust mixture and this is how it looked before baking.

Into a 375-degree oven for about half an hour. And here's my dinner.

Now I shall compliment myself: this food was really great. I wish I could feed it to you through the internet. The noodles are still a bit firm though hardly al dente, which would be all wrong in this kind of dish. The sauce coats the noodles to the point that it doesn't seem like a sauce at all. The mushroom flavor is subtle, the tuna assertive, and the crust is a balance of bright and crunchy against the soft lusciousness of the noodles. I ate more of this stuff than I should have.


Blogger Victoria said...

that looks Delicious! where did you get the Geneva Tonno? I live in Milwaukee, too, and I can't seem to find "Tonno al Olio D'oliva" for less than like, $4 ot $5 a can at Glorioso's... any tasty food tips?

5:00 PM  
Blogger femme feral said...

I just had blue bell mint chocolate chip ice cream for breakfast. yes. breakfast at 5 p.m.!!

Anyway, I will ask the SB to make this for me.

5:09 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

Hi Victoria, thanks for the compliment. I got the Genova Tonno at Sendik's on Oakland. I know they also carry it at the Sendik'ses on Downer and Silver Spring.

Any tasty food tips? Keep reading my blog!

FF: blue bell? I'm not familiar. But I'm all in favor of ice cream for b-fast any day of the week.

7:30 PM  
Blogger the sad billionaire said...

Hey Haverchuk,

Any chance of seeing some of those crayon'ed pictures? I know a few people around here who would pay top dollar to see the handiwork of your partner-in-crime.

2:56 AM  
Blogger femme feral said...

blue bell ice cream is yum:


2:59 AM  
Blogger mzn said...

SB: I said I was coloring. I said nothing of a partner-in-crime. But you are correct, there's a little man around here who colors, and you may be onto something about blog readers. If they like looking at pictures of pets and casseroles, surely they will salivate over some "preschooler's masterpieces," as Noggin likes to say. I'll see what I can do.

8:09 AM  
Blogger the subversive librarian said...

ok, just printed off your challenging tuna casserole recipe.
i googled "better tuna casserole".
we shall see. sure looks tasty.
i will let you know.

5:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home