Friday, February 03, 2012

Tuna Noodle Casserole - February 1, 2011

Richie is not a fish or seafood eater, and absolutely detests canned tuna fish. I, on the other hand, enjoy the occasional well-prepared fillet or shellfish dish. And I have a special place in my culinary heart for a nice tasting Tuna Noodle Casserole (or "Hot Dish" as my people call it). The recipe in this month's Cook's Country magazine (sorry, no link... to access their recipes online you have to pay a membership fee) for the pot-luck classic intrigued me and when Richie went out of town and I was fending for myself I decided to give it a try.

Of course, I made so many changes that it is barely the same recipe now! Change number one was to scale it way back. The original called for three cans of tuna and serves 8-10 people. I only had one can in the pantry and only needed to serve myself, so I began by dividing everything roughly into thirds. I also didn't have any potato chips, or the specific kind of cheese they called for, and I don't like cooked peppers very much.

After all the changes, I feel like this recipe is more mine than theirs anyway, so here it is...

Jaime's Tuna Noodle Casserole
Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!

2/3 cups shredded cheese (any melting variety will do, I did a combination of cheddar and monterey jack)
3/4 cups crushed saltine crackers
1 (5 ounce) can tuna in water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 ounces egg noodles (about 2 cups)
3-4 ounces white mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, diced (about 1/4 cup, more if you like a lot of onion flavor)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cups frozen peas

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine the crushed crackers with about 1/8 of a cup of the cheese (I didn't really measure this... just a good pinch) and some pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Mix drained tuna with olive oil and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
4. Cook noodles in salted boiling water until just al dente (check your package directions... cook about 1 minute less than whatever it says). Drain and rinse noodles until completely cool so you stop the cooking. Set aside.
5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high and cook mushrooms with a pinch of salt until they are brown. Transfer mushrooms to bowl with the tuna.
6. Melt about 1/2 tablespoon of butter in same pan and cook onions until softened. Transfer onions to bowl with tuna and mushrooms.
7. Melt remaining butter in same pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened. Off heat, whisk in remaining cheese until smooth.
8. Stir in pasta, tuna-mushrooms-onion mixture, and peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. Spread in small casserole dish and top with cracker-cheese mixture. Bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Let cool slightly and ENJOY!

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