Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recipe: Tuna Casserole

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes prep; 45 in the oven at 350F

  • one medium sized onion, diced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, diced
  • handful of white or brown mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  • one clove of garlic, sliced thinly or minced (optional)
  • 2 6-oz. cans of tuna, thoroughly drained, and flaked
  • dried spaghetti or linguini (about 3/4" diameter held between your thumb and index finger, if you circle them together), broken in half or thirds
  • 3-4 Tbs. of olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. of flour
  • 1 to 1-1/4 cups of milk (you could use light cream)
  • salt
  • pepper (preferably freshly ground)
  • handful of grated parmesan
  • handful of Italian-style breadcrumbs
  1. Sautee the onions, celery, and mushrooms in enough olive oil to get the job done, making them sweat, not fry, on medium to medium-low heat. This should take no more than 10 minutes. Set them aside to cool.
  2. Add 2 Tbs. of olive oil and 2 Tbs. of flour to the pot in which the veggies sauteed, and stir or whisk well to make a roux. Cook it just long enough to get the flour taste out of it. You're shooting for a really light roux here, so it shouldn't take more than a minute or two.
  3. Add some milk, maybe 1/3 of a cup to start with, and whisk it in really well. When it starts to thicken, add more milk, a splash or two at a time, and whisk it in really well. Repeat as necessary until you have a sauce that's not runny, but somewhat on the thin side. It should coat a spoon, but drip off pretty quickly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Collectively, this step with the previous one, is sort of a fake bechamel. Cover the pot, so your sauce doesn't form a skin, unless you do step 4 simultaneously with this one.
  4. Boil the pasta, according to directions. You can let it go a minute or two beyond al dente, but don't let it get mushy. Frankly, you can do this simultaneously with step 3.
  5. Drain the pasta and stir it into the milk/cream sauce, mixing well.
  6. Stir in the veggies, and mix well, then stir in the flaked tuna, and mix well. It's supposed to look like glop -- it's a casserole.
  7. Pour the mess into an oven-proof casserole dish, sprinkle a handful of grated parmesan on top, then sprinkle a handful of Italian-style breadcrumbs on top of that.
  8. Bake in a 350F oven, covered, for 30-35 minutes, then remove the cover, and bake another 10-15 minutes. It's done when it smells done, the sauce bubbles through the topping in a few spots, and the topping gets golden brown.
  1. I was out of mushrooms, so I omitted them this time. I like this dish better with the mushrooms, but it tastes fine either way.
  2. All I had around was 2% milkfat milk, so that's what I used for the sauce, but it doesn't really matter what you have around -- it'll work, as long as you shoot for the right consistency of the sauce. Even skim works.
  3. The reason for the milk/cream sauce being a little on the thin side is that while the casserole bakes, the pasta will absorb more liquid, so the sauce gets thicker by default.
  4. Leftovers reheat really well in a microwave on 40-50% power.

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