Monday, May 31, 2010

Tuna Noodle Casserole

This ain't your momma's tuna noodle casserole. You won't find a can of Campbell's cream-of-something in the ingredient list. To jive up the standard tuna casserole, a little dill is added. To replace the usual yellow onion and celery, leeks are called up from the minors. It is springtime, after all, and you should be shoveling down fresh leeks, green garlic, rhubarb, asparagus, and all of spring's offerings with reckless abandon. Or at least often, if you don't like being reckless.

The one familiar approach? The potato chip topping. There are some things you just don't change.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
6 servings

1/2 stick butter
2.5 C leeks, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only(bout 2 leeks worth)
1/4 C AP flour
2 C milk, whole preferred
1/2 C half&half
1 t lemon juice, fresh of course
8 oz wide egg noodle
1/2 C Gruyere, freshly grated
2 TB dill, freshly chopped
10-12 oz tuna, preferably albacore, drained and forked over
2 C potato chips, crushed

Butter an 8X8X2" glass baking dish, or something similar. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the leeks, season with S&P. Cover and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring often, until tender but not to the point of browning. Add the flour and stir for 90 seconds, then gradually add the milk and half and half. I always like to have the liquid portion of a bechamel slightly warmed, never brought to a boil though. Cook until slightly thickened, stirring often for about 6 minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir, then taste and adjust seasoning with S&P. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.

Cook the egg noodles until al dente in well-salted water. Drain and reserve 1/2 C of the cooking liquid. In a large pot or bowl, combine the noodles and the reserved liquid, sauce, dill, tuna and cheese. Fold to combine ingredients, then transfer to baking dish and spread evenly. Top with crushed potato chips.

Fire up the hotbox to tree-seven-five. Bake the casserole covered with foil for 22 minutes, then for another ten uncovered, until all nice and bubbly and golden brown. You may also fire on the broiler for a couple minutes too, but watch carefully so you don't burn the topping.

Resist temptation to cut into this for about 8-10 minutes once out of the oven. Then, you may dive in and enjoy. Your childhood tuna noodle casserole, slightly modern with leeks and dill.

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