COMFORT FOOD: Tuna noodle casserole can help relieve stressTuna casserole can’t hold a candle to, say, chocolate, but does rank high on my list of comfort foods.
By: Kerry McCray, McClatchy Newspapers
Tuna casserole can’t hold a candle to, say, chocolate, but does rank high on my list of comfort foods.
If I were one to sit around and think about these things — and I am — I’d say it comes in at No. 3, just behind mashed potatoes and a Hershey bar with almonds.
I chose tuna casserole for several reasons:
It’s cozy and homey. There’s something about cream sauce that makes me think of Mom.
I’m stressed. Who isn’t? The economy . . . the kids . . . the job. Bring on the cream sauce.
I was under the mistaken impression my children would eat it. They love tuna, they love noodles, they love cream sauce. How could they not love tuna casserole?
Because 4- and 6-year-olds don’t like combined foods, that’s why. Four- and 6-year-olds often don’t like foods that touch one another, or foods that are in close proximity to one another, or foods that share the same universe.
I know this from experience, but I still wanted to try the casserole.
Shopping was easy. My grocery store had all the ingredients, including the tuna packed in olive oil. (Why is this necessary? I’m sure my mom never used this fancy stuff when she mixed up her version).
Making the dish was tedious. The recipe called for making a sherry-spiked cream sauce — from scratch. (Again, I’m sure Mom never did this). Then, there were the homemade bread crumbs and the pasta. By the time the dish made it to the oven, the sink was overflowing with pots, bowls — even the blender - waiting to be washed.
When it was finally done - and I mean finally — my masterpiece looked like a run-of-the-mill casserole. There was no indication that I spent much of the evening slaving over it (other than the state of the kitchen, that is).
The taste? Pretty good, although I expected much more creamy goodness for the amount of work that went into it. It seemed a bit dry and didn’t have much of the sherry-mushroom flavor I was hoping for.
The kids? They wouldn’t try it.
Note to self: Always separate food before serving.
Or skip the main dish and go directly to chocolate.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4½ tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick (4 cups)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 6-ounce can tuna in olive oil, drained
6 ounces dried curly egg noodles (Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3¼ cups)
1½ cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices white bread)
4 ounces coarsely grated Cheddar cheese (1 cup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in 1½ tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then saute until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about two minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to saute until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, three minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, five minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Cook noodles until al dente. Drain noodles and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish, spreading evenly.
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: Serves 4 to 6.