Monday, July 5, 2010 at 6 p.m.
This week's challenge on Monday Night Martha: Tuna Casserole.
We are pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees (when it's 104 degrees outside) to answer the question: is it possible to make tuna casserole taste fresh and good?
The words "tuna casserole", probably conjure up the memory of a dish comprised of egg noodles, canned tuna fish, and cream of something soup (cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, or possibly cream of celery). The dish may be topped with crushed potato chips or canned fried onions. It is a potluck special most notable because it is possible to prepare using absolutely no fresh ingredients. It's a dish as familiar as an elderly relative's sloppy kiss on the cheek.
This is not exactly what we're after today. Can Martha lead us to a more dignified Tuna Casserole? One where a fresh ingredient is welcome?
While the recipe does call for canned tuna, (Martha recommends using, "best-quality tuna that's packed in olive oil") there is not a can of creamed soup in sight. Also the recipe calls for fresh ingredients like red bell peppers, scallions, and grated Parmesan.
We'd be a bit more skeptical, but people rave about it on Martha's website. If it's good enough for them, we decide, we'll give it a fair try.
To make, lightly grease baking dishes and cook egg noodles in pot of boiling, salted water until 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile in a heavy pot heat 1/3 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add two thinly sliced red bell peppers, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender. Then add ½ cup of flour and stir to coat peppers for about a minute. Gradually add five cups milk, stirring occasionally until mixture starts to bubble slightly and simmer. Remove from heat and pour mixture over noodles in pot. Add to mixture tuna, artichoke hearts, and scallions. Divide between prepared baking dishes and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden about 20-25 minutes.
The casserole was savory and gooey, and filling on it's own. It falls in the category of comfort food, needing only a small salad or greens on the side. If anything we would recommend adding more fresh ingredients - maybe some sautéed onion or mushrooms. Perhaps tuna casserole can be redeemed, after all. Everyone had seconds.
Bonus: this recipe makes enough casserole to fill two 8-inch square baking dishes. So we'll freeze one of the baking dishes for later. Isn't that the whole point of casserole in the first place?