Sunday, June 1, 2014

Comfort Food for Lucky Paupers & Loose Fish

Since I've been uh, budgeting, it's been a game to come up with "really good" food on a pauper's budget. I find myself turning again and again to my childhood memories when my mother too was on a tight budget and had to come up with something my stepfather would eat. (Later when they made it in the world, they lived on steak and baked potatoes) Those early meals were comfort food to me, they meant "Mama." That included a lot of yucky things like sandwiches made from Pickle Loaf lunch meat on Wonder bread, but also some economic dishes "of the day" like creamed tuna surrounded by mashed potatoes and peas.

One dish I really did love however was tunafish and noodle casserole. Mama made a pretty basic version: noodles, a can of tuna mixed with a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of peas and some bread crumbs on top. Sounds a little like the mashed potato version above. But it tasted of love to me. What did I know?

This week I decided to try my own version and see if I couldn't put a little pizzazz into the receipe.

I parboiled 1/2 package of wide egg noodles, only half so it wouldn't be overly noodled.
I used 2 flat packs of Yellowfin tuna in olive oil. (taste, taste, taste. Spare me the water packs, puhlease)
I used 1/2 package of frozen peas.
I sauteed 1/2 pint of fresh button mushrooms in a bit of butter, set them aside and added them later to the sauce.

Then I used one can Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup with 1/2 can of Half and Half to make a sauce.
Added a healthy shake of dried tarragon, a healthy dose of red pepper flakes (for a little zing), added the mushrooms, tuna, peas and noodles and dumped into a greased baking dish. Then I covered the top with bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese, dotted with butter and put in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes at 350.

It was yummy! Next time, I think I'll try potato chips on top and maybe add different veggies to the mix. I think it might be good with broccoli or leaf spinach.

Hey, it ain't steak and potatoes, but it tastes pretty darned good!

Oh! Just went to the Web to see what's cooking in other kitchens and here's my casserole at AllRecipes.com but NO canned soup! Made from scratch! (they don't have my pepper flakes or tarragon however) I like the addition of garlic, onions and celery! Next time.

Tuna Noodle Casserole from Scratch

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings: 6
"No canned soup mix in this recipe! Mushrooms, onions, celery, and peas all go into this comfort casserole."

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter, divided
1 (8 ounce) package uncooked medium egg noodles
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste 2 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS: 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter a medium baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.

3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion, celery, and garlic, and cook 5 minutes, until tender. Increase heat to medium-high, and mix in mushrooms. Continue to cook and stir 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan, and whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk, and continue cooking 5 minutes, until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tuna, peas, mushroom mixture, and cooked noodles. Transfer to the baking dish. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small bowl, mix with bread crumbs, and sprinkle over the casserole. Top with cheese.

5. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until bubbly and lightly browned.

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