Bon Appétit (March 2010)
One of the great things about writing The Bitten Word is that we're often encouraged to select items from food magazines that we wouldn't otherwise make.
Case in point: Tuna Noodle Casserole.
You see, we're not really casserole people. We never make them. Perhaps it's the way they remind us of lackluster potluck dinners of our Southern youths. Or perhaps it's memories of making bad ones ourselves in our childhood forays into cooking.
Or should we say, we weren't really casserole people. Bon Appétit's upscale take on this dish may have just converted us.
This recipe is part of a feature of updated takes on one-dish dinners, including Beef Stroganoff, Eggplant Parmesan, and Tamale Pie. But we went straight for the Tuna Noodle Casserole. Off all these dishes, it seems to us that this casserole might be the most difficult to "class up."
And believe us when we say that that the Eliza Doolittle-fication of this dish is a huge success.
There's no cream-of-mushroom to be found in this dish. Instead, a combination of milk and half and half is flavored with sauteed leeks, Gruyère and dill. And regular tuna in water is replaced with tuna in olive oil (which is surprisingly difficult to find these days in supermarkets -- perhaps stores are having a difficult time keeping it in stock?).
But don't worry -- the egg noodles are still here, and crushed potato chips sprinkled on top give the casserole a nice crunch.
We loved this casserole and we'd make it again in heartbeat. We might even serve it to guests. But most likely, we'll make it when it's just us at home one evening. We'll have some for dinner, and then just before we do the dishes, we'll stand over the casserole dish with forks, having seconds, and then thirds, while raving about how tasty the whole thing is -- and about how maybe it's a good thing we never make casseroles...
Tuna Noodle Casserole with Leeks and Fresh Dill
(This photo: Bon Appétit)
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; from about 2 large)
• 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
• Coarse kosher salt
• 1/4 cup all purpose flour
• 2 cups whole milk
• 1/2 cup half and half
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 8 ounces wide egg noodles
• 1/2 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
• 2 5- to 6-ounce cans albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained, broken into 1/2-inch chunks
• 2 cups coarsely crushed salted potato chips (about 2 ounces)
• Butter 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Melt unsalted butter in
heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and celery seeds to
saucepan; sprinkle lightly with coarse kosher salt. Cover saucepan and
cook until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring often, about 8
minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk and half and
half; simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring often, about 5
minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Season leek sauce to taste with coarse
kosher salt and pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
• Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in large pot of boiling salted
water until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain noodles, reserving 3/4
cup noodle cooking liquid. Transfer noodles to large bowl. Pour leek
sauce over noodles. Add grated Gruyère cheese and dill and stir to
blend; add reserved noodle cooking liquid by tablespoons until mixture
is moist and creamy (about 8 tablespoons). Fold in tuna. Transfer to
prepared baking dish. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly.
Chill uncovered until cold, then cover with foil and keep refrigerated.
• Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake noodle casserole, covered with
foil, until heated through, about 20 minutes if freshly made or 30
minutes if chilled. Remove foil. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over and
continue to bake, uncovered, until top is golden brown and filling
bubbles, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.