Every now and then when nostalgia sweeps over me, I have the need to resurrect a childhood favorite dish, bringing to it the updated ingredients and skills I’ve learned over the decades.
Such was the case today, the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965, when I sought out the comfort of my mother’s tuna noodle casserole or, as she often called it when served over toast points, “Tuna a la King.”
For starters, I found a fairly sound recipe on Epicurious, but made enough changes to truly make it my own. I tried it out once several months ago and it’s on the menu for tonight:
21st CENTURY TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE
1 medium sweet onion chopped, 2T chopped shallot, 1/4 cup each chopped red bell pepper and celery, 4-1/2 T unsalted butter, 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved if large, and sliced 1/4″ thick, 2t light soy sauce, 1/4 cup Madeira or Marsala, 1/4 cup AP flour, 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup whole milk (or combine low-fat milk with some half & half to enrich it,) 2t lemon juice, 1/4t kosher salt, 2 5-ounce cans Genova tuna in olive oil, drained, 10 ounces imported Italian penne cooked al dente & drained, 1-1/2 cups panko, 4 ounces coarsley grated sharp cheddar, 1T olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 and butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.
In 12″ heavy skillet, sauté onion, shallot, red bell pepper and celery over moderately low heat in 1-1/2T butter with a pinch of salt until softened, about 5 minutes. Raise hit to medium high and add mushrooms, satueeing another 2 minutes or so until they begin to give off liquid. Add soy sauce and continue to sauté until liquid is evaporated. Add the Madeira or Marsala and reduce until evaporated. Remove pan from heat
Melt remaining butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour. Cook the roux, whisking, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth as you continue to whisk, bringing to a boil. Whisk in the milk and simmer, whisking occasionaly, about 5 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice, salt and the tuna and stir gently. Season sauce to taste with S&P.
Add the drained penne to sauce mixtureand stir gently to combine. Transfer to baking dish, spreading out evenly. Toss grated cheese and panko together and sprinkle evenly over the casserole. Drizzle with the olive oil. Bake about 25 minutes on convect, until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling.