Thursday, November 05, 2009

Touching Up My Roots: Tuna Casserole

What to do with all those mushrooms I collected on my trip to the mountain, especially since they really don't last long in the refrigerator and needed to be dealt with quickly? After sautéing a few for snacking on while I cleaned the rest, I took Michael Ruhlman's advice and loaded them in a roasting pan, drizzled them with a tiny bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and put them in the oven to roast.

What came out was a pan full of deep golden mushrooms swimming in a broth of the liquid that had seeped out of them (top photo). Realizing that chanterelle broth was probably not readily available on the shelf at the store, I drained off the liquid, chopped up the mushrooms and bagged them for storing in the freezer.

I had a cup or so of mushrooms left over and pondered the best and highest use of this treasure, this wonder from the wilds. And that's when it hit me. A dish from my childhood, something comforting and full of personal meaning.

The solution.

"Tuna noodle casserole!" I crowed. I've mentioned my love of that 50s-era "convenience" food before, the one my mother made practically every Friday night of my childhood, right?

But mine wasn't going to be a casserole made from a processed cream-like substance with little brown bits floating around in it and with shreds of big brand, mercury-laced chunk light tuna, no sir. I'd make the cream sauce from the roasted mushroom broth and those golden mushrooms and with a tin of low-mercury, line-caught and Monterey Bay Aquarium-approved Oregon albacore. And, since I know you'll ask, no, there were no Kettle salt'n'pepper potato chips crumbled on top—I wasn't brought up that lucky!

Chanterelle and Oregon Albacore Casserole

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 c. milk or cream or a combination of both
1 c. mushroom stock, preferably from the roasted chanterelles, below
1 c. (approx.) roasted chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 6-oz. can Oregon albacore tuna (drain and reserve juice)
1 lb. dried pasta

Heat oven to 350°.

Put pot of water for pasta on to boil. Meanwhile, melt butter in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in flour until thoroughly combined. Replace on medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until raw taste of flour is gone. Add milk and continue stirring until sauce thickens. Add mushroom stock, mushrooms and reserved juice from tuna and heat. (Because most Oregon albacore is packed fresh then cooked, the juice in the tin is from the tuna itself. If using albacore packed in water or oil, do not add to sauce.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove sauce from heat, stir in chunked albacore.

When pot of water boils, add pasta and cook till al dente. Drain. Mix pasta and sauce and pour into casserole (add crumbled potato chips if you must). Bake 30 min. until top is browned.

Note: After adding the mushrooms and mushroom broth to the sauce (but before adding tuna juice or tuna), you basically have a mushroom soup. Add salt and pepper to taste and call it dinner.

No comments: