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back in the day.

November 15, 2012

yesterday i was leafing through some old food magazines & found this bon appetit recipe for a delicious sounding retro-yet-revised tuna noodle casserole with gruyere & dill.  tuna casserole was not on the menu in the house when i was growing up – my mother is dutch & i don’t remember can opening as part of her dinner repertoire.   i do remember trying to convince her to please, please, oh please  make me a white bread sandwich with bologna & yellow mustard.  what i got was braunschweiger with seedy mustard on dense multi-grain slices.  but because of those euro sensibilities on one side & southern black on the other, i had an adventurous palate; think escargots, oysters & really stinky cheese, nose-to-tail eating that included the nose & tail – at a young age.  i am still an adventurous eater but i really love the basics done well – a perfect roast chicken, earthy stews, chopped salads…  so though i don’t have an original with which to compare, this creamy, crunchy-topped casserole was a hit.

it really tastes much better than this photo looks. really.

tuna noodle casserole with leeks & dill (serves 6)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks
1/4 tsp celery seeds
coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup half & half
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
8 ounces wide egg noodles
1/2 cup coarsely grated gruyere cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 T chopped fresh dill*
2 5 – 6 ounce cans albacore tuna, preferably packed in oil, drained**
2 cups crushed salted potato chips (about 2 ounces)

preheat oven to 375 degrees.  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.

can be made 1 day ahead.  cool slightly.  chill uncovered until cold, then cover with foil and keep refrigerated.   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.

*if you do not have fresh dill do not substitute dried –  instead use fresh parsley
**my go-to tuna is trader joe’s albacore packed in oil because it isn’t mushy like some brands are – fold it in gently so there are nice chunks of fish throughout

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mamma permalink
    November 15, 2012 4:37 am

    Tuna casserole will never be a favorite of mine, but I have to admit that this version is really good in spite of the canned ingredient and….hard to believe, potato chips???

  2. flyingmermaidemily permalink
    November 15, 2012 4:30 pm

    Since I won’t be eating this, I’ll have to just talk, about, for instance, another, related, All American mainstay that requires opening a can of tuna– the tuna melt. The long ago memory of eating ANY canned tuna reminds me of something I may have never told you. Did you know my mother invited the teachers (mine and David’s, together) home to lunch one day each year, up to Junior High? And every single time she served tuna melt.

    Yes, you said “schmaltz” in your previous post, but in early 60’s suburban NJ, Naomi definitely played the WASP card for the stinkin old biddies.

    I’m still trying to survive your having said “Gruyere” in this post, since I’ve been trying to find a raw, preferably goat, version of that favorite for years…..

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