Packing the house my parents have lived in for 20 years has unearthed some interesting things. Among them two enormous cans of tuna, purchased in preparation for the then-impending SARS pandemic three years ago. We have come to refer to them as the SARS Tuna in the Basement. I’m talking about those cans so big you could use one as a stool or a bass drum or something. We opened one up about a year ago and it fed all of our respective families for about a week. So a few days ago when we were all there packing, we opened another up and made sandwiches. The plan was to turn the rest into antipasto, but it was like a bunch of clowns in a Volkswagen – it kept coming out, more and more, and I ended up with a 1L yogurt container of it too.
So I went ahead and made a real-life tuna noodle casserole. I was going to do the tinned mushroom soup thing, but ended up morphing recipes from Epicurious and Joy of Cooking; serendipitously my parents just unloaded two half-full bottles of sherry on me as well. (Generally the only thing I use sherry for is mushroom soup, and this isn’t too far off.)
Tuna Noodle Casserole
You’ll need 3 cups of liquid for this quantity, but it doesn’t matter how much of it is milk, or stock, or anything else you like. In fact, you could reduce the flour to about a tablespoon and add a tin of mushroom soup and another tin and a half of milk, if you want to do the tinned soup thing.
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil (or the drained oil from your tuna)
1-2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cups sliced mushrooms
salt & pepper
2-4 Tbsp. sherry
1/4 cup flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk
3 cups curly wide egg noodles
1-2 cans tuna in water, broth or oil, drained
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (I whizzed 3 small slices of whole wheat bread)
1 cup grated old cheddar
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F and butter a shallow baking dish.
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes, until soft. Add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they give off their liquid. Add the sherry and cook until most of the liquid has cooked off.
Add the flour and stir until the mushrooms are well coated (this will help prevent lumps); add the stock and milk and stir (or whisk) until it bubbles, then once it is boiling cook for a full minute, to reach the flour’s full thickening potential.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a big pot of water. Drain them and put them into the bottom of the baking dish. Stir the tuna into the mushroom sauce and pour it overtop.
Toss together (or pulse in the food processor) the bread crumbs and cheeses and sprinkle them evenly over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden, crisp and bubbly. Serves 6.
I made two, actually, since I had the tuna for it; the second is to give away to an unsuspecting person tomorrow. Tomorrow would have been my friend R’s 37th birthday, and her (twin) sister requested that we all spread some kindness in her memory. Random acts, she said; I understand that baking a casserole is not exactly random, but I don’t think she’ll mind premeditated acts of kindness. She loves the thought of people all over the world doing nice things for others in her memory. Because what else is there to do? (One friend, who is in Vegas, promised to find a platform/perch/sidewalk corner and sing “Feeling Groovy” as loud and as joyful as she could. I wish I could do this, but I’m afraid that a: I wouldn’t have the guts, and b: me singing in public would be more a random act of violence than of kindness.)
The idea reminds me of a 10 year old girl named Laura who around the same time last year launched a project called Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference in memory of her Grandpa, who (also) died of brain cancer.
So if the opportunity to do a little (or big) something nice for someone tomorrow presents itself, do it, and pass it on.