In response to the requests for the recipe I used for the meal at the Catholic Worker House earlier this week I wrote this one up. I don’t normally work from recipes… I’m an experimental cook (unless I’m baking cakes… too much relies on the proper chemistry for baking cakes). For the large meal I tripled this recipe, adding extra mushrooms and tuna since it was on hand (thanks everyone who bought ingredients for the meal). Feel free to up the amounts of those when you make this recipe too.

Monta

For this recipe you can use either tuna that has been canned in oil or in spring water (or if you really want to up the ante, tuna steaks*). Drain the tuna and save the liquids for the bechamel (sauce).

Printable recipe (2-page PDF)
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Sauté the Mushrooms

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4) stick) butter + oil from Tuna, if using Tuna canned in Oil
  • 1 lb mushrooms

Thickly slice the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned. Strain the mushrooms and put them in your casserole pan, saving drippings for the bechamel.

Make the Bechamel

  • Drippings from cooking the mushrooms (if scant, add olive oil or melted butter to make ¾ – 1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth + 2 1/2 cups heavy cream + water from Tuna, if using Tuna canned in Spring Water
    OR
    5 cups of milk of some sort + water from Tuna, if using Tuna canned in Spring Water
  • OPTIONAL: Minced garlic to taste**

In a small mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, and pepper.

In a separate 2 qt or larger saucepan, heat the milk/broth/tuna water on low heat to a near boil. This will speed up the process of thickening the bechamel. Be careful not to boil or scorch the milk.

The Roux

In a large heavy skillet (heavier skillets help prevent scorching the roux), add the drippings (and extra butter or olive oil if necessary), and heat until bubbly.

Whisk in the flour/salt/pepper. Continually stir/whisk this mixture until all the flour has been incorporated with the drippings. Initially, the mixture will be similar to a streusel crumb topping, keep stirring it and if it remains crumbly, gradually add more olive oil or melted butter until the mixture is more like a paste.

Continually stir the roux for a few minutes. This roux is only cooked for a short time, unlike a roux for gumbo or shrimp étouffée which can be cooked for 20 to 30 minutes or even longer. Note that the longer you cook the roux, the less thickening power it has.

BTW, that whisk is my favorite. It’s great for getting into all the edges and corners of what I’m mixing.

Turn the heat off under the roux so that you don’t have too much going on at once. Slowly pour half of the heated milk mixture into the roux and keep stirring until any clumps are smoothed out. It will be very thick. Cooking the flour into a roux helps prevent invincible lumps, unlike mixing liquids and flour cold.

Pour this thick sauce into the remaining heated milk in the large saucepan. Stirring continually, simmer over medium heat until the bechamel is thick and bubbly. You will know at this point how thick the bechamel will be, for the most part – you could cook it down a bit to thicken it, but for this casserole, it isn’t necessary unless the bechamel is way too thin.

Pour this thick sauce into the remaining heated milk in the large saucepan. Stirring continually, simmer over medium heat until the bechamel is thick and bubbly. You will know at this point how thick the bechamel will be, for the most part – you could cook it down a bit to thicken it, but for this casserole, it isn’t necessary unless the bechamel is way too thin.

Assemble the Casserole

  • 1 lb. package of noodles of choice

I used Carba-nada noodles because we are a low-carb household these days. They actually turned out really good. And they help you not eat so much pasta since they are so fucking expensive!

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Don’t overcook them or you will end up with tuna mush instead of tuna casserole… which would still taste great, but be weird… You want the noodles to be at an al dente stage – tender, but firm to the bite.

While the noodles cook put the peas and tuna in a 9 x 13″ casserole pan, or the equivalent.

  • 1 10 oz. package of frozen peas (heat them if you are going to eat the casserole immediately)
  • 2-4 cans of tuna, drained

Drain and place the noodles in your casserole pan with the peas and tuna.

Pour the bechamel over them and gently stir until everything is coated with sauce. If your casserole is too dry, you can add a bit more milk and stir some more.

If you like, you can top the casserole with breadcrumbs and bake in a 325-degree oven until the crumbs are browned. If you do this, I recommend mixing an additional cup of milk into the casserole, even if your casserole is not overly dry. Baking it will cause the noodles to absorb the sauce quite a bit.

*    if using tuna steaks, you will want to cook them until they are fully cooked by not dry. Retain the drippings and add them when making the roux. Crumble them into small, bite-sized pieces.

**    I didn’t specify the amount for the garlic since we LOVE garlic (as in I used heaping ¼ cup of it here) and you might not. And yes, I use the huge jars of minced garlic… we eat way too much of it to deal with mincing it ourselves. If garlic is not your favorite thing, you can leave it out entirely and your casserole will still be amazing.

Resources:

Cunningham, Marion. “White Sauce or Bechamel Sauce.” White Sauce or Bechamel Sauce  | Epicurious, September 1996, www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/white-sauce-or-bechamel-sauce-40046.

Gritzer, Daniel. “A Brief Guide to Roux.” A Brief Guide to Roux | Serious Eats, Serious Eats, 6 November 2019, www.seriouseats.com/2018/05/a-shrimp-etouffee-youll-happily-be-smothered-in.html.

Gritzer, Daniel. “How to Make Shrimp Étouffée.” How to Make Shrimp Étouffée | Serious Eats, Serious Eats, 6 May 2019, www.seriouseats.com/2018/05/a-shrimp-etouffee-youll-happily-be-smothered-in.html.

Gritzer, Daniel. “White Sauce Can’t Clump: How to Make Smooth, Silky Béchamel, .” White Sauce Can’t Clump: How to Make Smooth, Silky Béchamel | Serious Eats, 1 November 2019, https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/how-to-make-bechamel-sauce.html.

Moss, Robert. “The Real Story of Gumbo, Okra, and Filé,” The Real Story of Gumbo, Okra, and Filé | Serious Eats, 11 September 2014, www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/history-new-orleans-gumbo-okra-file-powder.html.

Rombauer, Irma S., et. al., Joy of cooking. New York : Scribner, 1997.