Tuna Casserole

Now that Macaroni and Cheese area has been thoroughly gentrified, maybe it’s time to start colonizing some of the other neighborhoods of my Midwestern childhood.

It’s fine enough, when you hear a chef talk about their youth in the bucolic countryside of Austria, or how they had their Oyster epiphany visiting family in Brittany.

Yeah, it’s fine, whatever, if you’ve earned what you do. But sometimes I wonder, how could you not? You’re not even having to try, basically just waking up with a pedigree which includes the best food in the world.

But can you make a decent Casserole? How is your “dish to pass”?

Tuna Casserole

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 Pound Pasta

1/2 onion, chopped
8 Mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil or butter

2 TBSP Butter
3 TBSP Flour
1 Cup Warm Milk
1 Cup Warm Chicken Stock
Nutmeg
Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

1 Can Tuna, preferably Italian
Frozen Peas
Spinach, roughly chopped
Fresh Thyme
Bread Crumbs (Or to be more authentic, crushed potato chips)

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Put on water to boil your pasta. Slightly undercook, drain. Saute the mushrooms until they have given up their moisture. Add chopped onions to pan and cook until tender. Deglaze with dry white wine or Dry Vermouth and reserve. In a sauce pan, melt the butter. When it is melted and the water cooked off, add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook until it smells of toasty bread. Stir milk and chicken stock into roux, a little at a time at first so it doesn’t clump. Bring liquid to a near simmer, it should thicken nicely. Grate nutmeg into sauce and check the salt level, it will probably need quite a bit. Combine all ingredients, except bread crumbs in oven proof dish (Or pasta pan, if it is oven proof. One less pan to wash.) Top with bread crumbs and cook until it is bubbling and the bread crumbs are toasted.

Enjoy with the not too fancy beverage of your choice.

Not that I can really complain, I had a great upbringing, it’s just that the foods which were awesome in my youth still aren’t really enshrined as shining examples of world cuisine. For example, pies, cookies, and doughnuts. My grandmother was a great cook, a fantastic cookie baker, but not much for recipes. I’ve never had cookies, fry cakes, or pie crusts as good as hers were. I think those tantalizing treats are probably lost forever. Though, I just about started weeping when they served a Krumkake with our dessert recently at Bar Tartine. Even the fantastic t-bone steaks my Dad would grill in the summer. Oh, though, the best example were the strangely named “Corn Boils”. Sweet Corn fresh from the field, soaked briefly in salt water, and grilled over hardwood. Every time I smell the sweet smell of burning corn leaves, it takes me back to those hot Summer nights in Wisconsin.

I know envy is embarrassing, and I shouldn’t be grumpy or jealous of others’ experiences.

I have mine, and they’ve made me who I am. Given me the taste for the food and drinks that I have and allowed me the chance and ability to sometimes share it with others. And, no, I don’t really want to pay $24 for a fancy version of Tuna Casserole. Thanks, but no.

Tipping Hints

“A bartender gave me some free stuff. Was I a douche for not tipping?”

Well, first off, you’re not a douche. Being a “Douche” is a binary thing, you either are, or you aren’t. The fact that you are feeling guilty and even wondering about not tipping, indicates to me that you are probably not a douche. If you were a douche, you would feel perfectly comfortable and deserving of every free thing that came your way.

However, you should have tipped. One thing someone said to me once, which has always stuck in my mind, “If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to drink.” I know you had some excuse about only having a credit card and not getting a bill. The thing to do, in that case, is to ask the bartender, “Could you charge me for something, so I can leave a tip?” Most likely the person will waive you away and tell you to, “get me next time,” but at least they know you weren’t stiffing them. In any case, even if you did forget, you’re not a douche, and there was drinking involved, so likely they’ll figure it will all come out in the wash eventually.

Some handy reading…

10 Rules of Drinking Like a Man #6 Use Cash, the Etiquette of Dollars

Ask Your Bartener: Buybacks

At all the places I’ve worked, a certain amount of free drinks or discounts are allowed (and accounted for) per shift, at the bartender’s, or manager’s, discretion. Further confounding the individual joys and benefits of “buybacks”, everywhere I’ve worked is a pooled house. That is, everyone working receives a certain amount of shares of the night’s tips, including waiters, bus boys, and naturally, bar backs.

As a customer, the rule you should go by, is: You must tip on the full value of services or products received, end of story.

How much?

The phenomenon of celebrity and star bartenders aside, in California, bartending is a minimum wage service job, Period. Very few benefits, no paid vacation days, and no sick days. You were wondering why so many of your favorite bartenders quit the job for “Brand Rep”, management, or consulting gigs as soon as they accumulated enough credibility? The only way for bartenders (and waiters) to make any sort of decent money is through tips.

In my opinion, you should apply the exact same criteria to tipping bartenders, as you do towards waiters. 15-30% of the total goods and services received, based on your feeling about the quality of service and the drinks received. Anything less, unless you are really trying to make a statement, is kind of cheap. Anything more, and we kind of feel like you’re trying to buy our attentions. Though, sometimes, when a huge credit card bill is looming, I don’t mind feeling bought…

And as regards credit or debit cards, yes, small businesses pay fairly hefty fees on each credit or debit transaction, so if you truly want to support the bar or small business, and give them 100% of the dollars you spend, pay in cash. Do you really want to give Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or Chase any more of your money than you already are? Are you concerned about your favorite bar going out of business or your favorite bank? I think the Fed has your bank’s back, it’s up to you to support the restaurant or bar. However, if the only way you’re going to go out, is if you use a card, then, please, by all means, pay and tip with the card.

I hope this helps!