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.

Bachelor Night 04

From Drop Box

People often get a little confused when they visit San Francisco in July and August. Generally, we have fog but haven’t had any real rain since February. So all the hills are parched and dry, yet it is often quite chilly and kind of damp.

From Drop Box

Any weekend morning usually starts with a walk to the top of Bernal Hill, from which you often has vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, or points South. Well, sometimes, unless it is summer. But there are usually a lot of nice people and dogs up there, so you take what you can get.

Well, I guess I painted myself into this corner. Even Mrs. Flannestad was telling me I had to rent “Sucker Punch” tonight. While it wasn’t super awesome, it was a pretty amazing translation of the action usually associated with a video game into a full length feature. As far as the summer crappy movie fiesta goes, as someone who has spent far too many hours of his adult life playing computer games, I’d put “Sucker Punch” in the middle, just in terms of personal enjoyment. It was sparkly. Strangely still giving Inception the crown, with Sucker Punch second, and Source Code last.

We had some leftover roast chicken from a dinner last night and it seemed like a comfort food kind of night. Chicken Tetrazzini. Make a Bechamel. Saute some vegetables. Boil some pasta. Mix them all together with the boned and diced chicken, cover with bread crumbs and bake until browned. Cocktail was a Hanky Panky. 1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1 1/2 oz Dry Gin with a teaspoon of Fernet Branca built over ice. Lemon twist garnish.

Aside from my little cocktail project, one of my off and on projects has been to attempt to rip a portion of all our CDs to digital format (320kbps mp3, highest quality VBR). I have already finished most of the Jazz and World CDs, but I started on the “Rock” CDs recently. The Missus being away allowed me to spend some serious CD crunching time and I finally finished the first CD rack, as pictured, approximately 720 CDs, from Able Tasmans to fIREHOSE. And I got close to finally finishing the PC game Bioshock. Whee! I may finish it before Bioshock Infinite comes out!

Sometimes Monty has a hard time telling the difference between stuffed animals and dog toys.

Bachelor Night 03

From Drop Box

Of course the way to start some quality Dog Boy weekend time is to take a trip to Fort Funston! Happy Dog, Happy Man!

Then fry some leftover baked potatoes with onions. Fried potatoes, not hard. Why do they suck most of the time in restaurants?

And serve the fried potatoes with leftover hamburgers on a toasted English Muffin.

From Drop Box

Some time passes. What would a Bachelor Afternoon be without a nap? Anyway, dinner for one at Gialina. Roast Chicken Breast with a Panzanella salad and a glass of wine. We’ve been going to Gialina nearly once a week since it opened and it remains about our favorite nearby restaurant.

Somehow ending up in Berkeley of all places, at the Albatross Pub, with friends, recently re-arrived in the Bay Area.

From Drop Box

They do have tasty beer at Albatross Pub, who can complain about Moonlight Brewing‘s Bombay by Boat?

BART back to San Francisco, and another night gone.

I guess “Sucker Punch” will have to wait until tomorrow.

Bachelor Night 02

Second night of the wife’s trip out of town. Usually at this point, I’d probably pull out the Jambalaya, but I was feeling a bit difficult. Like I should make something different. Movie theme seems to be Science Fiction Mind Trip.

Marinated some chicken breast strips with chile powder, garlic, Lemon, and olive oil.

Maybe something like Arroz con Pollo with beans?

But a green rice with a lot of parsley and Marjoram.

And Brown Rice.

The Vieux Carre is one of my favorite elaborate (by my standards) cocktails. 1 oz Rye Whiskey, 1 oz Cognac, 1 oz Sweet Vermouth, a generous teaspoon of Benedictine, dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters and a dash of Angostura Bitters. Twist a lemon zest over the drink and drop in. Built and stirred on the rocks, right? No bachelor drink should involve no more than one vessel.

I dunno, I found Source Code to be less compelling than Inception, even with the annoying presence of Leo di Pooplio in Inception. The ending of Source Code was just chicken shit, happy bullshit. Well, I have high hopes for tomorrow’s installment of the “wife’s out of town dumb movie trilogy”. We’re going for a “Sucker Punch”. I think it will be the best of the three.

Bachelor Night 01

A lot of people have recently been posting Dean Martin’s recipe for “Martin Burgers” on their sites, dug up by Letters of Note:

MARTIN BURGERS

1 lb. ground beef
2 oz. bourbon–chilled

Preheat a heavy frying pan and sprinkle bottom lightly with table salt. Mix meat, handling lightly, just enough to form into four patties. Grill over medium-high heat about 4 minutes on each side.

Pour chilled bourbon in chilled shot glass and serve meat and bourbon on a TV tray.

Well, obviously, we’re in California in the second decade of the 2000s, so we’ll need to mess with that a bit.

Start by slicing some heirloom tomatoes.

Follow your favorite recipe for burgers, mine involves bread crumbs, dry vermouth, spanish paprika, thyme, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. Form your meat into patties. I like dividing a pound of burger meat into 3 patties. Heat a pan or start the grill.

Rent an appropriate movie. Preferably something about which your partner said, “That sounds dumb!” and about which you thought, “Yeah, that does sound kind of dumb, but cool!” I was thinking of Avatar, but it just seemed too woosy, and possibly too dumb, even for me.

Start cooking your burgers.

While they are cooking, add a tablespoon (or to taste) of rich simple syrup to a rocks glass. Squeeze a quarter size piece of orange peel into the syrup and drop into the glass. Add ice. Add 2 oz Bourbon and stir until well chilled.

Toast a bun or English Muffin. Spread one side with mayonnaise and the other with dijon mustard. Put some greens on the mayonnaise side and a slice or two of tomato. On top of this place the cooked burger. Cover top with mustard side, cut and enjoy. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, a baked potato is a nice accompaniment.

Pop in the video and enjoy.