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 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 Dinner, July 23, 2010

Bachelor Dinner.

Boy, I haven’t posted a Bachelor dinner for a while!

But all the recent bachelor dinners have been Jambalaya. There’s only so many times I can post that recipe.

Recently we were visiting family in Wisconsin, and I was called upon to make Guacamole.

When I was doing that, I was reminded I haven’t made any Mexican dishes for ages.

Horror!

So for this Bachelor Dinner, I decided to dig waaaaay back into my past, and make chicken in a tomatillo sauce.  And by way back, we’re talking nearly prehistoric, late-1980s, when I first discovered Diana Kennedy’s “Art of Mexican Cooking”.  I probably made this as a dinner special when I was working as a manager at Pasqual’s in Madison, Wisconsin.

This dish, with its sweet-sour, spicy sauce, when served with corn tortillas and garnished with feta cheese and cilantro is truly one of my favorite flavor combinations. Hard to beat, and the leftovers, (should there be any,) make great enchiladas.

Chicken in a Tomatillo Sauce with Chipotle Peppers

Ingredients:
8 Pieces Chicken Leg and/or Thighs (you could also use chicken breasts, but why would you?)
2 TBSP Olive (or other) oil
1 Pound Tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 can Chipotle en Adobo
3 Cloves Garlic
1/2 White Onion, halved
2 TBSP Pepitas (hulled Pumpkin seeds) toasted and ground
Chicken Stock (maybe)
Honey or Sugar (maybe)
Salt
Cilantro, Picked and Chopped
Feta Cheese (or queso blanco)
Corn Tortillas

Method:
You can go two ways with the Tomatillos. Either poach them or roast them. If you are a traditionalist, a la Diana Kennedy, you will probably poach them. If you are a modern cook, a la Rick Bayless, you will probably roast them. Either way, you want them to be poached or roasted until they feel like little water balloons. They will probably not all reach this state at the same time, so remove them carefully from the water or oven as they cook, and add them to a blender or food processor. If you let them go too long, they will split.  Not horrible, but you’re either losing flavor into your poaching liquid or messing up your roasting pan.  No disrespect to Ms. Kennedy, I roasted them in a pre-heated cast iron pan.

If you are roasting, also include your garlic and onion in the pan. Turn as you do the tomatillos, and remove last after all the tomatillos are cooked through. Add the onion to the blender. Peel the garlic and add it to the blender. Open the can of Chiles en Adobo and grab 3-6, depending on your preference for Spiciness. Chop them roughly and add them to the blender. Add the Ground Pumpkin seeds. Pulse until well pureed. You may need to add chicken stock, if it is particularly dry (unlikely).

While the vegetables are cooking start another straight sided saute pan over medium heat. When it is hot, add the oil. Brown the Chicken on all sides and remove from the pan. Turn off the heat, but leave the oil in the pan. (It should be noted, that in traditional Mexican cooking, with its lack of oil and appropriate cookware, you would not brown the chicken.)

If your saute pan has cooled, turn the heat back on and pour the tomatillo sauce into the pan. Heat briefly and check the seasonings. If it is too tart, add some sweetener. You will need to add a fair bit of salt, as the sauce up to this point is only vegetables. Add chicken to sauce, cover, and cook at a low heat until done, turning the chicken from time to time.

When chicken is done, remove from sauce and place in warmed serving bowl. Turn the heat on the sauce up to high and reduce until the liquid level is similar to apple juice. Pour over Chicken. Garnish with Cilantro and crumbled Feta Cheese. Serve with Corn Tortillas and a side dish.

Serves 4 with a side dish.

Bachelor Dinner.