Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One Last Winter Casserole

Spring brings with it an opportunity to break out of our winter shells, both literally and figuratively.  Put away the goose down coats, roll up the extra blankets and open the windows as mother nature lets out a big yawn and breaks from her winter slumber.  Maybe I should rephrase that... she definitely wasn't sleeping in our neck of the woods given that we spent the better part of the winter buried under snow.  Maybe I should say that Mother Nature breaks out of her cranky winter mood and lightens things up a bit.  In the past 10 days or so of warmer weather and longer days of sunlight, I have even managed to break out of my cranky winter mood.  The sun has never felt so good!  I have also  managed to completely clean out and reorganize my closet.  Oh myDouble oh my.  As I do each year, I try on my clothes and get increasingly excited for tank tops and open toed shoes.  I realize that sounds borderline crazy but it serves a practical purpose (tell me there are others of you out there that do this!).  It helps me determine just how much shopping I need to do this spring.  Turns out I need to do... a lot.  I guess all that time I spent feeding my face this winter caught up to me!  I spent more time lying on my bed tugging up the zipper with all my strength than I did posing in front of my mirror putting together future "cute" outfits.  It appears as though I need to spend more time reading The Healthy Apron to revamp my weekly menu in the coming weeks.  The good news is that spring vegetables aren't as heavy as winter potatoes and squash.  I'm looking forward to the arrival of artichokes and asparagus!

While the logical type of recipe to attach to this post would be a light and healthy something-or-other that I cooked right after realizing I "porked up" this winter, I am ashamed to admit that I am doing just the opposite.  This little piggy (oink, oink) is instead sharing a Bon Appetit recipe from this months issue.  It's my last indulgence of the cold weather season before I pack up the heavy sauces and hearty, aromatic staples of winter cuisine and "spring" into the lighter and brigher.  It seems Bon Appetit was doing a little revamping themselves- taking classic casseroles and giving them a new look and, more than likely, a better taste.  I don't much recall eating tuna casserole in my early days.  It wasn't even something my college roommates and I ate.  The name tuna casserole makes me scrunch up my nose as though it's the most unappealing thing out there.  I love tuna.  I love casseroles.  However, putting them together never did much to turn me on.  Wouldn't you know it, though, Bon Appetit made it seem very appetizing- enough so that we decided to give the recipe a whirl.  Instead of using a can of gelatinous soup and mixing it with chunk light tuna packed in water, this recipe calls for a roux and oil packed tuna.  It even uses fresh herbs!  (Little secret: I am fascinated with making roux.  There's just something about the way it comes together that makes me all smiles).  The final result was actually very tasty.  I especially liked that it was topped with crunchy potato chips!

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Leeks and Fresh Dill (Bon Appetit, March 2010)


  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; from about 2 large)
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 8 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 5- to 6-ounce cans albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained, broken into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed salted potato chips (about 2 ounces)
Butter 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Melt unsalted butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and celery seeds to saucepan; sprinkle lightly with coarse kosher salt. Cover saucepan and cook until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk and half and half; simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Season leek sauce to taste with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Remove sauce from heat.

Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain noodles, reserving 3/4 cup noodle cooking liquid. Transfer noodles to large bowl. Pour leek sauce over noodles. Add grated Gruyère cheese and dill and stir to blend; add reserved noodle cooking liquid by tablespoons until mixture is moist and creamy (about 8 tablespoons). Fold in tuna. Transfer to prepared baking dish. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover with foil and keep refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake noodle casserole, covered with foil, until heated through, about 20 minutes if freshly made or 30 minutes if chilled. Remove foil. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over and continue to bake, uncovered, until top is golden brown and filling bubbles, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.

Now bring on the healthy dishes!!  :)


Travel Eat Love said...

There will be plenty of time for lots of fresh spring and summer produce and long times spent active outside! Looks like a lovely, comforting, and delicious casserole :)

Nicole said...

Good idea! I've been wanting a good recipe for tuna casserole because I have always been turned off to it in the past, but now I definitely want to try this. Leeks are a great addition I think!

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