Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Origin Recipes, Part One: Tuna Casserole.

The cover of this month's Bon Appetit advertises tuna casserole, eggplant parmesan, & chicken curry, which happen to be the first three important things that I learned to cook, & that taught me to love to cook. Looking at the cover, I started thinking, y'know, in the vein of food memories...& why Bon Appetit knows me so well, & what it all means...
To start, we go way back, way way back, to like me at ten or eleven, playing with the kitchen, with...Tuna Casserole...
Begin with a classic roux, butter & flour, then add 1/2 & 1/2 & white wine for a cream sauce. I also add chopped garlic at this stage.
(yes, you made already have noticed this is definitely a different version then the white trash classic, but's that why this is so good, do with it what you like).
To the sauce, add grated emmenthaler swiss cheese (my preference), frozen peas, chopped roma tomatoes, & a can of solid white tuna. Do that cool thing with melted butter & some crushed saltines or ritz crackers (the best way to go). Drain noodles (I generally choice elbows or shells but this time it was pappardelle).
NOTE: like any great recipe, this one lends itself perfectly to variations. Add whatever the hell cheese, veggies, crackers...etc, that you like. Don't even add tuna. See if I care. But be warned, my mom once added chopped canned clams instead of tuna, & at least to an eight year old, that shit is GROSS.
This is a messy fun kind of dinner. Pour yourself a glass of that cheap white wine you were cooking with & let your cat enjoy what's left in the can of tuna.
Combine sauce with noodles, cover with crushed cracker mixture, & more grated chesse, & baked for about an hour, uncovered for the last ten minutes so you get a nice crunchy top.
BEST LEFTOVERS EVER, especially with sriracha in your room late night with your kitten after dancing.
this is memory food,
Mum cooking this in our apartment on Orchard Street in New Bedford when I was little, me starting cooking as a teenager on Seamans Lane in Brewster, cooking this for myself in my first apartment on Medway Street in Providence at seventeen, Burns cooking me the Mississipi version with chips & sour cream on the night George W. Bush was (sort of) elected the first time in 1999, cooking this on Burns' last night in San Francisco on Cabrillo Street at twenty-two, & then eating the leftovers cold myself & wondering how I was gonna survive alone, at twenty-three on Burgundy Street in New Orleans that first winter when it finally got sort of chilly, at twenty-seven in the Prospect Street apartment in Noho when I started eating meat/fish again, & most recently for Owen in our house on South Street, at thirty-one, 11.23.2009.
Oh Yeah, this meal is a deal breaker with me. You are a vegetarian or think canned tuna is gross, I probably won't fall in love with you. Just sayin'.
Next Up: Eggplant Parmesan.

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