Tuna Noodle Casserole Teaches us about Mother Sauces and Sustainability
With apologies to the legitimately culinarily trained, I’m going to give readers an intro into three of the Mother Sauces, through the vehicle of the humble Tuna Noodle Casserole.
In Tuna Noodle Casserole for an Army, I covered these basics:
- Béchamel – essentially a roux of butter and flour, thickened with scalded milk. Béchamel, the base of many other sauces, was named after its inventor, Louis XIV’s steward Louis de Béchamel.
- Velouté – replaces milk with broth. It is also one of the 3-5 “mother sauces,” velouté is a STOCK-based white sauce. Enrichments such as egg yolks or cream are sometimes also added. Velouté sauce is the base for a number of other sauces.
- Mornay – adds cheese or cheese and egg yolk. Usually Parmesan and Swiss, has been added. It’s sometimes varied by the addition of fish or chicken stock or, for added richness, cream or egg yolks. Mornay sauce is served with eggs, fish, shellfish, vegetables and chicken.
For the gourmet version of the tuna noodle casserole, I basically use a Béchamel, add porcini broth, wine, then cheese. So, this is a mash-up of mother sauces, but it’s miles beyond the “open a can of condensed soup..” versions!
- The basic idea here is to prep the macaroni till it’s slightly underdone,
- Make a yummy, slightly cheesy sauce to bind it all together,
- Mix it all together,
- Add some yummy crunchy topping,
- Bake until it’s bubbly and the topping is browned.
It’s that easy.
Here’s the challenge:
- There’s the following a recipe part. Rarely done in these parts.
- Then there’s tripling or quadrupling a recipe which a certain brother-in-law chef did once dutifully outline. But like Barbie, some of us find math hard.
- How to move quantities of food from pot to pot? No food-service sized utensils? A bowl makes a more efficient ladle at these proportions.
- Since a friend is not well, the idea of utilizing the entire 32 oz. pack, and having a “hot dish” to take over was appealing.
- Every effort was made to conform loose techniques and measures to something resembling a real recipe. (Some cooks, apparently, don’t cook by the “about that much” method.)
- Canned condensed soup is evil. It’s so easy to make a more wholesome sauce that tastes tons better, it’s just not the place to cut corners.
Tuna Noodle Casserole for an Army (or at least a good sized group)
- 1 32 oz pack of troll-caught albacore from Wild Planet
- 7 TBSP fat (I used half butter/ half Smart Balance)
1.5 C Panko crumbs
1.5 C grated parmigiano- reggiano/pecorino romano blend
1 TSP Pimenton
1 TSP Tony Cachere’s seasoned salt
Four Sauce Mornay “More or Less”:
3 C diced onion
1 C sliced celery
1/2 C porcini mushrooms rehydrated (3/4 C of soaking liquid reserved)
2 lbs macaroni just underdone (replaced 1 lb of macaroni with veg)
3 C grated cheese (emmenthaler, gouda, havarti mix was on hand)
1 C flour
3/4 C sherry
2 C whole milk
3.5 C chicken broth
1 TBSP tamari
3 tsp hot sauce
1/4 C ground flax seed
1 tsp dill
1 tsp celery seed
3 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dry mustard
4 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 C chopped fresh Italian parsley
6 TBSP fresh lemon juice
3 C frozen peas, thawed
- Put water on to boil – we did two lbs of pasta (gemeli and elbows were on hand) in two batches.
- Prepped veg
- Tried to reconcile two different recipes – one for a super sized casserole but it called for pre-made alfredo sauce; and the other was for a third of the size recipe, roughly.
- I measured out my cheeses, panko, spices.
- Threw the peas in between the two batches of pasta to thaw.
- Began the sauce by sweating the veg, then adding spices, 1C flour, sherry, mushroom broth, then chicken broth, milk…
- Cook and stir to make a béchamel/velouté which later becomes a Mornay (every chef or culinary student out there is probably cringing right now…)
- Once you see how the sauce is thickening, you judge the amount of sauce you have and how it will hold and bind the pasta; I had to add more liquid.
The key to this is that you use fantastic Wild Pacific Albacore (available at Whole Foods under the Wild Planet label.)
This tuna is sustainably caught, by a small consortium of Western fisherman, using lines and trolling. Essentially catching each tuna one at a time, without damaging the sea floor, or capturing and killing incidental or “By-Catch”.
This was a comical, and delicious adventure of a product review and this is one product I’m happy to recommend.