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Hell Has Frozen Over a Tuna Noodle Casserole

Today, I made something that I never, ever thought I would make. It is something that i have never eaten and have never wanted to eat. The Food Network Canada cooking club challenge for March is a tuna noodle casserole and to be honest, everything about tuna noodle casserole makes me queasy. Hot canned tuna in a creamy sauce just doesn't do it for me. At all. We don't even really do mac and cheese and I think it's just that I don't really like casseroles in general.

On the other hand, I really like the monthly cooking club challenges and although I have clearly put it off as long as possible, it was now or never since March will be over before we know it. I mentioned making it last night and found out that even Shack had never eaten tuna noodle casserole but he was willing to try it.

I had toyed with the idea of getting a piece of real tuna and searing it and doing something with that but what if we all hated it? How bitter would I be if I wasted a 20 dollar piece of delicious fish? Pretty bitter.

In the end, I decided to kick it old school and I used a can of tuna packed in oil because somehow the oil seemed to make the idea of eating it hot more palatable. I am sure that this is not rational in any way but it was how I felt and I am not known for being rational.

I made some changes to the recipe. It called for margarine - HA! like that is every going to happen. I subbed the onion for shallots, the green pepper for red, the mushrooms for Japanese eggplant, the thyme for fresh basil, the water packed tuna for oil packed and the NO YOLK noodles for nice, yolky farfalle. Instead of french fried onion rings, I used the leftover panko that I had browned with bacon fat and sun dried tomatoes for some pasta I made earlier in the week and finished it off with a bit of fresh parmesan.

Okay, so I guess I changed it quite a bit but I think they are all good changes. I actually would have liked to use mushrooms but Little Shack doesn't like them and I am already pushing it by putting canned tuna in a hot cream sauce and expecting him to eat it - I didn't want to put him over the edge with mushrooms.

Tuna Casserole Mamashack
adapted from No Yolks Classic Tuna Casserole

1 1/2 tbls butter
3 shallots, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small red pepper, diced
1 Japanese egglplant, diced
2 tbls flour
good pinch kosher salt
grind of black pepper
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 7 oz can of tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked
3 cups cooked farfalle
1 cup panko with 2-3 tbls chopped sun dried tomatoes that I had browned in 1 tbls bacon fat
2-3 tbls freshly grated parmesan

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and cook the onion, garlic, red pepper and eggplant over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir to mix it all in. Add salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Gradually pour in the evaporated milk and then add the frozen peas. Stir frequently while you let it simmer for about 3 minutes or until the milk starts to thicken. Stir in the tuna and the farfalle and mix really well. Spoon the noodle mixture into a large, shallow baking dish that you have sprayed with non stick spray or have buttered.

Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top and cover with a light layer of freshly grated parmesan.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is nice and brown. Remove from the oven and let sit a minute before serving.

perfect with a salad of orange, pea shoots, daikon and bean sprouts

Okay, after all of the moaning and groaning and angst over hot tuna in a creamy sauce baked in a casserole.....

We all loved it!
Who knew? I wouldn't tell Little Shack what is was at first and after eating a few big bites, he said "Mom, this is delicious!"
Then, ten minutes later I heard the words that I would never have dreamed would be uttered in my house

"Mom, can I have some more tuna casserole?"

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