Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuna Noodle Casserole...oh I mean Mezze Maniche al Tonno

America isn't the only country that can do white trash.  I mean, sure, when you say things with pretty accents or in a sexy foreign language everything sounds delicious.  But just because you whipped up some Chien Casserole Chaude doesn't make you fancy.  It's still just a frickin' Hot Dog Casserole. Just because you speak French your food isn't any less trashy than mine. I guess I'm being a little bit sensitive.  Take my sweet Southern belle voice, for example.  No matter what I say, when I talk about food it sounds like I'm talking about Sunday breakfast at The Cracker Barrel.  Okay, maybe not that bad but my secret Southern drawl has been known to override my intelligence on occasion.  People just don't take you seriously when you got twang.

So anyways, I like to take white trash food and elevate it to fancy status. Being raised somewhat in the South and eating at places like Po Folks and Church's Fried Chicken I developed a real appreciation for the finest of deep fried foods. As a a chef, I pretend that I would never eat those kinds of things anymore but the sad fact is that I'll still eat whatever is put in front of me. A chili cheese burger microwaved at the 7-11? Yup, I'd eat it. How about the leftover fried fish crispies (basically greasy flour) at Captain D's? I crave the stuff. That being said, I try to elevate cuisine to higher level when I'm cooking. I don't completely disregard nutrition as an important part of eating. It's not all "strap the feedbag to your face" for me. As much as I have a weakness for terrible fast food I truly appreciate the more refined things in the culinary world. I love lobster and foie gras and truffles. I like it all. Food just excites me and one of my favorite games to play is "White Trash Fancy Food". I love to take the so called lowly, trashy redneck forms of cuisine and make them fancy. Hell, I'll even say it in Italian so you'll eat it.

Mezze Maniche al Tonno. Tuna Noodle Casserole. They are one and the same. Nobody ever said you had to use a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup to make it. It's just easy and these companies prey on the lazy and the stove-top deficient. Too bad it's made from used junkie needles and rat poison. I think I'm just kidding but who knows.  I prefer not to use that kind of stuff because it is just salt and chemicals but it has it place in the history of comfort food.  To me, it's just as easy to rehydrate some dried shiitake mushrooms in half and half with some salt, pepper, and celery.  So much better than the gel from a can.  It's not that comfort food is bad for you, it's the ingredients that tend to be used.  Of course it tastes good, scientists put all the right chemicals in it to trick your brain into thinking it's delicious.  Make it from scratch and use high quality ingredients and these dishes become elevated to a place where you don't need a fancy accent to make them sound delicious.

Mezze Maniche al Tonno

1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms (about 8-10 large mushrooms)
1/2 cup celery chopped
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup Sherry
3 Tbsp cup all-purpose flour
1 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole half and half
1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 (6-8 oz) can/jar tuna in olive oil, drained (Ortiz is my personal favorite)
1 pb mezze maniche dried pasta
3/4 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt tt
fresh cracked black pepper tt

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.  Butter a  2-quart baking dish.

In a sauce pot over medium-low heat steep the mushrooms and the half and half for 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the mushrooms and roughly chop them.

In a large skillet over med-high heat, saute the onion and celery in 1 tablespoons of butter until softened (about 4-5 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to sauté adding the sherry, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a  saucepan over  med-low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Whisk in mushroom soaked half and half and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms  lemon juice, and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and stir gently. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain noodles and add to the sauce.  Stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading evenly.

Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over dish. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbly, About 25 to 30 minutes.

Eat with a couple of Stella Lagers (poured into glasses of course) and pretend you're fancy.


Nikki said...

I JUST made this the other day (although mine was much less fancy than yours-- just annie's mac n cheese + edamame + broccoli + tuna + salt + pepper + panko and asiago graed on top.) and I play this game too, although I never had a name for it until now <3

Violet Séverine said...

Delicious! Yours sounds really yummy. <3

bakingbarb said...

Thank you for saying this! You've said it so well.

Violet Séverine said...

BB- Thank you dear. Glad you liked it. ;)