published Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Courters' Kitchen: Tuning up tuna noodle casserole

COURTERS’ KITCHEN

This monthly cooking series features husband and wife team Barry and Kelley Courter.

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    Tuna noodle casserole is a comfort staple, both in a version familiar to most college students and a gourmet version called Jacked-Up Tuna Noodle Casserole.

BARRY: Casseroles are not something I ever seek out, but I always enjoy them. They are sort of like soup in that regard for me.

KELLEY: I love a casserole. They are comfort food in every way.

BARRY: In any case, one of my favorite casseroles is tuna noodle. When we started talking about making one for this month’s edition of Courter’s Kitchen, we thought it would fun to do a doctored-up version. Not surprisingly, we liked them both.

KELLEY: The inspiration for this dish came about when our daughter, who is away at college, asked how to make tuna noodle casserole. This dish is something I first tasted as a child dining at a friend’s house. The first time I ate it, I couldn’t get enough. It was very satisfying and a great comfort food.

Throughout the years I never really changed the recipe until now. Basically, I wanted to keep all the flavor of the original version but just remix and step it up a bit. The new version took a little longer to prepare due to the extra ingredients added, and the end result was lighter in flavor. Adding the lemon zest was key.

Both casseroles are very good, and I will make the new version again. However, you can’t go wrong with the older version and, if you haven’t ever made a tuna noodle casserole, I suggest you try one of these versions. Your family will thank you.

BARRY: I agree. They were two very distinct dishes. And what’s not to like about a dish that has crumbled up potato chips on top?

KELLEY: The other thing we learned is that you could very easily substitute several things in either one. We talked about using green peppers, asparagus or artichoke hearts but went with peas and sun-dried tomatoes, which were a last minute addition. I think either would work.

BARRY: Next time.

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    A dish of Jacked-Up Tuna Noodle Casserole, left, and one of On-A-Budget Tuna Casserole are ready to go into the oven.
    Photo by Barry Courter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Jacked-Up Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 jar Tonnino tuna filets in olive oil

3/4 package Torcetti macaroni

1/4 package New York Texas Toast croutons

1 cup peas

1 large shallot

5 sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 package (7.6 ounces) grated Yancey’s Fancy Champagne cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons Sir Kensington mayonnaise

1 whole lemon zest

6 large mushrooms

3/4 package (o.5 ounces) dried chanterelle mushrooms

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons capers

2 tablespoons fresh chives

2 tablespoons parsley

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped dill

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Warm the wine in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds, then add the chanterelle mushrooms to reconstitute them. Chop the parsley, chives, shallot, dill, mushrooms and tomatoes. Grate the cheese. Remove the tuna from the jar to allow some of the oil to drain. Sauté the shallot, gradually adding the mushrooms, capers, tomatoes, peas, herbs and wine. Season to taste with pepper. Set aside. Cook pasta and drain. While warm, toss with the 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise. Lightly grease a deep casserole dish and begin to layer your ingredients, starting with the pasta ending with a layer of cheese and crushed croutons. You’ll end up with three layers. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

On-A-Budget Tuna Noodle Casserole

2 cans tuna in water

3/4 package Ronco Ridged Jumbo Elbow noodles

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can (6 ounce) Giorgio mushrooms

2 tablespoons Hellman’s mayonnaise

1 cup crumpled potato chips

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon dill

1 teaspoon pimentos

Heat one can of mushroom soup, canned mushrooms, mayonnaise, onion and pimentos for a couple of minutes just to incorporate them. Cook pasta and drain. Drain water from tuna. In a large, lightly greased baking dish, add a layer of pasta, then tuna, sauce, cheese and continue to layer. Finish with a layer of cheese and crushed potato chips. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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