When days were cool, Mom baked more than usual. Baking helped warm the house, and if it got too hot inside, she could open a window or door to take advantage of the free air conditioning supplied by God. Like all cost-conscious housewives, she baked lots of casseroles too. My father did not like mushrooms, but he had no choice when it came to Mom’s casseroles. Most of them had cream of mushroom soup in the list of ingredients.
Dad would have liked Carole’s Tuna Casserole. Carole’s creation has no noodles, tater tots, mushrooms or mushroom soup. Instead it is a flavorful combination of garden vegetables and tuna in a savory white sauce.
Jerri got this recipe before we were married when some of her friends gave her a recipe shower. Each friend brought some of her favorite recipes handwritten on cards, and they were filed by category in a recipe box. These recipes include many that have become staples in our home including this one which helped earn her the title of “Casserole Queen.”
For those of you who don’t like “regular” tuna casserole, try this one. It makes a completely different impact on the plate and your taste buds.
2 six ounce cans of solid white tuna
2 medium large potatoes
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
2 T onion
1 package (about 10 ounces) frozen green peas
3 T butter
1/2 cup water from vegetables
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 slices bread
1 or 2 tsp. butter
Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. Wash and chop the carrots, celery and onion medium fine. Put these vegetables in a covered pan, add 1/2 cup water and a dash of salt and steam for ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the frozen peas.
While the vegetables are cooking, make a roux: Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan, add the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon white pepper and cook over low heat for two or three minutes, stirring constantly. Do not brown the flour. Drain 1/2 cup of water from the vegetables into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to total 1 3/4 cups of liquid. Stir the liquid into the roux and cook it for 2 or three minutes until you have a smooth cream sauce. Allow the sauce to cool slightly while you begin assembling the casserole.
Grease a 2 or 3 quart casserole with shortening or cooking spray. Open and drain the tuna. Spread a layer of flaked tuna on the bottom of the casserole. Add a layer of half the vegetables, then half the cream sauce. Repeat with the second can of tuna, vegetables and cream sauce. Cut the bread slices into small cubes and spread them in an even layer over the sauce. Dot with several dabs of butter.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
NOTES: “Medium large potatoes” means potatoes about five inches long. You want about three cups of diced potatoes. You can make this casserole ahead of time. An hour before dinner, take the casserole from the refrigerator and put it into a cold oven. Turn the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the casserole is bubbling in the middle.