COOKING ADVENTURE# 44: Tuna Noodle Casserole
Admit it: we all have multi-tasked while cooking. Usually, this is easier said than done while something is baking in the oven or simmering on the stove top. It’s during down time when we know there’s nothing critical that needs to be done. But, have you ever tried cooking two things at once? Or cooking and doing the dishes? Or cooking and… cleaning another room of the house? I can safely say that its better to have all of your brain power focused in the kitchen on the item you’re intending to cook. I was running out of time last weekend and wanted to hit two birds with one stone. Never again, folks. Never again. I blame Pinterest for this one. If I hadn’t found the post about the best way to clean a shower, I don’t think I would have made up the concoction and tried to put it to a test that morning at the same time I’d begun boiling my noodles for a spectacular tuna noodle casserole. I don’t think my kitchen has ever smelled so horribly as it did then.
Sunday: the day of ultimate relaxation. It was the start of my weekend and I’d woken up feeling crafty. That morning, I’d spent several hours working on a mosaic project involving tiles and itty bitty squares cut from magazine paper. Believe me, this project is going to keep me occupied for the next month and a half. After a crick had formed in my neck from sitting in the same position for too long, I got up and turned my attention to something else. I’d been craving tuna noodle casserole for a few days and discovered that I actually had all of the ingredients to actually make it… except for canned cream soup. I quickly did an internet search for tuna noodle casserole recipes without soup and found a pretty good one here.
I quickly found my pot and filled it with water, then placed it on the stove top on high heat for the water to boil. As I waited, I grew impatient and thought about another project that I’d let go undone for a while: cleaning the shower. I remembered a great recipe on Pinterest that seemed to be getting lots of attention. You combine Dawn dish soap and white vinegar into one of those wash wand contraptions and scrub the shower clean. I don’t have a wand with a sponge on the end. I decided I’d mix them together in the spray bottle, wait for it to settle, and then wipe off any soap residue.
Word to the wise: vinegar smells. A lot. So mixing it with Dawn dishsoap and then spraying it all over the place in my bathroom had the unexpected result of making the entire apartment smell like vinegar. In a panic, I flipped on the light and the overhead vent in the bathroom and closed the door, hoping it would suck the smell up. I returned to the kitchen to find the water boiling. I took my egg noodles and dumped a bunch into the water. One renegade noodle managed to slip underneath the burner. It soon began to burn to a crisp, smoke spiraling from beneath the burner coil. Soon, the entire kitchen was awash with the scent of burning pasta, the light fragrance of vinegar wafting somewhere behind it. It was awful, guys. I would have immediately stuck my head outside if it wasn’t freezing cold. I checked on the bathroom but found it just as bad as it had been before, the vent doing nothing to get rid of the horrible smell. I turned the light off and closed the door again, deciding to keep my attention focused on the casserole until it was in the oven.
Once the noodles had boiled, I drained the water and dumped them onto a nearby plate. Then after turning down the heat to low, in the same pot, I mixed 2 tbsp all purpose flour, 2 tbsp. butter, and 1 tsp salt together. After the butter had melted, the flour and salt being stirred in eventually made some lumpy cream-colored creation. To this, I added a cup of milk. The little lumps of butter and flour floated in the white liquid and the hope of them merging seemed like a hundred to one. I kept at it with a whisk for a while, turning the heat up gradually until the sauce thickened. Then I added a cup of the only shredded cheese I had, Mexican blend, which actually added a bit of heat to the recipe and tasted really good. Once the mixture was blended, I added the noodles back into the pot as well as a can of tuna fish.
As I stirred the final concoction together, I kept feeling as if my nose was going to fall off. The smell of the vinegar had only gotten worse in the preceding minutes and I wasn’t sure how much longer I was going to be able to deal with it. I found a casserole dish in the cupboard and coated it with some olive oil before dumping the noodle mixture in. I added some breadcrumbs to the top just for a little crunch. Then it went into the oven for a half an hour on 350. With that finally out of the way, I returned my sights to the bathroom. Finding a spare sponge from one of the cabinets, I made sure I got every SPECK of vinegar off of the walls. And then sprayed a deathly amount of Febreze to counter the remaining vinegar.
My nose, feeling thoroughly violated at this point, was finally greeted with the wonderful aroma of tuna, noodles, and breadcrumbs. When it came out of the oven, I couldn’t help but to try it immediately, even though I’d intended it to be eaten for dinner. It was amazing. I’m pretty astonished that I was able to get the sauce to thicken correctly in the initial stages. Usually, I have trouble with that step in most recipes. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again soon with all of the recent cold and nasty weather that’s been swinging our way.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be making the most kick-butt Chicken Salad you’ve ever experienced! This recipe is an attempted copy of one that they make at a wonderful little sandwich shop here in Rockland named Clan McLaren’s. Believe me, you’ll want to make all of your chicken salad like this once you’ve tried it! Stay tuned!