The original Tuna Noodle Casserole arrived on the scene in 1939 in a book written by “Joy of Cooking” author Irma Rombauer called “Streamlined Cooking”. Its popularity rode the wave of Casserole cooking that took hold in the 1950s. And why not? Its ingredients were cheap and easy to find: A can of tuna, a can of vegetables (usually peas), a can of soup and a package of egg noodles. In 35 minutes, dinner was on the table. It could be eaten then and there, frozen or refrigerated to be reheated whenever necessary. It also became very popular to take one to potlucks. There’s even mention of its being a preferred dish to take to the home of someone sick.
Bon Appetit did stick to several of the basics. Egg noodles and potato chips. But they also went off the rails to create their 4 star version. There’s no can of mushroom soup here: You make your own with mushrooms, leeks and onion, heavy cream and chicken stock. There’s the tartness of White Cheddar cheese and plenty of herbs and spices that lift the flavor of the dish beyond
Recipe for Tuna Casserole with Dill and Potato Chips from Bon Appetit Serves 8. (I halved the recipe to serve 4.) Takes 30 minutes active and 60 minutes total.
½ cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
12 ounces dried curly egg noodles
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
10 ounces mushrooms (such as crimini, shiitake, and/or button mushrooms), chopped
¼ cup white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2½ cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1-cup heavy cream
6 ounces white cheddar, grated
2 teaspoons hot sauce (preferably Tabasco)
2 6-ounce jars oil-packed tuna, drained, broken into small pieces
2 cups potato chips
½ cup dill, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 13×9″ baking dish with 1 Tbsp. butter. For half the recipe use a baking dish approximately 5 X 8.
2. Cook egg noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain pasta; let cool.
3. Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and leek; cook, stirring, until soft but not brown, 8–10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add mushrooms. Cook, tossing occasionally, until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, 4–6 minutes.
4. Add wine and reduce until skillet is almost dry, about 2 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Stir in Worcestershire and thyme.
5. Melt remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook until roux is golden and looks shiny and smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add cream, cheddar, and hot sauce; cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Gently fold mushroom mixture, cream mixture, noodles, and tuna in a large bowl; taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
7. Transfer tuna mixture to prepared baking dish. Press chips into casserole so they stand upright. Bake casserole until bubbly around the edges and chips begin to brown, 15–20 minutes.
8. Zest one-quarter of the lemon over casserole. Let sit 5 minutes, and then top with dill and chives.