Uncommonly Good

Mad Men Tuna Casserole

I am hooked on Mad Men. This Emmy Award winning AMC original series seems to capture the feel of the early 60s. Before Viet Nam, before the hippies, it was known as the Days of Camelot. I love the styling of the sets, the fashions, the two-martini lunches, not to mention the characters and the stories. The dialog is filled with anecdotal comments that evoke the attitudes of the early 60s. I was just a kid, but it reminds me of Doris Day movies and the fashions of my original Barbie doll.

Much has been made of the cocktails of the 60s, a Manhattan, Gimlet, Old-Fashioned… but not much has been said about the food. A few weeks ago Don Draper came home from work and his wife Betty offered him a late supper. “Hot or cold?” she asked. The options were chicken salad or tuna casserole.

I looked up tuna casseroles in The Joy of Cooking, and The Modern Family Cookbook, as well as a Good Housekeeping cookbook, all with late 50s copyrights. These are cookbooks Betty might have in her kitchen.

It was interesting that all the recipes called for 7 ounce cans of tuna while the cans in my cabinet are only 5 ounces. One simple recipe with only 3 ingredients called for tuna, noodles and white sauce. Simple except the white sauce was homemade, which requires standing over the stove and stirring until the butter, flour and milk are combined to the right consistency. Toppings included corn flakes, potato chips and buttered breadcrumbs. One called for buttered cornflakes. How do you butter a cornflake? Seasonings included Worcestershire, sherry, or curry powder to name a few.

Some recipes layered the ingredients into the casserole dish, others mixed them first. I used a combination of methods, layering and combining, when I came made my casserole this morning.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need.

  • Noodles
  • 2 cans Tuna
  • 2 cans Celery Soup
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Red Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Frozen Peas
  • Milk
  • Asiago Romano Cheese
  • Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • Almond Slivers
  • Green Onions
  • Green Olives
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional)
  1. Boil water for noodles and preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Dice equal amounts onion, red pepper and celery—about 1/2 C each—and sauté in a splash of olive oil, preferably in an iron skillet.
  3. Drain noodles/pasta and rinse in cool water. Drain again.
  4. Pour a splash of olive oil into the casserole and brush to cover bottom and sides.
  5. Put the noodles/pasta in a layer on the bottom of the dish.
  6. Spoon the sautéed veggies on top of the noodles.
  7. Sprinkle a layer of frozen peas over the top of the veggies.
  8. Open the soup and tuna and dump them into pasta pan to combine. Don’t drain the tuna and add a splash of milk if the mixture is too thick.
  9. Pour the combined soup/tuna mixture on top of everything in the casserole. Spread to cover all the edges.
  10. Sprinkle a topping of almond slivers/crumbs over the top of the casserole.
  11. Top it all with a layer of dried seasoned breadcrumbs.
  12. Bake about 30 minutes until heated through.
  13. Remove from oven and garnish with grated Asiago Romano cheese, diced green onion, and sliced green olives.
  14. Wait at least 15 minutes before serving,
  15. Top each serving with more cheese, a sprinkle of almonds and fresh grated black pepper.

This casserole can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Warm to room temperature and add the almonds and breadcrumbs before placing in the preheated oven.

Make individual portions by assembling in mini loaf pans. To freeze, press plastic wrap to the surface of each casserole and seal each tightly with aluminum foil.

If desired, splash each portion with Tabasco Sauce before serving.

Divide leftovers into serving size containers for brown bagging. Heat in the microwave, but don’t over cook or the noodles may end up tough and dry. Top with fresh garnishes and it will look and taste fresh from the oven.

October 10, 2009 Posted by | Brown Bag, Casserole, Tuna | | Leave a comment


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