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WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:
Most tuna-noodle casseroles suffer from overcooked noodles, rely on canned soup, and feature a soggy, bland topping. We found that rinsing the egg noodles after boiling removes any residual starch that would otherwise make the casserole pasty and also halts the cooking process, preventing them from overcooking within the casserole. We ditched the condensed soup, opting to make a homemade version, and found that browning the mushrooms thoroughly was essential to flavor development. Finally, adding potato chips to the topping lent a satisfying crunch and great flavor in every bite.
Serves 8 to 10
4ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
2cups potato chips, crushed
2slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
6tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
3(5-ounce) cans solid white albacore tuna packed in water
2tablespoons olive oil
2teaspoons lemon juice
12ounces egg noodles (7 3/4 cups)
10ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine
3tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2cups half-and-half
1 1/2cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2cups frozen peas
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine Monterey Jack and cheddar in bowl. Pulse potato chips, bread, ¼ cup cheese mixture, 2 tablespoons butter, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in food processor until coarsely ground, about 8 pulses; set aside.
2. Place tuna in fine-mesh strainer and press dry with paper towels. Transfer to large bowl and flake into coarse pieces with fork. Microwave oil, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in small bowl until bubbling around edges, about 30 seconds. Stir oil mixture into tuna and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until just al dente. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water until cool, about 2 minutes. Drain again and set aside. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to bowl with tuna mixture. Add 1 tablespoon butter, onion, and bell pepper to now-empty pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with tuna-mushroom mixture; set aside.
4. In now-empty pot, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Off heat, whisk in remaining cheese mixture until smooth. Stir in pasta, tuna-vegetable mixture, peas, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
5. Scrape mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish (casserole can be refrigerated without topping for up to 24 hours; increase baking time to 25 minutes, adding topping halfway through baking) and top with bread-crumb mixture. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let casserole cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve.
BUILDING A BETTER TUNA-NOODLE CASSEROLE
1. Rinsing the cooked egg noodles in cold water prevents them from overcooking in the finished casserole.
2. Sautéing the mushrooms develops rich flavor and evaporates their liquid, so it won't water down the sauce.
3. Marinating the tuna briefly in warm, seasoned oil makes the fish moist and flavorful.
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