During my teen years it would seem on nights that I was famished, mom always baked a hearty casserole of tuna and noodles. I could never endure the large chucks of celery floating in the casserole. Consiquently, I never really cared for the combination of canned tuna, sauce and noodles.
To this day, tuna and noodles is one dish that I won't purposely eat. I don't remember the last time that I sat down to a helping of the casserole. And I've never cooked it for my own family.
Tuna and noodles wasn't my first choice for dinner at work last Wednesday. My original thought was to prepare hamburger stroganoff, a dish that the residents have enjoyed monthly for the past several months.
A resident who's approaching the half-way mark in the program asked me Tuesday if I could bake tuna and noodles with canned cream of mushroom soup. She'd recently resolved to offer solutions instead of continuously complaining about "chicken burnout." I accepted the idea and menued it in place of the stroganoff.
The residents began asking "What's for dinner" early in the afternoon. With the division between likes and dislikes running neck and neck, I though the casserole was going to be a disaster. Battle lines were clearly drawn. They either loved it or left the kitchen in disappointment.
Then something happened. As the afternoon progressed, likes inched ahead of the dislikes. By dinner time a full 60 percent of the residents said they looked forward to the meal. Over 90 percent of the residents ate the tuna and noodles for dinner that evening.
"Mr. Steve, you did good," said a resident as I headed home for the evening! I smiled and thanked her. I was able to take a dish that I don't like and deliver a quality product to the residents.
TUNA AND NOODLES
One (2 pound 11 ounces) pouch pack of tuna will work for this recipe. Sysco sells 6 pouches in each case under the Classic label.
I prepared the casserole with 1 (50-ounce) can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. See note for procedure. To boost flavor, add 1 pound sliced mushrooms to the sauteed onions and celery.
1-1/2 pounds egg noodles
2 pounds 12 ounces tuna
4 ounces margarine
12 ounces onions, small dice
12 ounces celery, small dice
3 ounces all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Cook noodles according to package direction. Drain and place in bowl. (Should yield 4-1/2 pounds cooked.) Flake tuna and add to noodles.
Melt margarine in medium-sized saucepan. Add onions and celery. Saute until tender. Add flour and pepper to onion mixture. Stir until blended. Cook 5 to 10 minutes.
Stir in chicken stock gradually, stirring constantly with wire whip. Cook until thickened. Add tuna and noodles to sauce. Stir gently until well blended. Check seasoning.
Pour noodle mixture into greased 12x20x2-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with cheese. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake at 350°F until mixture is heated to 180°F and cheese is melted, 30 to 45 minutes. Serves 25 (8-ounce) portions.
Note: One 50-oz can condensed cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup and 1-pint milk may be substituted for the sauce made from margarine, flour and chicken stock.
This recipe was adapted from 11th edition of Food For Fifty by Mary Molt, Ph.D, R.D. (Prentice-Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2001).
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