Canning the cans

Back when I revamped my eating style, I stopped buying canned soup. It was a pretty easy step actually; I can't remember the last time I cooked with canned soup, and I quickly found suitable replacements for my old standby lunches: tomato soup (Note: do NOT add the cloves!) and bean & bacon soup.

But every once in awhile, there is a dish that screams for canned cream of mushroom soup. I grew up in the Midwest -- canned cream soups are part of my heritage. So what to do? It took a little research to realize that a well-flavored white sauce like you use for a pot pie fills the bill nicely.

Husband made the recipe below for us the other night and it took all of my willpower to not scarf up the remaining three servings (of 6) all by myself. What can I say? Sometimes a gal just needs her a big mess of some tuna hot dish.
No-cream-soup Tuna Noodle Casserole
(Adapted from The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles by the Editors of 'Cook's Illustrated'.)

For topping:
1 cup bread crumbs, crushed potato chips, saltines, grated cheese, or whatever your native culture requires. If you're using bread crumbs or saltines, combine crumbs with 1.5 Tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to the butter below)

3/4 lb noodles (uncooked weight)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (or your cooking oil of choice)
1/2 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
2 medium onions, finely diced
1 non-green bell pepper (or 1 cup frozen pepper strips,) diced.
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup AP flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (opt.)
12-14 ounces canned solid white tuna, drained (oil or water packed, or pouches)
2 cups frozen peas

Heat over to 350 degrees. If using bread crumbs or saltines for topping, you can bake the butter-crumb mixture in oven 15 mins. or so if desired.

Cook noodles per package directions in salted water. Dump the peas into the pot for the last minute or so, then drain and pour noodles and peas into a 13" x 9" baking dish.

While noodles are cooking, saute the vegs: Melt 2T oil in skillet (med. heat) and saute onions, peppers, and mushrooms until onions are soft and mushroom liquid evaporates (~10 mins.?) Add salt and pepper to taste, add to noodles and peas in baking dish.

Melt remaining 4T butter in skillet (med. heat) and cook until foaming stops. Whisk in flour and stir constantly fir 1 to 2 minutes until flour starts to turn golden. Still whisking, slowly add chicken stock. Raise heat to med. high, bring to simmer, and cook until sauce thickens, 3-4 minutes.

Remove sauce from heat and add the tuna, lemon juice, parsley, and salt & pepper to taste. Pour over contents of baking dish and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle with desired topping and bake for ~15 minutes until heated through and the topping is golden.

TIP: To meet Project Weeknight guidelines, you can skip the baking dish and the oven. Just dump the drained peas and noodles back into their pot and add the other ingredients as you go. If desired, sprinkle with some grated cheese or crumbled potato chips when you serve.

No, it's not as quick as the canned soup version, but even with all of the butter, it's a heluva lot better for you and it tastes pretty damned good. Burp!

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