Steven: "Why do you have to call it a casserole? Why can't you call it something else?"
Me: "Like what?"
Steven: "I don't know... noodle bake with chicken and mushrooms and... sauce."
Me: "Well it's called Tetrazzini but it's still a casserole."
Steven: *grumble grumble*
I made this a few days after I made my green bean casserole to see if I could change Steven's mind about the dreaded "casserole." Of course he remained convinced that casserole is just a code word for bad cooking. Sadly, casseroles have a bad rap, conjuring up the image of overcooked noodles, bland meats, mushy vegetables, and greasy sauces. With proper execution, however, they can be refined and sophisticated, and at the same time homey and comforting - the best of both worlds. Although Steven couldn't escape the fact that this was technically a casserole, he didn't deny that it was darn tasty.
Now fast forward to a few weeks later. As I'm writing this, I turned to him and asked, "Do you like casseroles now?"
"Eh... they're okay."
Alright! Makin' progress! Next up, cheesy tater tot bake anyone? ;)
- This is great for leftover roast chicken (like rotisserie chicken) or leftover Thanksgiving turkey
- To avoid the culinary atrocity that is mushy noodle, cook the noodles 2 minutes short of the recommended package time. If they finish cooking before you have finished preparing the sauce, shock them in ice water to stop them from continuing to cook.
- And to prevent the second culinary atrocity that is overcooked vegetables, I add the broccoli florets at the end. I cut them into small bite sized pieces and the residual heat of the sauce and the oven time will be enough to cook them.
Bread crumb topping
3/4 C fresh bread crumbs
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 C sliced almonds
6 Tbsp butter
1 lb crimini or white button mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 C white wine
salt and black pepper
16 oz. linguine or spaghetti
4 Tbsp flour
3 C chicken stock
1/4 C heavy cream
1 C grated Parmesan
2 tsp lemon juice
1 - 1 1/2 C frozen peas or 1 C broccoli florets chopped into very small bite sized pieces
4 C shredded cooked chicken meat or turkey
Prepare the bread crumbs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pulse the bread a few times in a food proecessor to make fresh bread crumbs. Toss the bread crumbs with a tablespoon of melted butter and spread in a even layer on a baking pan. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until they are light golden. Set aside for later.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Heat 2 Tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium heat and add chopped onion and a little salt, cook until softened. Add the mushrooms, some salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and the liquid evaporates. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and cook until reduced. Set this mixture aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Break the pasta in half lengthwise and boil 2 minutes short of the package time for al dente. If your noodles finish before you are done before you finish preparing the sauce, shock them in ice water and set them aside to drain.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the remaining 4 Tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the flour, whisk and cook until the roux is golden and smells nutty. Add the chicken stock in a steady stream while whisking, making sure to get out any lumps. Season with salt and pepper and simmer the mixture until it has thickened, about 5 minutes. Take the pot off heat and whisk in the heavy cream and lemon juice. Add the broccoli florets or frozen peas, the mushroom onion mixture, the Parmesan, and noodles to the mixture, stir to evenly combine.
Transfer the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish, top with bread crumbs and almond slices and bake for 12 - 15 minutes until the bread crumbs and almonds are golden brown and the mixture is bubbly.
You can cut the recipe in half or make the full recipe and freeze half (though I have not tried freezing it).