Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tuna Casserole

One of my all-time biggest comfort foods is Tuna Casserole. My kids and I can clean out a whole 9-inch square pan, with no leftovers. However, the usual Tuna Casserole presents a problem for our new food-allergy-free diet. Our traditional recipe relies on cream of mushroom soup and egg noodles. With wheat and egg allergies, these are out. I had just about given up having tuna casserole as long as allergies were an issue, until a couple of things came together to inspire a solution.

For the first, my mother (who is low-carb) made a delicious casserole, with a sour cream base, cauliflower, sausage, chicken and celery. Yum. It was good, but it didn't really sink in to me that this was the start of a solution to the tuna casserole dilemma.

Until the second incident. I was on the way back to work after taking DS#1 back to school after a doctor's appointment, when I caught part of a show from our local(ish) NPR affiliate, KCUR (Kansas City, MO), on which Emily Farris, author of Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for Your Oven, discussed the 2nd Annual Kansas City Casserole Party. (You can find the podcast of the episode on KCUR's website, under Central Standard.) After listening to discussions of casseroles, including comments from a caller who was gluten-free, I realized that I did still miss Tuna Casserole, but now I had ideas.

Pretty much winging it, I decided it was high time for some kitchen experimenting. To my delight, it turned out delicious on the first try. The kids didn't even miss the cream soup and pasta, and once again, we cleaned the pan (or at least the kids did).

A note on the ingredients. I used Mr. Dell's Hash Brown Potatoes, which has the remarkably simple ingredient list: Potatoes. This could be made more cheaply with home-shredded potatoes, but I went for convenience here. The cooking time may need to be adjusted if you use fresh potatoes. For the potato chips, I used Lay's Classic, which again, has a pretty simple ingredient list. Sour cream and onion chips are also good.

Tuna Tater Casserole

2 cans (3 ounces each) tuna, drained
2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups potato chips, crushed

Put all ingredients except potato chips in a large bowl and mix well, then spread in a 8- or 9-inch square casserole dish. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over the top. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. This will get the hash browns "al dente"; for softer potatoes, cook for a few minutes longer. Makes 4 servings, or 3 if you have hungry boys.

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