FRIDAY FISH: Tuna Stew on Cheddar-Dill Biscuits

Looking for St. Patrick’s Day Ideas? Just click on “St. Patrick’s Day” in the categories section at right to find my favorites including Salmon on Caraway Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread with Potato SoupSalmon on ColcannonColcannon SoupTraditional Kerry Apple Cake, and more.

I haven’t made a tuna casserole in so many years that I can’t count. I like the stuff, but my husband says he had his fill during our early married life when I often made my sister’s Helen’s version — she always baked the good kind with potato chips, of course.

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Although it’s mainly associated with Middle America, and the 1950s housewife, the earliest printed recipes for tuna casserole appeared two decades earlier in the Pacific Northwest. The first one, “Noodles and Tuna Fish en Casserole,” came from Sunset Magazine, from a “Mrs. W. F. S.” residing in Kennewick, Washington, in 1930. The same year, a “tuna fish and noodles casserole” appears on a menu suggested by the 100% real The Modern Hospital magazine, which probably sounds pretty appropriate to the dish’s haters. …According to American food writer Heather Arndt Anderson the first recipe for tuna casserole appeared in Sunset Magazine in 1930. It was called Noodles and Tuna Fish en Casserole and included mushrooms and a cheese topping. The invention of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup in 1934 meant home cooks no longer had to make a white sauce or saute mushrooms – they just tipped a can of soup in with the noodles, tuna and peas, topped it all off with cheese and potato chips (crisps) and voilà!

Taste Cooking

Each year during FRIDAY FISH weeks, I try to include a simple meal made from canned fish — as much for ease of preparation as for saving a buck. It’s never tuna casserole, of course, as I’d have to eat it all myself. This year, with so many people short of both time and money, it seemed even more of a necessity, though it’s always a challenge. I order both canned tuna and canned salmon delivered from COSTCO (delivery is free for shelf-stable orders over $75), switching back and forth but sometimes having a can or two of both at the same time. When I don’t know what’s for lunch, a tuna or salmon salad or sandwich is usually what’s needed. In the past, I didn’t often see other writers using canned fish, but lately things have changed. Here are two recipes from well-respected chefs I’ve seen in recent memory; you don’t want to miss them. I’ll extend that number to three as David Lebovitz’ recipe was inspired by one in Ina’s new book, MODERN COMFORT FOOD. Here’s a heads’ up: Jacques Pépin uses mushroom soup in his dish! I know; I know. But you love him still? I do! (If you don’t follow Jacques on fb, do it as his frequent short videos are well worth your time. You can also catch some — I don’t know what percentage — of them here on the website for the Jacques Pépin Foundation.)

David Lebovitz’ Tuna Melt/Adapted from MODERN COMFORT FOOD by Ina Garten

Jacques Pépin Tuna Casserole video

Somehow during the last week, a hot tuna something (thanks to David, Ina, and Jacques) kept jumping into my blogging process — which sometimes even turns on at 2 a m. That’s ok; there’s no complaint because a meal needed to be created. I’ve never heard of canned tuna stew before (and maybe you haven’t either), but we all know of various and sundry fish or seafood stews. This one just happens to be made with oh-so-inexpensive canned tuna instead of $$$$ fresh fish and shrimp. The biscuits are from my Guinness Beef Pot Pie; I knew they’d be lovely. Fish and dill, right? Sauté up a few veggies in butter, pour in a little broth, tuna with its juice, and milk with flour. Let it simmer ’til it’s thickened, then tip in easy frozen peas and corn. Season well and serve hot over those cheesy biscuits garnished with minced parsley and a little more very sharp Cheddar. Yes, we’ll gladly gild that lily! Did I mention fast? How about pantry friendly?

There’s a filling dinner, friends. And it didn’t take long or burn your wallet. Try this:


Tuna Stew on Cheddar-Dill Biscuits

Hot tuna is typically associated with the wondrous American Tuna Melt sandwich or Tuna Casserole (the good kind with potato chips), but there’s no reason canned tuna can’t be an ingredient in a soup, chowder, or pot pie filling. Here it's used in my creamy stew served over hot biscuits, which are best made first. Not a biscuit maker? Bake up frozen biscuit dough, grill some English muffins or even use thinly sliced hot or grilled cornbread.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • Small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 EACH: medium peeled carrots and stalks celery, chopped
  • Small handful minced parsley plus extra for garnish
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup white wine or water
  • 2 (5)- ounce cans tuna, flaked, with liquid
  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1-2 shakes hot sauce – or to taste
  • ¼ cup EACH: frozen green peas and corn
  • ½ cup frozen pearl onions cooked in butter until tender- optional
  • Cheddar-Dill Biscuits – recipe below
  • Grated Cheddar for garnish – included in the recipe below for the biscuits

Instructions

  • In a four-quart heavy sauce pan, heat the butter over medium flame until bubbling. Add the onion, carrots, celery, parsley, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover and cook, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes or until vegetables are softening adding garlic for the last minute. Pour in the wine or water, stirring to bring up the fond (brown bits) and let cook two minutes.
  • Pour in the tuna with its liquid and the broth. In a small bowl, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth and pour the slurry into the pot. Simmer, stirring, for perhaps 5 minutes or until thickened. Add hot sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the peas, corn, and pearl onions, if using. Cook another two minutes until everything is hot.
  • To serve: Slice two biscuits in half and place in each of the bowls. Ladle hot stew over them and garnish with reserved parsley and grated cheddar.
    Whoever gets the bay leaf does the dishes.
    Storage: A day or two in the fridge, well-wrapped. I wouldn't freeze this.

Notes

Cheddar-Dill Biscuits               8-10 biscuits
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon EACH kosher salt and baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces/8 tablespoons) salted cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese (plus extra to garnish stew)
  • 2/3 cup milk
 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220C/Gas Mark 7) Set rack at center.
1.  Stir together dry ingredients (flour, pepper, salt, soda, baking powder, and dill) in a medium bowl. Add cold butter and using a pastry blender or two knives (you can use just your fingers or even do the whole thing in a food processor), cut in the butter until the butter is mostly blended and the mixture appears sandy. Stir in cheese. Pour in milk and mix well without over-mixing.
2.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and, if needed, knead a few times until dough comes together. Roll or pat out with fingers into a rectangle until it’s about ½-inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a 2 ½ -3-inch round cutter (or slice into squares with a knife) and place in a 10-inch pie plate or small baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until quite crispy and golden. Remove from oven and set aside until needed.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved.

TIPS:

CHANGE IT UP: Add or swap in chopped red bell pepper or jarred pimentos, sliced olives, minced jalapeño, diced potato or sweet potato, fennel, toasted sliced almonds, sliced mushrooms; cooked diced asparagus, white beans, green beans, leeks, or zucchini; goat cheese, roasted and diced green chiles, or tiny cooked pasta. You could choose to serve the stew over cooked rice or quinoa instead of biscuits. If adding a lot more vegetables, you may need to increase the liquid by a cup, the flour by a tablespoon or so, and the seasonings to taste.

SIDES: A crispy green salad is a fine complement here as its crunch gives the mouth a rest from soft and chewy stew and biscuits and a vinaigrette serves as respite from the general creaminess of the meal.

USING PURCHASED BISCUITS? Brush them with melted butter and dill a couple of minutes before they’re done. Return to oven to finish baking, remove from oven and sprinkle with grated Cheddar.

MAKE IT AHEAD: You could easily make this meal not more than one day ahead because, you know, fish. Because I have the photography to do in natural light, I made the biscuits in the morning, snapped their pics, and left them to cool. I then wrapped the pie plate tightly in plastic wrap and, when needed for dinner, sliced and heated them on a flat cast iron griddle. I cooked the stew early in the afternoon, took the pics, cooled and refrigerated it and heated it over low flame at dinnertime. It was great, though it needed just a little milk to loosen it up and the seasonings needed a wee boost.

TIPS FOR BETTER BISCUITS/KING ARTHURBAKING

If you liked this, you might like my …

RECIPE/POST

How much tuna should I eat in a week? (Hint: the smaller the fish, the less mercury. Go with light tuna vs albacore if possible.)

FDA guidelines recommend 2 to 3 four-ounce servings of seafood a week, from “a variety of cooked fish.” Because of the mercury concerns noted above, the FDA recommends limiting albacore tuna to one four-ounce serving a week, says Manaker.

As for light or skipjack tuna, “I recommend keeping consumption to no more than two servings per week,” Schmitt. “That means that other fish full of omega-3s, like salmon or sardines, can fit into the eating pattern as well.”

Jenny McCoy/COOKING LIGHT
courtesy amazon

MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:

Tips for Choosing Sustainable Canned Tuna/SEAFOODWATCH

Is Canned Tuna Healthy? Nutrition, Benefits, and Downsides/HEALTHLINE.COM

31 Easy and Delicious Canned Tuna Recipes/THESPRUCEEATS

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Potato Chip Topping/Valerie’s Home Cooking-FOODNETWORK

Dave’s grandma, May Mays’ 1950’s BETTY CROCKER version of Tuna Casserole–no can of soup here.

LIFE GOES ON:

Snow one day and sun the next; it’s how we roll in Colorado Springs. Spring approaches, backs off, disappears; it then inches forward to tease or hides; winter returns once more and that goes on until Memorial Day. (We have seen snow in every month of the year.) Right now the forecast is for — perhaps — 5 feet over the weekend. Ok then! On the other hand, I saw our first robin in the yard yesterday.

So slow cooker chili one day and burgers on the grill the next. Tuna Stew on Cheddar-Dill Biscuits seems to fall somewhere in the middle as we inch our way through Lent and toward Easter. I will say we’re taking a look at how much wood we have stored and making sure the fridge is full. We’ve not yet seen a snow plough on our street in 16 years. Ah, Colorado!

Hope you’re cooking happily; I’m so glad to have you in my kitchen again, hot, warm, cold, or freezing,

Alyce

P.S. A recent growth of discussion online about ads on food blogs and story length vs “just give me the recipe, damn it” leads me to mention I deliberately choose — at this point — to have no ads or any other promotions on my site. (If I mention a local store, I’m not getting any kickback. This is the same thing I’d do in a cooking class.) My point here isn’t to make money or earn the most google points. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy blogging; I miss teaching. Love connecting with my family, friends, and cooking students on the blog. Really care about providing positive content during this time in the world. I’ll try to include a JUMP TO RECIPE link more often as so many people don’t want to read a post lately or read on phones where it may feel like scrolling ad nauseam. On facebook, I nearly always include a printable recipe so readers don’t have to scroll through my post. It’s a time-consuming extra step, but I do it. I will say it’s not just food bloggers who provide context or history or background or tips for recipes (No recipes appear out of nowhere though you can use JOY OF COOKING if that’s your druthers.), but even newspaper, book, and magazine food writers write an article or hefty blurb with a recipe. Think about the length of the NYT Magazine food articles on Sunday; it’s a two-page spread. Check out a few recent cookbooks; it’s similar. Food has a message and often tells stories. It has a place in our lives that can sometimes be necessary to describe. If we have cooking ideas worth contributing, we should pass them on to increase health, happiness, fellowship, and joie de vivre, the exuberant enjoyment of life. We’re not meant to be alone and spending more time at the table is one loving and fun way toward togetherness; I’m convinced of it and hope you are, too. End of rant. Glad you read to the end. You rock. Thanks.

2 thoughts on “FRIDAY FISH: Tuna Stew on Cheddar-Dill Biscuits

  1. I love reading everything that you write Alyce! Thanks SO much for the blog and the recipes. (And for all the pix/vids of your adorable dogs.) We will be making this stew Friday.

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