Stockton traveled for work, so I was cooking for one. For those few days, I turn to recipes yielding savory leftovers I can use for work lunches or to replay the role of dinner. Tuna casserole won this round, a dish of childhood comfort food. Stockton’s not a huge fan, so I save it for times like these. Every time I cook it, memories of mom after a long day of work mixing and baking the first night and then turning it over to the microwave to serve leftovers the following nights pop into my mind.
I open the recipe on my tablet. I put on my apron and wash my hands. I butter the white round corningware dish my aunt and uncle gave us ten years ago as a wedding present. I boil a bag of egg noodles in a green pot my sister found on sale. I stir the milk and cream of mushroom soup together with a small fork, which slips into the dish and I’ll have to fish it out, but a terrier is trying to steal something from the counter. I shoo him away.
I add the other ingredients, the peas, the tuna, the cooked noodles, and some cheese and mix with a wooden spoon from my cousin. I throw in a pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper. The canned tuna is still a bit chunky. I stir more vigorously then dig around with my fingers to break up the aquatic protein and move on and that’s when I remember the fork. I thought I had tossed it into the sink, but nope it was lying still in its ceramic coffin. I remove the metal fork and toss it in the sink. The only food that’s acceptable to have an item inside of it is a king cake from New Orleans.
I load the covered dish into the preheated oven. Our oven seems to be on the fritz, it’s not holding the temperature properly. I’ll recheck it every ten minutes. When the casserole is warm and bubbly I lift it out with my massive oven mitts and place it on the flat cooktop. Evenly, I spread buttery Panko breadcrumbs over the top. I return the dish back to the oven for a few more minutes to get those breadcrumbs golden. It smells satisfying like a hug from the past.
I fix a drink and spoon out a serving. At the table, the terriers sit at my side, primed for handouts. Maybe if they stay quiet, we’ll see. Meanwhile, I load up my fork. It’s never hard to enjoy the first bite of a weeknight comfort food.
What are your comfort foods? What recipes are you cooking? Tell me about it.