It’s time for that old standby tuna casserole to move over and make way for another Northwest favorite - Oyster Casserole. Though regional cousins (both hail from the Pacific Northwest) they are very different in more than one way.
When the first tuna casserole recipes began appearing nationally in the mid 1930’s they contained the now familiar ingredients of canned tuna fish, canned mushroom soup, and corn flakes. Oyster casseroles have always called for fresher ingredients.
So why are tuna casseroles better known nationally then casseroles made with fresh oysters?
Tuna casseroles may in part owe their popularity to two factors - James Beard and transportation.
James Beard grew up in the Pacific Northwest before rising to national fame as the leading food writer at the New York Times. As early as 1913 cooks from Portland to Seattle had mixed canned tuna with a white sauce (an earlier version of cream of mushroom soup) and topped their creation with either bread crumbs or crushed potato chips.
No doubt James Beard knew about this regional favorite because in his 1955 Casserole Cookbook he included a recipe for a tuna casserole. As a result, the fame of tuna casseroles went national, especially in the Midwest where sea-fresh ingredients were then hard to obtain.
Today coast-to-coast delivery of premium, fresh seafood is no longer a problem. Taylor Shellfish Farms can easily supply chefs with premier shellfish through their local wholesale vender or via direct delivery if needed.
As a result, Oyster Casseroles are growing in popularity with diners, especially when the flare of ingredients like chanterelles and wine are added to a savory made-from-scratch white sauce.
- 3/4 cup butter, divided
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 3/4 pounds small chanterelle mushrooms
- 4 Tbsp of chopped chives
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 pints Taylor Shucked Oysters (Reserve enough oyster liquor to make a full cup of liquid)
- 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1/3 cup of Sauvignon Blanc Wine
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- 1 1/2 cups fine, dry breadcrumbs
- Lightly butter a deep medium-size casserole dish.
- Preheat broiler to 500° F.
- In a big skillet, melt four tablespoons of the butter.
- Add onion and bell pepper.
- Cook until they get soft, about 5 to 6 minutes on medium-high.
- Add mushrooms and chives.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook approximately 9 minutes until golden brown and most of liquid has cooked out.
- In a Dutch oven, melt remaining ½ cup butter.
- On low heat, whisk in flour, and cook for a minute.
- Whisk in the cream and oyster liquor.
- Simmer, stirring often.
- Keep stirring for 5 minutes until this stuff is smooth and thick.
- Add two tablespoons of the cheese.
- Add in all the wine.
- Season again with salt and pepper.
- Cook two minutes more, whisking constantly.
- Fold in oysters.
- Cook 3 more minutes.
- Fold in mushroom mixture.
- Pour into buttered medium-size casserole dish.
- Combine remaining cheese and melted butter with enough breadcrumbs to cover.
- Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over top of the casserole.
- Bake under broiler 8 to 10 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.
- Cool slightly before serving.