Mike, whenever I'm under the weather, meat is the first thing to go and yesterday was one of those days. By dinnertime, all I'd eaten was half a can of cold, plain kidney beans. And the only thing in the world that sounded good for dinner was this casserole, probably because it was unfamiliar to me--I only ate tuna-noodle casserole once before in life. I was 17, and it was a strange, lonely Asian version involving ketchup, mushroom soup and canned fried chinese chow mein noodles, which was prepared by a woman who was trying to date my father, and which I detested on a variety of levels.
Bob also had bad memories of this casserole from childhood. In fact, such was his mother's lack of skill that dishes like this branded both her sons with Casserole Fear for life. To the point that, when we married, he made me promise to never make ANY casseroles. (I didn't comply, I just quit using the C word.)
So, with that preamble, Recipe Report:
We loved it. LOVED it. But I made a few adjustments: I cooked 8 ounces of pasta and cut back on the sauce by a third, using about 10-11 ounces of strong chicken broth and 3 ounces each milk and half and half as this recipe sounded a bit wet for my tastes. I used about 2 tblsp of white vermouth instead of sherry, which I'm out of. I used 2 tblsp of soy sauce because I misread the recipe, and I used golden soy sauce instead of regular to keep the sauce blonder. I used only about 8 crimini mushrooms (1 cup, say) because that's all I had, but I probably wouldn't used more than that anyway. I used penne rigate because that was the only pasta I had on hand besides orzo and linguine, which would have made too dense a dish. For color, flavor but especially extra texture, I added about two tblsp of dried chives to the dish when I mixed the pasta and sauce. I used panko instead of fresh bread crumbs as there was no bread in the house, and I just plain forgot to add the lemon juice!
With no basis for comparison at all except a bad memory, I thought this result was absolutely perfect. It had a very sophisticated back note from the vermouth without tasting boozy, it had an intense flavor but was on the drier side as I prefer, and the cheddar-panko crust was delightfully chewy-crunchy. Having done it that way, I can't imagine not using panko again, nor would my husband allow it. He had very very high praise for that part.
Thanks for the recipe.