Wish Upon A Dish: Extreme Budget, Day Three - Tuna Giambotta Over Polenta

November 16, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Three - Tuna Giambotta Over Polenta

I am getting a first class education in food economics. When you simply must get as much from your food as you can, you start by measuring everything. I am guilty of "eyeballing" ingredients but now I am getting smart and pre-prepping bags of measured aromatics. I realized that where I would normally use a half an onion for a recipe calling for 1/4 cup chopped, I was using twice as many onions then I had too, and one medium onion yields 8 (1/4 cup) portions.

What does this mean? If you were regularly throwing away leftovers not eaten or all those food ends that have gone bad, you are actually throwing away 2x more food then you thought already were doing. OMG, what a rude awakening.

I decided that I might as well chop a whole onion in the processor and measure 1/4 cup amounts into snack bags, and then place them into one quart freezer bag. Now I won't have to chop any onions for at least one week. If you do all your produce in one day, prep and measure, store and freeze, you can easily do a full meal in one hours time. The other thing that is oober important is to label, label and label all those containers that go into the freezer.  Trust me, in one week you will not remember what it is and you might as well just throw it away and not even freeze it.

Tonight The Nudge wanted a tuna casserole. He has been suggesting putting one on the menu for weeks now. Tonight he gets his wish. Well, it fits into my extreme budget.

A traditional tuna noodle casserole is quite boring and very unhealthy. I eliminated the milk, the buttered bread crumb topping, the noodles and the cups of cheese melted into the sauce.

I wanted to make it healthier and since we have been heavy on the carbs these last two weeks, I decided to omit the noodle part by adding beans and serving what is almost a tuna stew, over polenta.
This is how to assemble this dish.
In an oval ramekin, pour a layer of soft polenta to cover the bottom. Let it cool and then ladle the stew over the polenta, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese on top and The Nudge can nuke it for 3 minutes when he gets home. I will bake mine until the cheese melts and the polenta is bubbling. The chow mein noodles are optional but I added a spoonful. Provides that crunch you might miss from the bread crumbs and healthier than those fried onion rings.

Tuna Giambotta Over Polenta
Serves 2-4

* 1/4 cup stone ground polenta 
* 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
* 1 teaspoon honey
* salt & pepper
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons Romano cheese

Stir the first four ingredients into an oven safe baking pot and bake, covered, for 40 minutes at 350°. Remove, check to see if it has the consistency of wet cement. If too thick, loosen with some water, stir and add Romano cheese and a pat of butter. Spoon half of mixture into two oval ramekins and allow it to cool.

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/4 cup chopped onions
* 1 can tuna in oil, drained
* 1 can small white beans, drained and rinsed, divided
* 1/2 cup frozen peas
* 1/4 cup dehydrated soup greens
* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1/2 can condensed roasted garlic mushroom soup
* 2 oz. Colby/Cheddar cheese
* 1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings
* 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes
* 1/4 cup chow mein noodles, smashed in a bag (optional topping)

Heat oil in a saucepan until it starts to ripple.
Add onions, red pepper flakes, Italian Seasonings and thyme leaves and saute until onions are tender.
Add white wine and soup greens. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Add soup & chicken broth. Whisk to blend.
Add half the beans, the tuna and peas and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add cheese and stir until melted in.
Remove from heat. Puree the last half of the beans and add to the saucepan. Stir to thicken.

Spoon the stew over the polenta, top with additional grated cheese and bake until cheese melts and polenta has tiny bubbles around the edges.

The Nudge cleaned his plate so I have to assume he liked it. I thought it tasted like a tuna casserole should but with so much more. I love the way the pureed beans gave it a creamy consistency. I use this little trick on everything that needs to be thickened. I saved the last half for my ham & corn chowder on the menu for Soupreme Monday.

Cost of meal (excluding pantry items): $2.75
Peas - $ .60
Soup - $1.10
Colby Cheese - $ .50
Romano cheese - $ .40
Onion - $ .15

Grand total to date: $8.80

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