Monday, August 29, 2011

How To Make a Super Fresh Tuna Melt, in Outline Form

I. Fresh is Best.

A. Well. It's true. So opt for fresh tuna if you can swing it. This eliminates both fishiness and tinniness from your tuna salad. Just cook it for a couple minutes on each side in a dry or lightly sprayed pan, put it on a plate to cool a bit, then use two forks to shred it into bite-sized chunks. You probably want at least an 8-ounce piece of tuna to feed your average-sized family.

Fresh Tuna Salad collage

II. Next: chop chop chop!

A. Your efforts will pay off. Chop well.

B. Some key things to chop:

1. Onions of some sort: red onion, shallot, scallion, green garlic, etc.; ideally young if it's the season, minced if you have the energy (but at the v. least "finely chopped")

2. Something crunchy, perhaps one or two of the following: celery, kohlrabi, radish, jicama, Granny Smith apple, pumpkin seeds or almonds, carrot; diced small (see top left photo)

3. Something to accentuate freshness of tuna salad: could overlap with items from one and two, but other possibilities might include cucumber, parsley, chives, basil, tarragon, some hot pepper, or even a little cilantro

III. Pick a flavor profile and go big or go home

A. Umami-style

1. Heaping tablespoonful of one or all of the following:

a) capers
b) chopped cornichons
c) chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2. Accentuated with about a teaspoon of one or all of the following:

a) lemon zest
b) lemon juice
c) red or white wine vinegar
d) dijon
e) finely grated parmesan

B. What I will call California-cuisine-style for lack of better phrase

1. The formula = sweet + tart

2. Sweet

a) Dried fruit of some sort, chopped if not already small, e.g. raisins, craisins, currants
b) Fresh fruit of some sort, e.g. halved grapes, finely chopped figs, apples or apricots
c) A tiny bit of honey

3. Tart

a) Lemon zest or juice or - if you really are going for it - quarter of a lemon, skin and all, seeded and finely minced (or sliced ultra thin and placed directly in sandwich, on top of tuna salad, underneath cheese)
b) Diced cornichons or a spoonful of pickle relish
c) Dash of red wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar

C. Spice it up, regardless of profile: salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, sweet or hot paprika, a little dried dill or bouquet garni, lemon pepper... a little goes a long way

IV. Consistency is everything

A. No one likes a soupy tuna salad. Go easy on the mayo or mayo alternative.

1. CakeandEdith's favorite mayo alternative: 2 tablespoons plain yogurt + 1 tablespoon olive oil. This should be just enough to keep it all together

2. Special occasion alternative: cream cheese. Seriously. DE-LI-CIOUS.

B. I like a flavorful tuna salad. So I go for a 1:1 ratio of tuna to veggies.

C. Stir everything in a bowl with a fork. Taste and add salt or more seasonings for flavor and a little more oil or yogurt or mayo to get the consistency you like.

V. Bread is the first part of a sandwich that touches your mouth. Choose wisely. Better yet: make it yourself.

VI. Cheese is what makes a melt a melt.

A. So choose something melty.

B. But also flavorful.

C. Suggestions: sharp cheddar, emmentaler, gouda, Jarlsberg, Dubliner

D. Easy does it.

super fresh

VII. Assembly and preparation

A. On a cutting board, line up bread slices. Lightly butter one side of each slice.

B. Place mound of tuna salad in center of non-buttered-side of half of bread slices.

C. Gently flatten tuna salad with back of spoon, so it's almost reaching edges of bread but not quite.

1. Add lemon slices now, if that's your thing.

2. Or tomato slices.

3. Or avocado slices.

D. Layer thin slices of cheese on top of tuna salad (or lemon slices or tomato slices or avocado slices).

E. Top with remaining slices of bread, buttered sides out.

F. Heat cast-iron skillet or whatever you've got over medium heat. Add sandwich and cook for about 3 minutes, or until cheese starts to melt and bread smells toasty. Carefully flip over (I awkwardly use two spatulas for this) and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Cut in half and serve.

VIII. You're so welcome.

IX. I love you too.

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