By Christine Burns Rudalevige
I read an article this week that said, on average, Americans eat 2.4 pounds of canned tuna a year. The only seafood we collectively eat more of is shrimp (3.8 pounds per person per annum).That’s a lot of tuna sandwiches, folks.
Personally I eat tuna melts, because they feel more like a meal to me. And when it comes to my tuna melts, this fish girl has got some serious standards.
In terms of buying, for sustainability reasons, I only open my wallet for albacore (white) taken from US and Canadian Pacific waters or skipjack (light) from worldwide waters that have been caught by troll or poles. Skipjack tuna — because it’s a physically smaller big fish than albacore –typically has lower levels of mercury. Albacore or skipjack, it’s got to be packed in oil. This is a standard that takes both taste (it’s better) and texture (it’s creamier) into account.
Once I have the tuna in my possession, I also have rules about the proper assembly of any melt I make.
First I keep the mayo to a minimum, because, as you know, my fish was packed in oil. For one can, I typically stir into the fish one teaspoon each of mayo and Dijon mustard. I also put a skim coat of mayo on the outside of my bread and place both pieces mayo side down in the pan. Mayo has a higher smoke point than butter (giving me a little buffer against my tendency to burn these), and it spreads very easily, so the bread turns more evenly golden brown.
In the tuna salad itself, I always put at least two kinds of crunch elements for a textural boost. I typically include both chopped shallots and cornichons if I’m running with a French version. Chopped apples, fennel, and red onion is another favorite trio.
Finally, I am always very careful to pick just the right cheese and bread to round out the meal.
I wouldn’t dare put Comte with tuna tarted up with English mustard, like Coleman’s on seeded rye. Nor could I use a good aged English cheddar with a French-inspired tuna salad on focaccia. I take my time to think about the composition of the sandwich before I slap down a piece of cheese on a slice of bread. I take that back. I don’t use sliced cheese. I grate the cheese because it melts faster.
French Inspired Tuna Melt
Makes two sandwiches
Everything In Its Place
1 (5-ounce) can of tuna (I used albacore, packed in oil)
4 teaspoons mayonnaise, divided
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped cornichons (or baby dills)
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 (1/2-inch) slices of whole grain country loaf bread
1/2 cup grated Comte (Gruyere works here too)
Drain the can of tuna fish. Combine it with 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, shallots, parsley and pepper.
Preheat a large non-stick skillet. Slather 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread. Place each piece mayonnaise side down in the hot pan. Spread half of the tuna salad on one piece of bread. Spread half one a second slice. On the other two slices, spread half the cheese. When the cheese is melted, the underside of the pieces of bread should be nicely browned. Close the sandwiches up.
Transfer them to a cutting board. Slice them each in half and serve them hot.