Take yesterday, for example. When going over what to eat for dinner with the girl, everything either of us felt like required one (usually embarrassingly basic) ingredient more than we had in the cupboard. If our cravings were strident and we were missing everything to make the dish in question except half a stick of butter and some salt, a trip to the market wouldn't feel so out-of-place, but to go out just to get pasta felt wrong.
So we (ie, she) decided that I should make one of the easiest meals available on short notice: tuna melts.
I mean, come on. The only tricky thing about a tuna melt is the Jenga-master reflexes necessary to keep the contents of the thing from sliding sideways out from its bread when flipping it over to toast its other side, and we have an extra-wide spatula specifically for flipping grilled sandwiches because I have excellent reflexes and terrible spacial coordination skills - I can catch a falling salt shaker in mid-air but will more often than not manage to stub my toe while setting it down on the counter.
Anyway. It seemed to me at the time that a good many restaurant tuna melts are one step behind where they should be because they use the same tuna for cold sandwiches as they do for hot, but that toasting the thing in butter fundamentally alters the way your teeth are going to interact with it. Fried bread is salty, crunchy and mildly sweet, so the tuna in question should be less salty, less crunchy and spicier than the stuff you'd be putting on toasted white.
So instead of yellow onions I used green ones (same flavor, less crunch), threw in some celery to make it just a little bit crunchy but less crunchy than the onions would have, halved the salt and doubled the pepper. And it was good tuna salad...and then I made two really silly mistakes: I put tomato on the thing, completely wrecking the balance I had crafted, and I forgot that a tuna melt is a very different beast than a grilled cheese when it comes to cooking it.
It was good, but it could've been better. I will admit, though:
...it takes one hell of a photo.
- 1 can solid white tuna, in water
- 1 large handful green onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- 2-3 tsp. mayonnaise
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- heavy shake of black pepper
- 2 slices deli American cheese
- Your choice of bread
- 2 handfuls fresh leaf spinach
- butter for frying
Combine the first 7 ingredients in a bowl; mix with a fork.
Melt some butter in a pan over low heat. This is the non-tomato-related thing I screwed up - grilled cheese, you can cook over medium because the cheese is always within a quarter-inch of the pan, and it's going to melt fast. But a tuna melt is a much more delicate thing. Fry it gently: you'll need to heat up the tuna and melt the cheese before you burn the bread.
Anyway. Put together your sandwich. From bottom to top it should go bread / tuna / spinach / cheese / bread, and it needs to go into the pan upside down first, with the cheese on the bottom. This will melt the cheese enough so that, when you flip the sandwich to fry the other side, the cheese will melt down into the spinach and the tuna.
If your heat is low enough, it should take 5-7 minutes to a side. If you can't hear it frying, you need more butter. If it starts to smoke, your pan is too hot.
You don't strictly need the spinach, but I like it. It tricks me for a little bit into thinking this thing is even remotely good for me.
One can of tuna prepared like this makes two melts with a bit left over.