A Tale of Two Tuna Melts (and a Recipe)
As a child, I hated tuna. So. Much. I was not a fan of seafood in general, but tuna was always the absolute worst. My mom's attempts to make it appealing were usually followed by a refusal to eat, tears, and sometimes screaming. Needless to say, tuna was not served very often.
Last year I decided to end a 9 year hiatus from meat by adding seafood to my diet. With Dave coaching me through some delicious halibut- and prawn-centric meals, my childhood seafood hatred was quickly converted to an appreciation for les fruits de la mer. However, I still clung to the belief that tuna was up to no good, and refused to give in to its evil ways.
Eventually, I found myself at Subway with Dave and he convinced me to try a bite of his tuna sub. It was...yummy! I was amazed that its flavour no longer induced tantrums, and proceeded to eat half of Dave's sandwich. Tuna-phobia conquered!
Since then, I have found myself turning to tuna regularly because it's so versatile. My parents gave me a great cookbook for Christmas that is indispensible in this regard: Joie Warner's Take a Tin of Tuna - this book has loads of great tuna recipes, from breakfasts to sandwiches to entrees. Who knew canned tuna could do so much?
One of my favorite things since "discovering" tuna has been tuna melts. This past month, I tried the tuna melts at two different Toronto restaurants. The first was at the Duke of York - Paul, Alex, Dave, and I headed there for some grub after seeing "Art School Confidential" a few weeks ago. The tuna melt was heralded as being served on a "pretzel bun" on the menu, which is what convinced me to order it.
When my meal arrived, I found that all of the tuna was on only one half of the pretzel-shaped bun. I put some yellow mustard on the other half, and squished the two together like a sandwich. The pretzel bun was lightly toasted, which was a nice touch, and had a definite chewy pretzely texture. The tuna was kind of plain, combined only with mayo, but the cheddar cheese on top was nicely melted and had lots of flavour. The sandwich was rounded out with some tomato and red onion, and was served with a good portion of amazing french fries - perfectly crisp on the outside, and fluffy (they seemed almost hollow) on the inside. I would definitely order another tuna melt at the Duke of York.
The second tuna melt I had this month was at Mel's Montreal Delicatessen. It was served open-faced on untoasted rye bread, and had some red onion mixed in with the tuna and mayo. The cheddar cheese on top was nice and melty, but I really wish the bread had been toasted before the tuna was added - it was a touch soggy. The fries served with the melt were pretty standard. Mel's makes an okay tuna melt - it's definitely comfort food - but there is room for improvement.
On the heels of these two experiences, I decided to make my own tuna melt version at home. I picked up some fresh Ace Bakery focaccia buns from the grocery store, as well as some artichoke hearts, lemons, and goat cheese with the aim of making a tangy dish. I also threw in some fresh parsley to add a sharp herby bite and some red onion, which always pairs nicely with tuna and adds some crunchy texture.
This recipe is really easy to make, and got two thumbs up from Dave. Toasting the buns before adding the tuna is a critical step, so warm up your broiler and bust out the can opener!
1/2 of a small jar marinated artichoke hearts, coarsley chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh italian parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 crusty buns (calabrese works well), halved
a little butter or margarine
3 oz goat cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1. Gently combine tuna, artichoke hearts, onion, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, and mayo in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Spread a small amount of butter or margarine on each bun half, and place onto a baking sheet, cut-side up. Put the baking sheet under the broiler just until the buns begin to brown.
3. Remove the buns from the oven, and spoon 1/4 of the tuna mixture onto each half. Crumble the goat cheese over the tuna, and return the baking sheet to the oven. Broil until goat cheese begins to brown slightly.
4. Remove the melts from the oven, grind some fresh pepper on top, and serve immediately.
(this recipe serves two)