BLOOMBERG – American home kitchens are in an unprecedented moment, where the most pedestrian supermarket staples can be as valuable as finicky homemade products.
Which makes this the perfect time to celebrate the tuna melt, one of the most supermarket-driven of sandwiches. It’s made from canned tuna, mayonnaise and sliced cheese from the dairy aisle-not dependent on decent produce.
Coincidentally, the sandwich is a highlight of the new The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals From Ocean to Plate by Bart van Olphen. Van Olphen was once a chef at the 2-Michelin-star restaurant Lucas Carton in Paris. He’s gone on to become a passionate sustainable seafood advocate: He advises British food star Jamie Oliver on the subject and has written cookbooks in both English and his native Dutch.
His new book includes 45 recipes for different kinds of canned and tinned seafood, from anchovies and sardines to less conventional options such as mackerel. “Tinned seafood is considered secondary to fresh. But people should think of it as a way of preserving – that’s a technique that’s so popular now,” said van Olphen.
Van Olphen has a soft spot for the tuna melt, which combines creamy tuna salad with melty cheese within the crunchiness of fried bread. He notes you can substitute your favourite cheese for cheddar and even use a thick layer of salty grated Parmesan. But it’s hard to argue with a cheese that melts all over the tuna salad as it toasts in the skillet.
The former chef in van Olphen hacks the classic by making a homemade ketchup to serve as a dipping sauce for the tuna melt. It’s a good, tangy, sweet tomato mix.
TUNA MELT WITH KETCHUP
Six-ounce can of oil-packed tuna, drained
Quarter cup diced red onion
One scallion, finely chopped
Three tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Three tbsp mayonnaise
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Four slices of rustic bread
Two tbsp unsalted butter
Four slices of sharp cheddar cheese
Ketchup (recipe follows), or your favourite store-bought bottle
In a medium bowl mix the tuna, red onion, scallion, parsley, mayonnaise, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Butter each slice of bread on one side. Divide the tuna mixture on the unbuttered side of two bread slices and top with the cheddar and then the other two bread slices, buttered sides up. Warm a griddle or cast-iron skillet over moderate heat and fry the sandwiches, carefully turning once, until the bread is crusty and the cheese is melted, about three minutes per side. Serve hot with ketchup.
Makes about two cups
Two tbsp olive oil
One garlic clove, minced
Half cup chopped red onion
One 14-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes
Half tbsp tomato puree
One tbsp dark brown sugar, plus more to taste
One tbsp vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and red onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened but not browned, about five minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, and vinegar and cook over low heat, breaking up the tomatoes, until thick, about eight minutes. Let cool, then transfer to a small blender and puree. Season the ketchup with salt and pepper, and more brown sugar, if desired.