The Tuna Melt that I Forgot

I went hiking over the weekend in Shenandoah National Park with my girlfriends, Paula and Pam.  We hiked up White Oak Canyon to the lower falls.  What a glorious day!  On the way home, we stopped in Culpepper Virginia and ate at the Frost Diner.  A throwback establishment with plain American food and low prices.  I had a tuna melt.  Remember tuna melts?  My Dad used to make them for me when I was a kid, but I hadn’t eaten one in years.  So if you haven’t had one in a while or ever, read on to rediscover tuna deliciousness.

Here’s what made the Frost Dinner Tuna Melt so great:

  1. The tuna was really creamy…we’re talking major mayo.  If you don’t like mayo, you might as well stop reading now.
  2. Crisp brown buttery rye bread that goes crunch.
  3. Sauteed onions.  This is an innovation that I don’t remember having before in this context, but a really great addition.
  4. Adding the tomato after you grill the sandwich.  That way you get the mosture and flavor of the tomato without getting that cooked tomato taste and texture.

Here’s what I used to make 4 big satisfying sandwiches.

  • 2 (5 ounce) cans solid tuna in water, drained
  • 3/4 cup lowfat mayonnaise (See Note)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flatleaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • generous squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 8 slices of rye bread
  • 2-3 room temperature tomatoes thinly sliced
  • 8 slices Cheddar Cheese
  • Butter for grilling (salted or unsalted)

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Note:  OK, this is a lot of mayo, but in my defense it was very lowfat mayo (only 15 calories and 1 g of fat per tablespoon).  If you make this with a richer mayo, try starting with 1/4 cup and add more to taste.  In fact, in retrospect, I think I will use a richer mayo next time I make this.

Add the mayo, celery, shallot, parsley, pickle, sugar, kosher salt, black pepper and lemon juice in a medium-size bowl.  No need to use the extra big one like I did.  Why did I do that?

Mix it all up and give it a taste.  Add a little something if it needs it.  Depending on the saltiness of your pickles and tuna, it may need additional kosher salt.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.  While you wait, go ahead and cook sliced onion over medium heat in a pan with a tablespoon of canola oil and a pinch of kosher salt until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Then slice up that room temperature tomato.  It’s almost tuna melt time!

When you’re ready to eat, spread a generous amount of the tuna salad on a piece of rye bread and top with onions and cheese.

Top with the other piece of rye and spread the sides of the sandwich with butter.  Grill over medium heat.  Don’t make it too hot or the bread will burn before the cheese is melted.

I like to cover the pan with a lid while I grill.  It makes the cheese melt faster.  After about 2 minutes on each side, it will look like this.

Ahhhh.  That is a thing of beauty.  Now for the hat trick.  Take the sandwich off the grill and pull the two sides apart to layer in the tomatoes.

Put the two sides together again and you are in tuna melt heaven.

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2 Comments

  1. Have you ever used ranch dressing to make your tuna — there is now new fangled yogurt/dressing mix that is really taste.

    Reply
  2. as I recall your father used sharp cheddar for his tuna melts. The rest of this recipe is more elaborate than what he used to make for you. I am really looking forward to making your somewhat more sophisticated version.

    Reply

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