Thursday, February 8, 2024

Weekly Cooking Report February 8: Tuna Salad

I sometimes struggle on how complicated to make these. The goal is to give people who are afraid to cook things that I know that they CAN cook, in order to open their perspective and also have their families be grateful for the reader for their family meal contribution. 

And it doesn't get much easier than Tuna Salad, which is often dismissed as something too simplistic for a family meal. But it's nothing of the sort. Cooked, canned tuna is a versatile player that you can jazz up in a lot of different ways. Below is my normal spread

That's a single can of water packed, drained Tuna (which is smaller these days than it was in the past) but for a whole meal you're looking at one can per two diners. You'll need a binding agent for the tuna, which is normally mayo. You need less of this than you think. In my case there's 2 tablespoons there (red on the right). The rest of the binding agent is coming from stone ground mustard, but everyone has their own mustard taste. I generally use the healthier mustard as the rest of the binding agent so I'm not adding all of mayonnaise's fat and oil. And since you need less binding agent than you think, this is a tablespoon of mustard (blue front center). 

That's the bare minimum: the tuna is now technically a salad. I then add minced onions (pink right) and garlic (green), diced celery (pink left) and pickles (yellow), some pickle juice and a spalsh of lemon juice. If i were some insane purist I'd insist you get an actual lemon and juice it but I'm not; the RealLemon works fine here. You can basically eyeball this - celery is your number one add in for texture and just a hint of flavor, and then some volume of the others. 

Some people leave out pickles. Those people are wrong. 

The goal is to balance the flavors and textures, with the tuna providing some fishy umami, the mayo bringing some unctuous oil, and then a little heat from the mustard, crunch from the celery, brine and more crunch from the pickles, acidity from the onions, and a hint of garlic to round it out. I generally don't add salt, but you can. Done properly you get a lot going on in each bite, and each bite is just a little bit different. 

You can serve this the way I normally do, which is pretending to be healthy on romaine lettuce leaves. 

but the other popular option is the Tuna Melt. This application is why God invented American Cheese, which melts and browns perfectly for this. I use slices of store bought rye bread for this, just so the bread is brining some extra flavor, and it's sized properly for a single slice. Lay out the bread on a cookie sheet and cover each piece with the tuna salad. You should be able to get four slices of cheese-sized bread per can made. You don't want to over-stack this or it gets messy to eat. 

Finally you stick the cookie sheet in the oven, set it to Broil, turn on the oven light and keep an eye on in. In a few minutes the cheese will bubble and start to brown. That's when you're done. These are meant to be open face, and you may need a knife and fork to cut them up while the cheese is still warm. Or not. 

Serve to a grateful family. If you're not serving them on Romaine, a small side salad might be in order. 

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