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Big Sky Bites: The Tuna Melt

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By Michael Somerby EBS STAFF

For some, the suggestion might sound fishy: seafood, cheese and bread. But this delicious combo offers the most unlikely of American lunchtime heroes: the tuna melt.

With a controversial synthesis of flavors and food groups, I’ve learned to accept there is a segment of the population that will always stick their nose up at the idea of giving this sandwich a shot.

But the truth is, people learn preferences for food through experiences—find me an example of a child that truly likes vegetables (that aren’t smothered in Hidden Valley), and I’ll find you a parent that’s also likely to share suspicious anecdotes suggesting early signs of genius and precocious pursuits.

The case for preference through experience was argued beautifully at a roundtable discussion I participated in at Peking University, an elite research institution based in Beijing; after a series of volleyed hardball questions pertaining to gun rights, censorship and contributions to the escalating effects of global warming, we eased into lighter fare when a Chinese student asked which of his country’s dishes had us Americans retching.

We agreed the insects, gelatinous cubes of duck and pig’s blood, boiled goat feet and roasted rabbit brain and tongue were a bit daunting—all of which I tried and found to be delicious after acknowledging that a thousands-of-years-old food culture must have a few things figured out.

We turned the question on them, and only one food was named: cheese—why would westerners eat a food that was deliberately past due, smelly and sometimes covered in fungus? Good point: One of those most cherished dishes in our culture is objectively disgusting.

Just as you learned to love rotting cow and sheep’s milk, you can learn to love a tuna melt. And with a few tweaks to the ingredients, even the snootiest of palettes can dig in, sans fear.

Recipe:

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Wild Planet pole & line caught albacore tuna (good ol’ Bumble Bee works just fine)
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 1/8 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced parsley
  • 2 tbsp diced celery
  • 1 pinch dry oregano
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Juice from one wedge of lemon
  • 1.5 cups grated extra sharp cheddar
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices fresh sourdough
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F
  2. Open can of tuna, draining excess water
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together tuna, capers, onion, garlic, parsley, celery, oregano, crushed red pepper, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, mayonnaise and desired amounts of salt and pepper
  4. Butter one side of the sourdough bread slices, placing butter-side down on a baking tray
  5. Top the sourdough with the tuna mixture, spreading evenly over bread surface
  6. Crack fresh pepper over sandwiches
  7. Top with shredded cheddar (don’t worry if some touches the tray, these get baked into crunchy cheese crisps)
  8. Bake until cheese is melted, 6-10 minutes (for extra measure, I like to broil my sandwiches after baking them until the cheese begins to brown)
  9. Enjoy

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