Make them in the morning and live your best life

By Rebecca Firkser
October 24, 2018
Photo by Lauri Patterson via Getty Images

There is a sandwich that you can get at a diner that tastes like nostalgia. It also tastes like tuna. It’s like cheese toast, but with protein. I’m talking, of course, about a tuna melt.

“When I think about the tuna melts I’ve consumed in my lifetime, I would estimate that about 90 percent of them were consumed during childhood, as a result of my parents being out of ideas, out of groceries, or both,” Anna Hezel writes in a piece about NYC tuna melts in Taste. I strongly identify with this line, as I too had tuna melts probably once a week as a kid. As I recalled the myriad tuna melt nights, and how much I loved them, I wondered why they were always dinner and never breakfast. Tuna melts scream breakfast.

Toast, creamy tuna salad, melting cheese. Crunchy. Greasy. Filling. Why wouldn't you want to eat that after a late night out? You could go to the nearest bagel shop for a bacon, egg, and cheese to soothe your liquor-soaked soul, but I prefer to avoid going outside and instead reach for my can opener.

Here's how to make the tuna melts of my childhood. If you’d rather use rye bread, a bagel, or challah, be my guest. If you don’t like open-faced sandwiches, feel free to cover the melty cheese with a toast-hat. If you’re vegetarian, as I once was, I'll tell you that I've had luck making a chickpea melt—but it’s not nearly as good.

Open a can or jar of tuna. I think oil-packed is best, but if you use-water packed you’re not hurting anyone. Dump it into a bowl along with a tablespoon or two of minced celery, two big spoonfuls of mayonnaise, and one spoonful of dijon mustard. At this point, I also like to add a handful of roughly chopped capers and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Salt and pepper. Mix it all together with a fork, breaking up the tuna.

Meanwhile, heat the broiler and place two split English muffins on a sheet pan. Toast the bread for a few minutes, until lightly golden. Pull the pan from the oven and top each slice of bread with a mound of tuna salad. Next comes the cheese. When I was growing up, that meant slices of white or yellow cheddar. You can use slices or grate whatever you like, but I think something sharp and salty is best. Pop the sandwiches back under the broiler for three to five minutes, or until the cheese is melted and just starting to singe. Serve two tuna melts per person, preferable with pickles on the side.