Spicy tuna melt with cilantro and sambal oelek ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

28 March 2013

Spicy tuna melt with cilantro and sambal oelek

spicy tuna salad with cilantro and sambal oelek

I haven't had a tuna melt in at least ten years. The last time I remember eating a tuna melt, I was in a bowling alley in East Lansing. White bread, mayo, american cheese--the works.

So what spurred me to make a tuna melt for lunch? I mean, besides that I wanted to actually use some of the emergency tuna I've had in the cupboard for who knows how long.

Well, I wanted to change up the traditional tuna melt, and transform it into something more interesting and less mayonnaisey. I wanted to make it a vehicle for interest and spice. Okay. So let's make the tuna salad component mayo-less, and dress it with a bit of olive oil instead. And let's use some of the big bunch of cilantro that's been hanging out in the crisper. And how about spicing it up with some sambal oelek and mustard? I was out of Chinese hot mustard, so I had to use dijon, but it worked nonetheless.

I can totally see adding a bunch of chopped mint and basil (either along with or in place of the cilantro, according to your cilantro preferences), and maybe even a few drops of fish sauce, for a more obvious Thai tuna salad concoction. I could also see adding some diced hard-boiled egg, for double protein and fat deliciousness. It's tuna salad; you can do whatever you want to it.

One can of tuna will make enough salad for two open-faced melts.

spicy tuna salad with cilantro and sambal oelek

Spicy tuna salad

can of tuna
scallion (or red onion)
sambal oelek (or other hot chili paste)
mustard (dijon or spicy Chinese)
salt, pepper
olive oil

Drain your can of tuna and deposit it into a mixing bowl. Finely dice a stick of celery, a small carrot, and a scallion, and add them to the bowl. You can use more or less veg according to your preferences.

Rip the leaves off a couple stems of cilantro, chop them up, and add them to the bowl. Spoon in sambal oelek and mustard to taste, season with a bit of salt and several large grinds of pepper, and dress with a drizzle of olive oil. Stir it all up and taste it to make sure you're happy with all the proportions.

Voila! Spicy tuna salad.

To make it a tuna melt:

spicy tuna salad

Put spicy tuna salad on your choice of bread. Cover with a few slices of the cheese of your choice. I used sharp cheddar, which is admittedly a bit weird with the cilantro and sambal combination, but it worked out admirably. The only other cheese in the house was goat cheese, and that's not what I wanted, so. I do think some spoonfuls of cream cheese could be deployed to good effect instead, though.

Heat up your tuna melt(s) in the toaster oven or under the broiler. When the cheese is melted and beginning to risp, you're ready.

Eat. I put a bit of extra torn cilantro over the top of mine, because CILANTRO, but that's really up to you.

spicy tuna melt with cilantro and sambal oelek

Note that it's impossible to plate a tuna melt in a fancy manner. The extra cilantro was all I could manage. I mean, I guess a bed of greens could happen, but that would be pretty nonsensical, so I didn't bother. And anyway, who cares? It's a tuna melt. What I really needed was a wide stoneware diner plate with the traditional blue rim. I bet we could even plonk down some kimchi in place of the traditional slaw and dill pickle spear.

Now I want a set of diner plates. Great.

What traditional foods have you turned on ear lately?


Michelle said...

Spicy tuna salad will always trump mayo-y tuna salad. Be still my heart.

It doesn't need to be fancy. That's half the reason why I love it.

I made grilled cheese with Muenster, dijon, and pickle the other day. Necessary.

Caz said...

It's been so long since I've had a tuna melt and I have no idea why. So delicious and easy to make. I love your spicy version. I'm sure I've got a couple of cans of tuna hiding in the back of my cupboard too. :)

Monet said...

Love this. I'm not a big fan of mayo, so I appreciate a tuna salad that doesn't rely heavily on the white junk. Thank you so much for sharing. Delicious, as always...and inspiring! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Jes said...

Somehow I've never eaten a tuna melt. Crazy, right? I think canned tuna just freaks me out. Your gourmet spicy version sounds/looks pretty rockin' though--maybe worth a try!

Joanne said...

I was never really into tuna salad because I was never really into mayo...but I LOVE the sound of this version! So much more flavor and spice!

Sippity Sup said...

That's a perfect example of why 'open-faced' sandwiches are the best. No need to peek under the hood, all its beauty is on display. GREG