Tuna salad, chicken salad, and egg salad are staples in my house, and they are almost always made better with melted cheese. (The first time I tasted an "egg salad melt" — just recently — was a revelation!) I usually throw any one of these together as a dinner afterthought, until it dawned on me that they could use some special attention. The classic tuna melt was first in line for a makeover, with homemade olive oil mayonnaise and salty Parmesan taking it from good to great!
I love to make homemade mayonnaise if I need to up the "awesome" factor. I have experimented with my recipe a lot over the years and at this point I pretty much have it down to a science. Most recipes tell you to use a blender or food processor, but the small quantity of ingredients never seems to get emulsified (it always hides under the blades.) I find that using a hand mixer is the best way to get the job done.
I also transfer whatever oil I'm using to a squeeze bottle for quick and painless dripping; it's much easier than trying to blend and pour from a measuring cup at the same time. I usually make mayonnaise with all canola oil, but for this batch I added a fruity, mellow olive oil to pair with the tuna.
As for the tuna salad, the mayonnaise really does most of the work here, but hardboiled eggs, capers, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon all help to brighten up the final dish. I piled the tuna salad on slices of toasted French baguette, and finished it off under the broiler with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan (an addition that was a million miles ahead of its American cheese counterpart). I'd say the old deli counter classic just got a run for its money!
Tuna Melts with Olive Oil Mayonnaise & ParmesanServes 2
For the mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup good-quality, smooth olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
For the tuna melts:
2 5-ounce cans good-quality tuna, preferably wild caught, such as Wild Planet
3 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
1 hardboiled egg, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
Lemon juice, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 toasted baguette slices
Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
For the mayonnaise, whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a medium sized bowl.
Using a hand held mixer on medium speed, mix the egg yolk mixture while slowly adding 1/4 cup of the olive oil, drop by drop, until the mixture becomes light and thick (this can take a couple of minutes). After adding the initial 1/4 cup of olive oil, the mayonnaise should be stable and emulsified; add the remaining olive oil and canola oil in a slow, steady stream until it is thick and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the tuna melts, heat the broiler. Drain the tuna and thoroughly pat dry. Combine tuna, mayonnaise, egg, capers, and parsley. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Divide tuna salad among the four bread slices. Top with shredded Parmesan and run under the broiler for 1 to 4 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
This recipe makes more mayonnaise than the tuna melts recipe calls for. Any extra can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week. Use for making just about anything taste better!
Related: Recipe: Cashew Chicken Salad Wraps
(Images: Nealey Dozier)