Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day Two Forty Nine - Tuna Melts - The Final Version

Whoops, I think I pressed published by accident folks, so here's the final version...While at lunch today with a friend who ordered a tuna melt, I got to thinking about the sandwich; what it means to American society, it's history, why it is so classic and of course what cheese is best with it.

If you break down a tuna melt, what is it basically?

Two pieces of toasted bread (the type is up to you)
Tuna fish salad traditionally made with mayo
Cheese (Tradionally Cheddar, Swiss or American)
Optional : Lettuce / Tomato on the side

This is quintessential American diner food, excellent with a large plate of French fries and a milkshake. It's easy to make, cheap, not always that easy to eat, but the potentiality of messiness is some of it's appeal. You find it in offered in big cities, small towns, in hole in the wall joints and sports bars and of course diners, you name it, the tuna melt has large percentage chance of being there. There's something bizarrely homey and comforting about it, I can't really fully explain it, but it's got that certain "je ne sais quoi" comfort appeal just like wearing your boufriend's worn in sweatshirt has, if that makes any sense.

So why not play off a recent challenge on the television show, "The Next Iron Chef" and well maybe not make an Iron Chef worthy tuna melt but dress it up a bit by suggesting a few other cheeses that could be excellent on top of your tuna.

The key for thinking about cheeses is to use here is two things:

1. They need to be semi firm to firm cheeses to achieve the right meltability over the tuna.
2. They need to enhance the flavors of the tuna but not overpower them.
3. Keeping with the ease of accessibility, you need to be able to walk into a Fairway to buy these, maybe not a D'Agostino's but basically you need to not have to go to a speciality cheese shop.

So what are my cheese suggestions? I am only going to give you three so as to not over burden you with countless options!

Option Number #1 : Petit Basque - The quintessential French alpine style cheese made with pasteurized sheep's milk and only aged for 70 days. During the curd production process, the small pound cylinder is covered in a thin brown rind. It is just the right amount of buttery smoothness with a nutty mountainy goodness. The Petit Basque although straightforward has some excellent sheep-y nuances that will pair wonderfully with the rest of the sandwich.

Option Number # 2 : Boerenkaas 2 year aged Gouda - Holland?  Of course! This two year old Gouda is nothing like the red wax kind -- it is firm, caramelly, butterscotchy, even hazelnutty and all around scrumptious. Made with raw milk and pressed into thirty-six pound wheels, it is perfect with a tall mug of beer.

Option Number # 3 : Drunken Goat - A semi-firm goat's milk cheese that is cured in red wine. The result? A very pale ivory interior paste and a violet burgundy exterior hue. It is silky smooth with a nice faint fruity sweetness. The cheese's fruity silkiness is perfect with the rest of the sandwich.

So next time you want something cozy and warming, think of making yourself a tuna melt, it will bring back fond memories of childhood and riding bikes and a time when life was simpler.

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