Legend has it that the tuna melt was accidentally invented in the 1960s at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Charleston, S.C., when the cook didn’t notice that a bowl of tuna salad had tipped over onto a grilled cheese. We may never know if this story is true, but there’s no doubt that the tuna melt has become a classic American diner food. This recipe adds chopped cornichons and whole-grain mustard for a satisfying crunch and vinegary element. Extra-sharp Cheddar is a must, and as with grilled cheese, the key to achieving perfectly melted cheese and golden bread is to toast the sandwich over medium-low heat. If you prefer an open-face tuna melt, skip the top piece of bread and place the sandwich on a sheet pan under the broiler until the cheese melts.
- 3 (6-ounce) cans solid, water-packed tuna, drained
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup finely chopped cornichons or small kosher dill pickles
- 3 tablespoons minced red onion
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 packed tablespoon minced fresh dill (optional)
- 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 slices rye or sourdough bread, cut 1/2-inch thick
- 8 sandwich slices extra-sharp Cheddar (or 6 ounces shredded)
- 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, plus more as needed
- Place the tuna in a medium bowl and flake with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, cornichons, red onion, lemon juice, dill (if using), mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Depending on the size of your bread, spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup tuna salad on each of four slices of bread, heaping it in the middle slightly. Divide the cheese among the sandwiches, tearing and arranging the cheese to fit neatly. Place a piece of bread on top of each and generously spread the top piece of each sandwich with about 1/2 tablespoon butter.
- Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-low. Place two sandwiches, buttered-side down, in the skillet, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottom pieces of bread are golden brown.
- Meanwhile, spread the top of the each sandwich with another 1/2 tablespoon butter. Carefully flip the sandwiches, turn the heat to low, and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, until the bottoms are browned and the cheese is melted. Repeat with the remaining two sandwiches and serve immediately.