Broiler Cooking 101: Tuna Melt

Do you broil regularly, or are you intimidated by it? I know so many GREAT cooks, probably like some of you that don’t understand broiler fundamentals. They avoid broiling because they’re afraid of burning food beyond recognition, rendering it an inedible piece of leather, smoking up the kitchen, and setting off multiple smoke detectors whose high-pitched frequencies inevitably propel innocent pets and children in the room to take flight. I’ve thought very seriously about writing a cookbook devoted to broiling because it’s such a versatile oven setting. Once you understand and master it, it’ll become a flexible tool in your cooking arsenal like no other.

I’ve learned a lot about broiling early on in my career in my showroom chef days at Wolf-Subzero, where I learned to love it. Let’s start by defining what it is, and work toward controlling the heat, which is an integral part of successful cooking. Broiling applies direct, intense, radiant high heat (at about 550°F) to one side of food, similar to the way a grill does (imagine your outdoor grill turned upside down).

A typical broiler is located in the top of an oven or a separate drawer under it. If you’re one of the lucky ones, your oven may have a couple of broiler settings ranging from high to low. For this post and recipe, the broiler should be set to high. Some ovens require the door to be slightly ajar to provide adequate airflow, which feeds the flame; others don’t. Some broilers require preheating; others don’t. Read your oven’s manual to find specific requirements for your oven. And if you don’t have a manual, remember that you can always Google your manufacturer and download it from their website. Controlling the heat level in the drawer under the oven is a bit more challenging since the shallow space is relatively restricted.

Most recipes using the broil function suggest positioning a rack at the top of the oven, which can be anywhere from three to five inches from the heating element. To better control the heat, I like to position the rack in the center of the oven as well, with the option to move the pan to the top towards the end of cooking time, if needed. Broilers located in a drawer below the oven are a little trickier. You’ll have to be diligent about checking the food often since there’s no option to lower the rack position. If you find the food is getting too dark before it’s done, cover it loosely with foil and continue to cook, but check the food frequently.

Give this broiler comfort food Open-Faced Tuna Melt recipe (with a twist, of course) a try, and let me know how it goes.

The Ultimate Spicy-Crunchy Open-Faced Tuna Melt

Double the recipe to serve four, or to prep once and eat twice. Serve with chips and a knife and fork.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • One-5 oz. can chunk light tuna in water, drained or two-2.6 oz. pouches chunk light tuna in water
  • 6 Tbs. finely chopped unpeeled red apple such as Fuji
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped, about 1/3 cup
  • ¼ cup favorite mayonnaise (I love Vegenaise), more to taste
  • 1 small scallion, thinly sliced, about 2-1/2 Tbs.
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice, more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices hearty sourdough boule, preferably cut from the center, about ¾-inch thick, lightly toasted
  • 3 Tbs. jarred hot and sweet sliced jalapenos, more to taste
  • 1-1/2 oz. thinly sliced cheddar cheese, about 8 slices

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to high broil. Line a medium rimmed sheet tray with foil. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, apple, carrot, mayonnaise, scallion, walnuts, lemon juice, ¼ tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.

Put the toast on the prepared baking sheet. Divide the tuna mixture, the jalapenos, and the cheese between the toast.

Broil until the cheese melts and turns light brown and bubbly, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Divide between two plates and serve immediately.

(I love serving on pie plates these days).

–Chef Diana 

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