I needed to make about 25 tuna salad sandwiches, so a large batch was in order. I was handed two 4 pound cans, and shown a walk-in cooler filled with all sorts of produce and condiments. Tuna salad making definitely scales up and down, so this will work with a much larger or smaller amount as well. I figured I would stick with the basics of great tuna salad: solid white Albacore packed in water, salt and pepper, chopped celery and lots and lots of mayonnaise. Since I didn't perform the actual sandwich making part of the process, I can't say exactly how far this batch went, but it seemed likely there would be plenty, and I was able to snack to my tuna lovin' heart's content.
Step 1: Open Cans.
Having an industrial grade can opener is not necessary, but sure makes it feel super pro! Any size can and/or can opener will do. A true tuna lover will find a way inside, and a true tuna hater will look on in amazement.
Step 2: Drain Liquids.
Some tuna comes packed in lots of water (preferred) or oil. Whichever you choose, drain well by pressing severed lid onto tuna while pouring off liquid into sink or other disposal area. Press against tuna to squeeze out as much as you can. Extra, undrained liquid will interfere and make the salad too moist.
Step 3: Empty Cans Into Large Bowl.
Dump the tuna into a bowl large enough to thrash around in while mixing. I hate it when there isn't enough room to swoosh the mix, and it falls over the edge and onto the table or floor. Once you've dumped into the bowl, you can still drain off any liquid you may have missed. Break up the chunks with a fork, a large spoon, or if you're feeling adventurous, your extremely clean fingers.
Step 4: Elaborate on Your Seasonings.
This is the stage where you may feel a creative urge to wow, astonish, and impress your tuna lovin' pals. Do a final rummaging in the cooler for late breaking ideas! I decided that celery wasn't quite enough to wow the gang, though it would provide the crunchy, slightly bitter notes I was looking for in this composition. I added shredded carrots and chopped parsley, while pondering the pros and cons of the Kalamatas. Pro: salty and tangy- a lovely complement to the fish and fresh vegetables. Con: canned and intense, they would stain the batch, which needed to sit overnight, and render the salad an unappetizing purple color. (Ideally there would have been a cup or two of sliced black olives available, and that would be great as the color won't bleed). Ultimately, I chose to chop about 1/3 of a cup into small pieces and tossed 1/3 of a cup of caution to the wind.
Step 5: Toss.
Using a utensil of choice, toss, toss, toss until the seasonings are evenly distributed. Can you spot the parsley, shredded carrots, diced celery and minced kalamatas? NO ONIONS!! (put onions on fresh when serving as they are too strong and will make the salad stinky.)
Step 6: Add the Mayo.
The secret to delicious tuna salad is LOTS of "Real" mayonnaise. Not Miracle Whip or Salad Dressing or Soyonnaise or Lo-Fat or any other cheater mayo-like product. Here's where the draining of the water/oil part starts to make sense: otherwise the mayo will drain to the bottom of the bowl with the moisture and you will have a fishy salad sitting in a pathetic pool of watery goo.
This batch took about 5 or 6 heaping industrial sized spoonfuls, and the texture you are looking for is "kinda creamy". Too little mayo will produce a sad, dry, crumbly tuna salad that is too close to the cat food family and won't stick together. Too much mayo will be somewhat icky, but you can salvage by adding more of anything you already have in there, or something else that grabs your fancy. You could add nuts or grapes or cucumbers or any number of textures or flavors. Think of absorbancy rates/abilities and you'll be fine.
Anyhow, once your texture is good, finalize the salt and pepper and chill. I like to pre-chill the cans so the batch is ready to eat. Keep chilled.
Step 7: Enjoy!
Here I slapped about a third of a pound scoop onto a soft kaiser hamburger bun and had a heavenly moment of tuna lovin' happiness.
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