In my all-time best sandwich pantheon, the tuna melt has always been a Top Five contender. Fellow yinzers, you may be horrified to learn that during my teenage pseudo-vegetarian years, my standing Primanti’s sandwich order was not kielbasa or cheese steak, but tuna.
(I still maintain that it’s one of the best options for the famous sandwich, especially when you give the tuna and coleslaw a healthy shake of Frank’s Red Hot.)
In my equally important seafood hierarchy, it’s a constant battle between crabs and clams for the number one spot. Like my husband’s burger rankings, my favorite bounces back and forth based on what I’ve eaten recently or what I’m particularly craving, but I must admit that as much as I cherish oysters and lobster, they’ll never beat out the two Cs for supreme seafood domination.
(What, you’ve never ranked your top five favorite sandwiches? Liar! Don’t tell me that’s not what you think about while you do dishes.)
I eat enough clam pasta, that’s been established. But do I eat enough crab in my everyday life? Probably not, considering the price point of good crab vs. good clams at the market—and I’m lucky enough to have clams from Sandy Hook, NJ to slurp down, but no local crab to keep the cost at a lower margin.
So when I decide to splurge on crab, I want to use it in a recipe that lets me really taste each sweet flake. Though I ate enough crab cakes as a kid to grow my own set of pincers, I’ve moved on from requesting the broiled, breaded patties at every special-occasion meal.
No, what I want is a dish that doesn’t hide the meat with too much filler and that gives me almost instant gratification. I want a crab melt, of course!
An open-faced crab melt keeps the ratio of crab to bread exactly where it should be—in favor of the crab, of course—and doesn’t require too much mayo to bind everything together. Though I’ll never turn down a slice of American cheese in normal circumstances, it’s not the guy for the job here.
Its assertive CHEEZINESS is a perfect foil for pungent tuna and pickles, but way too much for delicate crab and dill. Real French muenster is a lovely partner if you manage to get your hands on a wheel, but mild and meltable Fontina or Monterey Jack won’t take things too far.
And since I’m the only one in this two-person household who eats crab, I only need to make enough to feed my own needs. A mini baguette and an 8-ounce container of crab are enough for two sandwiches—one for today, one for tomorrow.
Once consumed with gusto, the crab melt will have satisfied my crab cravings for a few weeks and I can go back to putting clams at the top of my list.
- 1 mini baguette or small loaf of ciabatta, sliced in half vertically and then horizontally to make 4 thick slices
- 1 8-ounce container of crabmeat—can be backfin, claw, or special; no need to splurge on lump
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 large scallion, minced
- 1 medium celery stalk, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh dill + dill fronds for garnish, if desired
- 1 teaspoon minced chives
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 pound meltable cheese like Fontina, Monterey Jack, or Muenster
- Lightly toast the baguette slices, then set aside.
- With a spatula, gently stir the crab, mayonnaise, scallion, celery, dill, chives, and salt together in a medium bowl until combined.
- Line a small rimmed baking sheet or toaster oven pan with foil.
- Place the toasted baguettes on the baking sheet, then divide the crabmeat evenly between the 4 bread slices, mounding it generously on each.
- Thinly slice enough cheese to cover the crab salad.
- Toast or broil the crab melts in a toaster oven or regular oven just until the cheese melts.
- Garnish with dill fronds, if desired, and serve immediately.