Thursday, April 14, 2016

Throw Back Thursday Trial and Error Tuna Patties

Tuna patties are decidedly a food from my childhood. I remember my petite, blond mama with her perfectly hot-rolled hair, sliding plates of golden-brown tuna patties, topped with melted American singles, across the bright orange Formica counter top in our dark-wood accent kitchen.

Since this IS a "throw back" post, here's a picture of the lady who was slinging those tuna patties off the griddle. "Hi, Mom!"



And...so that I am (hopefully) forgiven for posting pictures of retro-mom on the Internet, here's one of me, circa 1990, in the very same kitchen that I just described. Unfortunately the lighting in this picture doesn't really do the counter tops justice. They were pretty vibrant!


Why yes, I totally am canning pumpkin bread for Christmas gifts while wearing puffy satin pajamas in this picture. Isn't that what all of the cool kids were doing on a Friday night in the early 90's? #nerdalert


Every once in a while, I still get a hankering for a tuna patty. Golden and crisp on the outside, all savory perfection on the inside. Hold the cheese, please.

The great thing about tuna patties is that you can really make them your own and they're hard to mess up as long as you follow this basic formula: "bind" the tuna together, add extra ingredients for flavor and texture, season the patties, form the patties, fry the patties. Here's a closer look:

To bind (make everything stick together)

The main ingredient here is obviously tuna. Although, this formula works with other proteins as well. Think salmon, crab, even turkey. After you've got the protein ready, you'll need something to bind the meat together. Eggs and crumbs are a popular choice. I remember that my mom used cracker crumbs. Ritz, I think. Since we are trying to eat a little "lighter" these days, I opted for egg whites and panko bread crumbs this time. Traditional bread crumbs work great too.  


Add extra ingredients

The next step in the formula is to add in any extra ingredients for flavor and texture. This time, I added in diced sweet onion and sliced scallion (green onion) as my "extras". If you're going for a healthy boost, you could add grated veggies, such carrots or zucchini. Another flavorful option is grated or shredded cheese. Just a tip for the "extras": you don't want to add tons of extras because you still want those patties to hold together when you cook them up.

Seasoning

My husband requested Old Bay seasoning for this recipe. We're big fans of the Old Bay. In fact, our oldest child is border-line obsessed with this spice blend from the Chesapeake Bay area.  It turned out it to be a great choice. I also poured in a few "glugs" (a tablespoon or two) of hot sauce. You may want to try flavors like lemon and dill or Parmesan and basil or rosemary. Like I said, make them your own!

Forming the patties

The biggest challenge with this step is that you want patties that will maintain their patty "status" throughout the cooking process. As in, you don't want them to fall apart. Avoid making the patties too big or too thin so that they are easy to manage with your spatula once in the frying pan.

Frying

Make sure to "grease" your skillet so that the patties don't stick. A couple of tablespoons of olive oil should be sufficient. Heat the prepared skillet over medium-high heat so that you get a nice sear on the patties before you are ready to flip them. Browning enhances the flavor and appearance of the tuna patty and makes it less likely to stick to the skillet.

And now for the photographic play-by-play....

Here is the "cast of characters" for my recipe: 2 cans of tuna, eggs, panko, onion, green onion, Old Bay, and hot sauce.



First things first, open up your cans of tuna and drain off the liquid. I just use a can opener to cut around the lid, then press that lid down, squeezing out the liquid, while tilting the can over the sink so that the excess liquid pours out of the can and down the drain. Add the tuna to a medium-size mixing bowl with diced onion, green onion, hot sauce, and Old Bay seasoning.  


                               

Stir it up, then add the panko and egg white to the bowl.


While I chose to add just the whites, you may want to add the whole egg. If so, use 1 or 2 whole eggs instead of 3 egg whites. The key is that you want the mixture to bind together. So, if the mixture is too dry, add another egg or a little extra water or milk. If it's too wet, you can always add more crumbs (Panko, cracker, bread, whatever you choose). Just keep in mind that the main ingredient should probably be TUNA in a tuna patty, so don't get all carried away trying to create the perfect balance; adding more liquid then more crumbs, then more liquid, then more crumbs...

You see how this could get out of hand, right? It's like trying to cut your doll's (or sibling's) hair when you were a kid. You make one snip, but something just doesn't look right. So you try to "even it out". Which requires another snip. Then another. And another...

Those of you who have been in this situation know exactly where this path to attempted perfection leads, right? 

Bald Barbie.

Or bald sister.

Either way, the moral of the story is that acting conservatively is probably a good plan when it comes to both the novice snipping of hair AND the addition of ingredients to tuna patties.

*As I re-read this segment, I realize that I may just be the first person in all of blogging to compare making tuna patties to novice hair-cutting. Talk about a "meandering mind"! Stay tuned for my next random thought....

Once you've got the ingredients all mixed up, it should look something like this. The mixture should stick together.

Like tuna Velcro.

Ewww. Never mind. Can you imagine? Tuna Velcro?! Gross.

   

Now that everything is mixed up, it's time to make the patties.

I prefer not to form tuna patties with my hands. This is probably not shocking news. Nobody wants stinky tuna hands. 

And so, I scooped the tuna mixture out with a 1/3 cup-sized measuring cup. As it turns out, by using the 1/3 cup, this recipe made 5 perfectly uniform tuna patties. Uniform is good, since you want them all to cook to the same desired golden brown, at the same temperature, within the same time frame.

When forming tuna patties, I spread a piece of waxed paper (parchment works fine too) on my kitchen counter, then drop each scoop onto the paper.



Then, I place another piece of waxed paper on top and press down with either my hand, or the bottom of a cup, or a spatula, or a rolling pin, or...well, you can use just about anything within reach that will flatten those puppies down.

I use this method with any hand-formed meat patty and for rolling out pie crusts too. The idea is that when you finish, you'll have clean hands and BONUS: no counter top clean up!



Now that I've shared my earth-shattering meat patty "life hack", check out these perfect tuna patties.


BOOM!

Okay, now into the skillet. Just pre-heat your skillet to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and fry up those tuna patties until they are nice and crisply golden-browned on the outside and cooked through. I think that I cooked mine for about 4 minutes per side.


You want to make sure that you let them cook for long enough on the first side especially, so that the surface of the patty holds together and starts to "crisp up" before you attempt to flip it, otherwise you may risk the patty falling apart.



These turned out awesome! My family demolished the entire skillet. My husband and I ate them with a little bit of homemade, "lightened-up" remoulade sauce that I had left over from another recipe. Our oldest daughter ate one sandwich-style between a "skinny bagel", grilled with a slice of cheese (a little throw-back to those tuna patties of my childhood). Next time I'm going to have to double the recipe...

Now follow the formula and make your own version!

Or you can copy my recipe. I'm cool with that.

Enjoy!


Krista's Kitchen Tuna Patties

2- 5 oz. cans of chunk light tuna in water, drained
3 egg whites
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup onion, diced
2-3 green onions, sliced
1-2 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot
1-2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the first 7 ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Heat olive oil in a skillet at medium-high. Measure out patties by packing the tuna mixture into a 1/3 cup measuring cup. Turn onto waxed or parchment paper. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper and press the mixture down into patties that are 1/2"-3/4" thickness. Transfer patties to the skillet and fry for 4 minutes per side until nicely crisp and golden brown.

According to my smart phone calorie counting app (MyNetDiary) 1 patty= 94 calories













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