There’s one group of classics that, until now, has been overlooked.
Our cover story this month is about New Orleans cuisine, specifically the great New Orleans dishes as they can be prepared at home. The coverage is as comprehensive as the dishes are flavorful, nevertheless when people write about the great ingredients for indigenous cooking they always forget about one truly local group – leftover canned items from the previous year’s hurricane scares.
My kitchen shelves not only contain artifacts from last year’s Hurricane Ivan, but also Hurricane Georges (1998). If canned meat is like fine wine – better with age – then I have some eBayable gastronomic delicacies in the cabinet.
Because it will soon be time to buy supplies for the new hurricane season, here are some hints about what to make with the remaining stash.
Red beans and rice with Vienna sausage. For a really quick meal, open a can of Blue Runner red beans or a box of Zatarain’s red beans and rice mix. Either way, when the beans start boiling, plop in a couple cans of the little sausages, which will swell almost to the exploding point. If you feel daring, include both the plain sausages and the barbecue-flavored variety.
Spam poor-boy. You can’t get much better than this. Slices of Spam can be served grilled, microwaved, pan-fried, chilled or right out of the can (boiling is not recommended). Prepare dressed with lettuce, tomato and pickles. Since Spam does not make its own gravy, ladling on the contents of a leftover can of mushroom soup can help achieve the appropriate sloppiness for the poor-boy.
Potted-meat pâté. Surely you have a bottle of Tabasco or Crystal Hot Sauce somewhere in the back of your refrigerator. For this dish, simply place the potted meat in a bowl, splash in the hot sauce to taste, mix and spread on a cracker, preferably Ritz or Hi-Ho. Note, however, that if the crackers are also leftovers from a previous hurricane, you might be better off with stale French bread.
As for what to drink with these dishes, if you have been a longtime hurricane-supply gatherer, you might still have six packs of Schwegmann’s Beer or K & B brand beer in storage. Simply put the brew on ice until chilled. If the beer dates back to Hurricane Betsy (1965), you might want to do a quick taste test first.
For dessert, a leftover Hurricane Andrew (1992) McKenzie’s pineapple upside-down cake would be ideal. But if you’re no longer hungry, save it for the next hurricane. It would make a great paperweight. •