Tinned fish a tasty catch

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - MIA STAINSBY

When the school year starts, Kraft Din­ner and Mr. Noo­dle see a spike in sales as col­lege and univer­sity stu­dents cut loose from the com­fort of home-cooked meals.

But why de­prive pre­cious brains of nu­tri­tion when it’s most needed? Why not cook with fish?

Be­fore get­ting all huffy about lack of fridge and kitchen space as well as the time to shop and cook, let me just say this: Tin Fish Gourmet. It’s a cook­book with easy, imag­i­na­tive recipes us­ing tinned fish.

The first edi­tion in 1998 was such a hit that au­thor Bar­bara-Jo McIn­tosh was ap­proached re­peat­edly to up­date it. Oh, all right, she fi­nally said. The up­dated ver­sion has 24 new recipes.

The book comes with a top-tier rec­om­men­da­tion.

Michel Roux, who with brother Al­bert are con­sid­ered the god­fa­thers of mod­ern Bri­tish cui­sine (hav­ing opened the first three­Miche­lin star restau­rants out­side of France), calls the book a “min­i­mas­ter­piece.”

“Tin Fish Gourmet is my thrifty fris­son, an in­dis­pens­able lit­tle gem that has rarely left my side,” Roux writes in the book’s fore­word.

“The book shows how that seem­ingly dull tin lurk­ing at the back of your cup­board can be quickly trans­formed with the ad­di­tion of a few fresh in­gre­di­ents, into an up­lift­ing and mouth­wa­ter­ing dish with min­i­mum ef­fort and max­i­mum taste.”

For McIn­tosh, fish is a re­cur­ring theme in her life. She ate a lot of fish and had great hair, she says, when her di­vorced mother dated a com­mer­cial fish­er­man. Once, she even lived in an apart­ment above a fish can­nery in Prince Ru­pert, B.C., with a boyfriend. Back in those days, tinned fish cook­ing meant tuna casse­role, sal­mon loaf and shrimp curry.

In another chap­ter of her life, a friend in the seafood in­dus­try gave her a case of canned sal­mon and canned tuna for Christ­mas ev­ery year, so she be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with recipes. That’s what led to Tin Fish Gourmet.

“I came by it hon­estly,” she says. “I cer­tainly ate a lot of fish in my life. I guess once you’re a fish per­son, it never leaves you.”

Canned fish, she says, isn’t just a retro con­cept: “Tinned fish is huge in Europe. In Paris, there’s a whole store ded­i­cated to tinned sar­dines. Spain is big on canned fish, too.”

The added bonus is McIn­tosh’s charm­ing per­son­al­ity on the pages — you feel her pres­ence, en­cour­ag­ing you to en­joy the cook­ing process.

“I think of an­chovy as the Woody Allen of lit­tle fishes — bril­liant, but of­ten an un­com­fort­able feel­ing sur­rounds the sub­ject,” she says of the un­der-loved fish.

“I love both an­chovies and Woody Allen’s films, and both de­liver strong, com­pli­cated and in­tel­lec­tual morsels worth con­tem­plat­ing with plea­sure long after their ini­tial im­pact.”

And if you’re cook­ing to im­press, McIn­tosh makes it easy to be fancy-schmancy. Sal­mon couli­b­iac could be a long and te­dious dish to make. But with tinned sal­mon, Un­cle Ben’s wild rice and pack­aged puff pas­try, you earn re­spect with­out break­ing a sweat.

Other recipes in­clude Creamy Garlic and Clam Chow­der; Crab and Goat Cheese Strudel; Oys­ter Pot Pie; Av­o­cado, Chick­pea and Sal­mon Salad; Sar­dine, Red Onion and Cam­bo­zola Sand­wich and for old time’s sake, two tuna casseroles.

And should you still be lured by Kraft Din­ner and Mr. Noo­dles when shop­ping, McIn­tosh gets scoldy. “It doesn’t take much to make your own mac and cheese with tuna. Boil the pasta, drain, add fish and grated ched­dar cheese. It would be much nicer.”

McIn­tosh says se­niors (who don’t get out for fre­quent shop­ping), boaters and cot­tagers would find the book use­ful, too: “It’s ac­ces­si­ble, you don’t need a large pantry or a large kitchen. Just stack the tinned fish, pull them out as you need them.”

“In high school, one of the first things I learned to make was the clas­sic tuna melt,” says Bar­baraJo McIn­tosh.

“Proudly show­ing off my culi­nary achieve­ment at home, I made sev­eral and promptly de­voured them. It took a while be­fore I could look at a tuna melt again, but this ver­sion rekin­dled my love af­fair.” 16 oz (454 g) tinned tuna, drained

1 tbsp (15 mL) may­on­naise 1 tsp (5 mL) le­mon juice 1/4 cup (60 mL) diced red onions

1/4 cup (60 mL) diced cel­ery

In a medium bowl, com­bine tuna with may­on­naise, le­mon juice, onions, cel­ery, and ap­ples. Sea­son with pep­per and com­bine well.

Slice baguette into 8 pieces about 1/2-in. (1 cm) thick. Cover slices with mix­ture, then sprin­kle each with cheese.

Place rack in top por­tion of oven and turn on broiler.

Place slices on a cookie sheet and put un­der broiler for 2 to 3 min­utes un­til warmed through and cheese is bub­bly and be­gins to brown (but don’t let them burn).

Makes 2 to 3 serv­ings

Oys­ter Pot Pie

“I have al­ways found any kind of pot pie to be com­fort­ing, but the oys­ters in this recipe add a dis­tinctly sen­sual flavour,” says McIn­tosh. “I have served this with great suc­cess us­ing a sweet potato crust, but you may use your favourite savoury pas­try recipe for tan­ta­liz­ing re­sults.”

1 tbsp (15 mL) but­ter

1 tbsp (15 mL) flour

3/4 cup (185 mL) milk 2 strips ba­con, cut into 1/2-in (1-cm) pieces 1 cel­ery stalk, diced

1 medium car­rot, diced 1/2 cup (125 mL) oys­ter mush­rooms

1/4 cup (60 mL) dry white wine 1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced green onions 15 oz (420 g) tinned oys­ters, drained Pas­try to cover a 6-in. (15-cm) souf­fle dish 1 egg, beaten with 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) wa­ter, for egg wash Pre­heat oven to 350 F (175 C). In a medium small saucepan on medium-low heat, melt but­ter. Stir in flour to make a roux. Slowly add milk and stir to make a white sauce that is not too thick. Re­move from heat and set aside. In a small fry­ing pan on medium heat, fry ba­con un­til cooked but not crispy. Add cel­ery, car­rots and mush­rooms and cook for 2 min­utes. Add wine, re­duce a lit­tle, then add onions. Com­bine this mix­ture with white sauce.

Place oys­ters in souf­fle dish. Pour sauce over and fold in to just com­bine.

Roll pas­try to 1/8-in. (3-mm) thick­ness. Cover filling with pas­try and press to edges of dish to seal. Brush pas­try with egg wash, poke with a fork about 6 times, and place souf­fle dish on bak­ing sheet. Bake for 30 min­utes un­til crust is golden brown.

Makes 2 serv­ings

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The Tin Fish Gourmet by Bar­bara-Jo McIn­tosh fea­tures easy, de­li­cious meal ideas.

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