Susan Sampson Gets Creative with Canned Seafood
Just in time for back to school/work, Susan Sampson, author of 200 Best Canned Fish & Seafood Recipes, offers recipes that are easy to upscale or downscale, whether you are a time-challeged working parent trying to get supper on the table or a nervous employee inviting the boss to dinner.
"When I told people I was writing a cookbook starring canned seafood, I heard a lot of jokes about slaving over a hot can opener and stocking up for civil emergencies.
There is a certain snobbery surrounding tinned fish. But it also has fans in the millions. Trouble is, even devotees don’t always know what to do with a can of fish or seafood, beyond mashing it up with mayo or tossing it into a casserole with condensed soup.
A decade ago, as food editor at the Toronto Star, I opened a story file and scribbled “Start With a Can of Tuna” on the label. I never did write that story – daily newspaper deadlines and a steady stream of urgent food news got in the way. However, I remained convinced that a home cook could get creative with canned tuna and its cousins.
In the kitchen, my repertoire ranges from haute to folksy. Fortunately, canned seafood is there to respond to my whims. It’s easy to downscale or upscale recipes, depending on the type of seafood I select. Tuna, for instance, runs the gamut from inexpensive water-packed fish to pricey belly fillets in extra virgin olive oil. When I crave a taste of crab, I can snack on dip whipped up with a little can of flaky crab, or wow guests with a refined salad starring white crabmeat chunks. I do love to get fancy, so I might make a pot pie using canned lobster meat on the weekend. But as a working mother, I also realize that the world is spinning too fast. It’s tough to get weekday family meals on the table or stuff lunches into those brown bags late at night. That’s when the humble canned salmon, for instance, comes to the rescue. When you’re pressed for time or money, it’s nice to know you can raid the pantry.
Fresh seafood is dandy, but canned seafood is ready when you are. It’s a speedy alternative to fast food. It’s generally nutritious, economical and convenient. And a lot of varieties of seafood are interchangeable in recipes, so you can swap what you have on hand. (Where appropriate, all my recipes suggest such substitutions.) So yes, enjoy fresh fish when you have it on hand, along with the time to fuss with it and the money to pay for it. But feel free to use canned fish in situations that are less ideal – when you are in a hurry, or when you are penny-pinching, or when you have to customize dinner for those picky kids.
This book includes traditional and updated recipes, new creations and twists on classic fish dishes. All the recipes start with plain or smoked canned seafood, in water, oil or sometimes a bit of embellishment. No pickled, pâtéed, spiced, sauced or ready-to-eat concoctions – they speak for themselves."