Plan for visits unannounced and just expect the unexpected

Nelson shares his life experiences and his most favoured recipes.

In a recent column  I said that you should not take shortcuts with your cooking.

But, of course, there are exceptions to that rule. For example, you have four or five people land on your doorstep a half hour before supper, looking rather lean and hungry. What do you do?

Well, if you’re smart, you’ll plan for such emergencies well in advance. When I worked for Admiral Pullen as his personal chef , I always had emergency meals stowed in the freezer. In fact, every so often when I made a meal I doubled the recipe and froze what was left over. A smart move, since Mrs. Pullen had a disturbing habit of inviting people over for lunch and dinner at the last possible moment.

I never minded two or three extra for dinner, but a dozen or so uninvited guests presented  problems. The best way around this dilemma, as far as I could discover, was to serve a dish like creamed Lobster in Patty cases. I’ll give you that recipe in a minute, but first let me tell you about an amusing incident that involved the chief petty officer I was going to relieve when I got the job of the Admirals personal chef, I’ll call him Bob.

Bob had obviously been at his job too long. He was a bundle of nerves and went into orbit when Mrs. Pullen pulled one of her tricks and invited a dozen or so extra people for dinner. I guess I was too inexperienced (or too dumb) to realize this was a disaster waiting to happen. At that point in time Bob kept his freezer empty and clean. Well, there was only one way out of our predicament as far as I could see. I grabbed a big saucepan, ran across the road to the officer’s galley and bummed a gallon or so of Chicken a La King and some puff pastry shells.

Fast, easy to prepare and elegant with the right garnish, I served it with a Romaine salad and canned carrots. Sprigs of fresh parsley set it off to perfection. Here’s the recipe for canned lobster for four.

Ingredients:

1 can light cream

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. flour to make a roux to thicken sauce

1 tsp. diced green pepper

1 tsp. diced pimento

1/2 cup sliced & sautéed mushrooms

1/4 cup diced ripe black olives

1/4 cup diced green stuffed olives

Season to taste with salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and white wine

Method: Make the white cream sauce using the butter, flour and cream and set aside. Mix the lobster, pimento, green pepper, mushrooms and olives together and season to your taste. Add the Worcestershire sauce and white wine to the cream sauce to make smooth, then ladle it into pre-heated puff pastry shells. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and serve a salad on the side.

It’s very easy to keep lobster on hand, either frozen or canned, and it’s also easy to thaw anything in the microwave. So next time you’re cooking, double it up and freeze some. You will be very glad you did, the next time unexpected guests show up. — Enjoy.

See Ya Next Week!