On Gustav Monday, just before the power went out, I curled up with my copy of "The Storm Gourmet" and wished I had stocked up on a few other things before the storm arrived.
I had my tuna, my packets of condiments, my crackers, bottled water and flavor packets to add pizazz to said bottled water. I had my fresh fruit and tomatoes. But there are so many other things you can do with shelf-stable foods, and "The Storm Gourmet: A Guide to Creating Extraordinary Meals Without Electricity" by Daphne Nikolopoulos is an excellent source.
I found this recipe book at Borders in Metairie a few months after Katrina. It was on the same table as Chris Rose’s excellent "1 Dead in Attic," and those weeks of Vienna sausage, white bread with mayo or peanut butter and applesauce came back to me with a shudder (I continue to have flashbacks when I see some granola bar brands).
Honey Mustard Chicken with Pecans. Poached Ginger Figs. Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Salad. Mom's Black-eyed Pea Salad. Sounds good, huh?
The secret is preparation. The book is heavy on canned meats, veggies and fruit, dried fruit and other non-refrigerated ingredients, plus fresh herbs, fruits and veggies. Ideally, you are safely at home and have planted an herb garden (and it's still there) when you use the cookbook. The author is also from Florida, so citrus plays a big role. It also assumes you keep certain gourmet ingredients in your kitchen anyway, so bear that in mind.
Here's a recipe I tried one month well out of hurricane season, just for the fun of it. It really was tasty. It recommends using a martini shaker to mix the first ingredients, but since I don’t have one, I used a small whisk and a bowl and did fine. You're not going to confuse this with a signature dish at Vrazel's, but when mustard-smeared sardines atop saltines is your alternative ...
PEANUTY CHICKEN OVER PUFFED RICE
12.5 ounce (1 can) premium chicken breast
8 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon chili oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Cracked black pepper
2 cups puffed rice cereal
In a martini shaker, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, chili oil and brown sugar. Shake vigorously until all ingredients are combined, ensuring peanut butter is thoroughly incorporated. Place chicken in a medium size bowl. Top with peanut sauce and toss to coat. Spoon chicken mixture over puffed rice cereal. Garnish with fresh cilantro and season with cracked black pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 2-4.