After reading Yotam Ottolenghi's Three Course Dinner in Just Four Tins, which consisted of canned corn, smoked oysters, stewed tomatoes, and pineapple, I couldn't help but try to finagle my own three-course creation using four canned foods and basic pantry items. Typically, I use very few canned goods in my culinary quests, however, should I ever come down with a case of agoraphobia—or perhaps a recession riot leaves my local grocery store empty—I better be prepared to keep up my reputation in the kitchen. For my sanity, let's just assume that I keep the basics at hand, including (but not limited to): a bread or cracker of some sort, garlic, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper. So without further ado, here goes my attempt at a five star, three course meal in just four cans.

Starter: Corn Chowder

In a medium pot coated with olive oil, sauté 2 cloves of garlic (if you have celery or bell peppers, dice and add them to the pot) for about 1 minute, add 2 cans of drained corn and 2 cans of cream of potato soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Main Course: Crab Cakes

Mix 1 pound canned crab meat with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/3 cup crushed cracker or bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper. Form cakes with the mixture and dredge both sides in flour. Coat a large skillet on medium high heat with vegetable oil and cook the crab cakes on each side until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges

Dessert: Pear Crisp

Preheat the oven to 375°F

For the pear filling, drain and dry 3 cans of pears and cut into 1/3-inch-thick long slices. In a medium bowl mix the sliced pears with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vanilla extract, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cornstarch.

For the crisp, in another small bowl, mix 1 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 6 tablespoons softened butter.

Put the pear mixture in a greased pie dish or small glass dish. Put the crisp mixture on top and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

Voila! This is a tasty dinner lineup that will be a crowd pleaser with or without extenuating circumstances. Starting off a meal with a soup is always nice, and this simple corn chowder is creamy, heartwarming, and a wonderful entr'acte to the crab cakes. I can assure you, these crab cakes will be a showstopper any day of the week with very little filling, ample flavor, and delicious crab meat, you can't go wrong. Something light, refreshing, and subtle is just the ticket to finish out the evening, and the pear crisp is just that. With delicious cinnamon and sugar woven throughout the tender sliced pears, capped with a perfectly baked crisp topping, you will undoubtedly conclude this meal satisfied.

So next time you find yourself pacing in the kitchen, uninspired, and unsure of what to prepare, take another look in that stocked pantry and see what you can whip up using the unsung hero: canned food.


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