Gulf Coast Cooking

Coast Cooking: Try these ration-al improvements over battlefield meals

June 6, 1944, is a special date. Most of the brave souls who took part in the Allied invasion at Normandy are now long gone, but what they did there forever will be remembered.

There was a Staff Sgt. Julian G. Brunt on Utah Beach at 7:10 a.m. Growing up as an Army brat, I had my share of mess hall meals and rations, too. Let's look at some of the most famous -- or infamous to some -- and see if there isn't something we can do to help them out.

At first the C-ration was pretty grim, consisting of just three main courses: meat and beans, meat and potato hash, and meat and vegetable stew. It was originally intended to be used sparingly, but conditions often forced men to depend on them for weeks at a time. By 1943, some new choices were added, including meat and spaghetti, and later, chopped ham, egg and potato, meat and noodles, pork and rice, frankfurters and beans, pork and beans, chicken and vegetables, and the dreaded ham and lima beans.

Bruce Elliott, who served with the 4th Infantry Division, said "C-rations were a staple of our diet. Far from gourmet, they did keep us alive. I don't believe many really liked any of the several varieties, because there weren't many, and one gets tired of the same old thing day after day, plus there often was no way to heat a meal, and frozen meat balls are not very tasty. The second can of a C-ration usually included crackers and a bar of chocolate or cheese. Because of difficulties with, or distaste for, the meat can, often we ate only the contents of the second can."

So let's revisit a few of these basic recipes, taking artistic license to change things up a bit, and make them into something your family just might enjoy.

If you give any of these recipes a go in your kitchen, take a moment or two and think of the young men who did so much for us and our great country in World War II.

Prepairing this fresh makes all the world of difference, and it is hard to imagine how grim it must have been to eat this cold out of a can, especially if someone was shooting at you!

HAM, POTATO AND EGG

1 cup cubed smoked pork chop

1- 1/2 cups cubed potato

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

1 seeded, chopped jalapeno

Olive oil

1 egg per person

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauté the ham in a little oil until it takes on some color, then remove and set aside. Add the cubed potato and a little oil if needed, season aggressively, and cook, tossing often, until just done. Be careful not to overdo it or it will turn to mush. Remove and add to the reserved ham.

Add the onion, bell pepper and jalapeno to the same pan and cook for 5 minutes over a medium flame. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Now, combine all the cooked ingredients, toss, season as necessary and cook just so everything holds hands.

Very gently, cook the eggs in a non-stick pan, plate the hash and garnish with an egg. Serve immediately. Serve with a canteen of stale, cold water.

To make this dish anything like palatable, let's change the frankfurters to smoked sausage and the beans to cannellini or great Northern beans. Of course, if you are making this for kids, you can use a good quality hot dog, like Nathan's, or Brooklyn smoked and uncured hot dogs.

Please remember that it is essential to brown the sausage or hot dogs to bring out the best flavor.

FRANKFURTERS AND BEANS

2 cups cooked beans

1 chopped red onion

3-4 cloves chopped garlic

1 cup sliced smoked sausage

1 teaspoon best prepared mustard

1 cup best quality chicken or vegetable stock

Oil as needed

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Sauté the sliced sausage until it is thoroughly browned, then remove and set aside. Add the onion to the same pan, season aggressively, and cook for 4-6 minutes. The hot oil will help the seasonings wake up and be assertive.

Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the beans and stock and simmer for 5 minutes, add the sausage and simmer for 5 more minutes. If it is not thick enough, use an immersion blender for a few seconds to break down some of the beans, that should do the trick.

Serve with a dollop of your favorite hot sauce. Imagine eating this while hunkered down in a wet, miserable fox hole.

We can overcome this dish's stigma by using fresh beans and a good quality pork sausage.

LIMA BEANS AND HAM

2 cups fresh lima beans

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup chopped pork sausage

Red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

Fresh tomato for garnish

If you cannot find fresh lima beans, use frozen or canned. If you use canned give them a good rinse in water. A good quality breakfast or patty sausage does well in this recipe. Sauté the sausage until well browned, remove and set aside.

Add the beans to the same pan, add the stock, season, and simmer until tender. Make sure to taste and re-season as necessary. Use a immersion blender to thicken the beans, but don't overdo it. If you do not have a blender, just use a fork to mash about1/4 of the beans into a thick pulp. Add the sausage and simmer just 5 minutes. Chop the tomato to use as a garnish.

Think how lucky you are to be able to serve this meal hot. If someone is shooting at you, the last thing you can do is build a fire!

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