Superstew Sandy

Seven days. Seven days since Sandy visited the East Coast with her high winds and devastating storm surge. Seven days that I, and hundreds of thousands of others in the tri-state area, have been without electricity. Seven days: and we are still without power Chez Local Kitchen, and our estimate for power restoration is the feels-oh-so-far-away Wednesday night at 11 pm.

In some ways it feels much longer: while we are very lucky, with no damage to our property, despite the multitude of large trees looming over our tiny house; with a gas stovetop to cook on and a propane fireplace to keep us warm; with a supply of food & water put by in advance of the storm; it still feels longer. Isolation is stressful and emotionally exhausting, and given that our primary modes of communication today are via phone and internet, when those disappear, it’s easy to feel very alone, especially in the teeth of a howling storm. The nights near the storm were overcast and black as pitch, with no electric lights for miles and miles. The quiet was like a heavy blanket: no cars, no planes, no signs of life. It was a bit eerie, honestly, and I half expected zombies to come shambling to my door, moaning for braiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiins.

Thank goodness for my little hand-crank radio and for NPR’s coverage of the Sandy recovery efforts. Amidst the devastating stories of homes and lives lost in Breezy Point, the Rockaways, Staten Island and the Jersey Shore, came the stories of people, every day Americans, doing what we do best when faced with a crisis: helping each other. People with power in NYC who hung out power strips with a note: “Charge your phones here!” People hosting impromptu sidewalk barbecues for their neighbors, cooking & sharing food before it spoiled. Local stores offering freezer & fridge space to residents without power. New York marathoners heading to Staten Island to volunteer instead of running. In my little ‘hood, our South Salem fire station has been handing out dry ice, water and food to anyone who needs it; the local John Jay high school in Cross River has been offering hot showers, plus a warm place to spend the day, with lights and charging stations; and strangers share stories and offer help at the Internet Refugee Camp in Danbury (aka “Starbucks”).

In the midst of the personal stories of individuals doing their best to not only weather their own situations, but offer help to others, we have the government’s response: from police, EMTs, fire and other first responders, to the National Guard, the Marines, and FEMA, to elected officials from city councilor all the way up to President Obama, the government has a huge responsibility to provide aid to those who need it most and to try to get life back to normal as quickly and painlessly as possible. Despite some grumbling from people understandably frustrated with the speed (or lack thereof) of response efforts, I’ve been nothing but impressed by the response from local and federal government. From judgement and planning before the storm, the mobilization of help and relief during the storm, and the response to the disaster post-Sandy shown by our local officials, in particular, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, New York Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and even New Jersey Governor Christie, (of whom I’m not a fan, but who has certainly risen to this occasion and done everything in his power to provide relief to the many people suffering in his state), I’ve been amazed and heartened that, when faced with a crisis, government does work.

In light of that, it is so very important that everyone who possibly can gets to the polls tomorrow to vote: the people who are working so hard for us now deserve our support. And if I can get up and boil water on the stove for yet another “sink shower” by candlelight, jam a hat on my no-shower-since-Thursday hair, and make my way to my polling station to perform my civic duty: so can you. So, please: vote! The next disaster may be in your neighborhood and you’ll be happy you supported your local government.

Superstew Sandy

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage, thickly sliced
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced to 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup white wine (or beer, stock, etc.)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, washed, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 meaty, beefsteak tomatoes, diced (or 1 pint canned tomatoes)
  • 1 small habañero pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced (thawed from frozen)
  • 1 cherry pepper, stemmed & minced (thawed from frozen)
  • 2 cups diced yellow bell pepper (thawed from frozen), or about 2 large peppers, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1 pint stock (I used corn cob)
  • 1, 8-oz jar salsa verde (or salsa of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 and ½ cups corn kernels (thawed from frozen)
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp honey (optional)
  • brown rice, crusty bread or other grain, for serving

METHODS

  1. Add sliced sausage to a medium (5-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a sizzle over medium-low heat; once some fat has released from the sausages, raise heat to medium-high and cook meat, stirring frequently, until both sides are nicely browned. If your sausages are very lean, add some butter, bacon grease or olive oil to keep sausages from sticking. Remove sausages to a clean plate and repeat the process with the sliced chicken, removing the chicken to the same plate once browned, but not cooked through.
  2. Add wine to the Dutch oven to deglaze, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and celery; reduce heat to low and simmer until softened, about 6 – 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chile peppers and continue to cook over low heat for 3 – 5 minutes, until chiles are fragrant and tomato liquid has reduced somewhat.
  3. Add the bell peppers, stock, salsa, thyme, oregano, salt and paprika. Return the meat to the pot. Stir well, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until meat is cooked through and flavors blend, about 30 minutes. Add corn, stir, and cook, partially covered, until liquid has reduced somewhat, about 15 minutes. Add tomato paste; taste and adjust seasonings, adding honey if desired. Serve hot over brown rice alongside crusty bread.

Serves 6 – 8.

OPTIONS

  1. I added a touch of honey to the stew because, upon tasting to adjust the seasonings, the habañero flavor was a bit harsh and seemed to need just a bit of mellowing. The honey took care of that nicely.
  2. Of course, this stew was largely dictated by what I had on hand and what was busily thawing in the freezer. It is a meatier stew than I typically make, because of thawing chicken & sausage; I had intended to include some cooked white beans, but they were completely thawed and smelled a bit off, so they went into the bin rather than the stew. The point is, combining some vegetables, liquid & meat in a stew isn’t difficult, uses only one pot, and you can hardly go wrong: just keep tasting and adjusting herbs & seasonings until it tastes good to you.
  3. Remember that you are better off cooking meat that has thawed, and been kept cool, for a day or two rather than trying to re-freeze it: cooking will kill any bacteria that may have started to gather on the thawed meat and will buy you a few days of storage time, even at less than ideal storage conditions. But use your best judgement: look & smell all food carefully, and if anything smells “off” throw it out: better safe than sorry, especially in a disaster scenario.

STORE

It’s been cold, so I’ve been storing this in a cooler in the garage, sans ice. It was colder this morning that the stuff left in my fridge. Should last 5 days refrigerated, up to 6 months frozen.

SEASON

Superfrankensnor’eastercane season.

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20 comments

  1. Tammra

    Happy to hear you made it through the storm with your house and property intact! Horrible storm! We have been glued to the news here on the West Coast. It has made my family start thinking about emergency preparedness and the lack there-of in our house. Added “hand-crank radio” to my list after reading your blog :) On another note, your stew looks quite yummy and I am going to have to add it to my list of “must cook”. I am sure it is delish as everything else I have tried on your blog has been. I agree with the above, a great use of what you had on hand!

  2. SJ Smith

    Good you prepared with supplies. The stew looks very warm and toasty. My mom shared her frightening experience on Cape Cod as a small child, alone at home with her dog, about 70 years ago. It was an unforgettable huge storm. Howling winds that sent her hiding under the kitchen table and grabbing the table legs, with her scared dog close beside her. She really felt for you folks when she heard about the storm, and told me there was no way I cold imagine what you were going through. My prayers are with you, and I hope the important things are back to normal soon. Take care! (Wednesday they say, more rain coming to the East Coast)

  3. Cam

    Glad to hear you’re safe.

    Our friends in NJ have an emergency kit with a battery-operated in it and I’m embarrassed to say out here on the West coast, we don’t. Definitely putting one together ASAP tho.

  4. My goodness, but it’s hard to comprehend. I’m so far away…California. But I have actually been spending time listening to NPR from New York, Dr. Joy Browne on WWOR, and a few other New York/New Jersey stations through some good radio apps. It has been important to me to hear the news from sources in the middle of the fray. And then here you are with this informative post, complete with a delicious recipe. You’re amazing. Hope the power is on for you SOON!

  5. Glad to hear you made it through Sandy. The stories of people pulling together after the terrible storm which are making their way across the Atlantic are wonderful and your brilliant post and fantastic recipe is no different. Your stew seems like the perfect thing to comfort you during bad times, even if it was dictated by what would spoil without any electricity. Fingers crossed that your power comes back on

  6. That recipe sounds so delicious and the pictures looks so good, must be one of the best things that came out of all that sorrow and havoc caused by Sandy!

    I weathered the storm in Washington, DC. Lots of property damage all around, a neighbor’s tree fell on his house, and so on, but nothing compared to what happened further north. I hope you have power restored by now!

    I read your Paris Thanksgiving story in the comments section of David Lebovitz’s blog. Quite the feast! ;-)

  7. SJ Smith

    So, was it seven days without electricity? What you’ve gone through may be of help to others in trying to be prepared. What other things did you find helped you cope with the disaster? : ) And I’m really glad to see you’re back online, and that you’re okay.

    • Yes, just over 7 days without power, then another 2 or 3 days without cable/phone/internet (which, honestly is the worst part of the power outage, IMO. Lack of connection with the outside world.)

      What tips would I give? Fill the tub with water. Even if you think the weather forecasters are over-reacting, it doesn’t cost you much to fill the tub and drain if it you don’t need it. You have NO idea how much water you go through on a daily basis.

      Also, it sort of shocked me how little prepared people were; I’m hardly a Prepper, but there is no time in my life when I’ve got only 2 days of food in the house. I remember being completely shocked that people were out of food & water already after only 2 days. Having a well-stocked pantry, and a way to cook basic foods without electricity, is key, I think.

      Lastly: basics. First aid kit, flashlights or headlamps, batteries, candles. A hand-crank radio. None of these things is very expensive but they can make the difference between riding out the storm in relative ease, or fleeing to a shelter or awaiting rescue. Just in terms of comfort and controlling my own destiny, I’d much rather be prepared to take care of myself.

  8. i hope your power is back by now! it’s interesting to read something from someone who has actually been there. i’m all safe and warm on the west coast, and i can’t imagine what you guys must have gone through. i’ve had the power go out for 24 hours once, and it was awful. i’m glad you are all supplied up!

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