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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.