As I write this, over 2 million people have lost power in the tri-state area. High-tide is expected soon. Con Ed has preemptively turned off power for 6,500 residents in lower Manhattan near Battery Park. The first hurricane-related death has been reported in Flushing, Queens and water is now flowing like a river into the Brooklyn Battery tunnel from the Manhattan side.
Coming from the Midwest, one would think that I’d have a lot of experience in preparing for weather-related emergencies. Oddly enough though, I don’t. Or, at least, not for possible power outages that could last for days like this. So yesterday as my daughter and I spent the afternoon preparing for the impending hurricane, I felt like I was completely out of my element. The question I kept having to ask myself and my daughter was, “What would we be willing to eat either cold or at room temperature that didn’t rely on using the stove or the refrigerator?” That was a really tough question to answer because we just don’t eat a lot of canned foods or junk food.
We went from store to store trying to grab things that we thought we might need or eat which included such randomness as AA batteries, salt, bread, Nutella, fresh fruit, cereal, potato chips, and gallons of water. It was such a strange feeling to be out and about amongst others who were doing the same. Everyone was moving about in a disorganized frenzied state trying to beat the early store closings and public transit shutdowns. Many of us in disbelief at the shockingly bare store shelves.
We finally arrived home at 7 PM and decided to stay in for the night even though we had been planning to have dinner at a friend’s apartment just three miles away. All of the network channels were covering the storm. There wasn’t any way to get away from the coverage without putting a movie on. But having never been through this before, I was concerned about completely turning off the coverage as well. We finally decided to turn it off and go to sleep at midnight.
Although we were out picking up supplies yesterday, it was strange to feel like I had to scrounge up a meal today. I kept wavering back and forth, “Should we eat something that we just purchased in case the power goes out or should I cook something that is actually tasty and nutritious since we still have electricity and natural gas?” I really wanted to cook normal food, but had forgotten to purchase grocery items that would allow me to do so. And under normal circumstances, I would put on my jacket and walk to either of the two grocery stores within two blocks of me and grab the missing ingredients to make what I wanted to eat. That obviously was not an option today, so I improvised!
For whatever reason, I thought potato leek soup would be really tasty. The only problem with this was that out of all the ingredients I needed to make potato leek soup, I only had potatoes. Hey, one out of two main ingredients isn’t bad, right? Here’s how I made my potato and almost leek soup while being shuttered in.
First off, I know this will sound terrible, but it turned out to be really tasty. Since I didn’t have any pre-made broth, I got this brainchild while I was cooking the all beef franks to store in the refrigerator in case the power goes out. I should make broth out of the hot dog water! So after I took out the cooked hot dogs, I added a whole nutmeg nut, two bay leaves, celery salt, regular table salt, and freshly ground peppercorns to the hot dog water to create a slightly smoky broth. To hold on to as much of the flavor as possible, I cooked the potatoes in the broth.
Now, knowing that I would have to use skim milk as a substitute for the heavy cream, I chose to use one tablespoon of butter to cook the onions to add richness to the soup. I put a few dashes of cumin into the onions as I was cooking them to add depth to the flavor of the soup. Once the onions were thoroughly cooked without browning them, I put them into the pot where the potatoes were still cooking in the broth.
When the potatoes were thoroughly cooked, I lowered the heat and added in one cup of skim milk. I let the soup come back to a gentle simmer and evaporate to the right consistency, then mashed the potato chunks right in the soup pot using a potato masher. I added some finely chopped fresh parsley and dinner was ready – hot dogs with potato and almost leek soup! It was surprisingly good.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me regarding recipe improvisations. And to all on the East Coast, be safe and happy dining with whatever you have access to during this storm.