North Fork Chef: What do you serve during a hurricane?

Southeast, and storm, and every weathervane
Shivers and moans upon its dripping pin,
Ragged on chimneys the cloud whips, the rain
howls at the flues and windows to get in…

Waves among wires, sea scudding over poles,
Down every alley the magnificence of rain,
Dead gutters live once more, the deep manholes
Hollow in triumph a passage to the main.
“Hatteras Calling” by Conrad Aiken

Hurricane/tropical storm Irene caused some dramatic changes in our living habits both during the storm and in its aftermath, which lasted nearly a week for some people. But life goes on and as it does we must eat. Here is how one person dealt with the challenges:

On Friday, Aug. 26, as news reports tracked Irene up the coast, I went shopping for the usual flashlight batteries, fuel for the car and some groceries. I am not one who likes to stock up on canned goods as if we were on a desert island, but I knew that I would need food during the storm that did not require any cooking equipment.

So I purchased a chicken and cut it into 10 pieces. Using a recipe from Cook’s Magazine, I breaded it in ground melba toast and roasted it in the oven on Saturday. I then prepared a delicious wild rice salad that came from a Midwestern cookbook called “The Minnesota Table.” It was a mixture of cooked wild rice, brown rice, dried cranberries, roasted hazelnuts and clementine oranges. I liked the fact that it was full of healthy ingredients and would be good cold.

Finally, I made a marinated three-bean salad consisting of fresh green beans, canned black beans and canned white beans. Knowing that our electric refrigerator would be down, I set up two Igloo coolers full of ice as a substitute and put the chicken and salads in them for use on Sunday. During the storm this food was delicious and easily served. A bottle of rosé was the perfect beverage.

On Monday the skies cleared, the sun came out, and the day was beautiful — if you didn’t look at all the storm damage. Power was out and looked to remain that way for a long time. It was now time to check out the food left in the refrigerator and freezer. It turned out that we had some frozen steaks (beginning to thaw), fresh carrots, potatoes and some salad ingredients.

Now that we could move outside, the Weber grill became the perfect place to cook a simple, satisfying meal. I sliced the Yukon Gold potatoes into thin rounds, leaving the skin on. Then I laid out a sheet of aluminum foil and sprayed it with no-stick. I spread the potatoes out on the foil and placed slices of butter on top along with some sea salt and pepper. Then I placed another sheet of foil on top and sealed the edges all around. I repeated the same procedure for the carrots, adding a teaspoon of sugar on top of the butter and seasoning.

I filled the grill with about 2 quarts of charcoal, turned on the lighter and waited for the coals to turn white. Then I placed the foil packets on either side of the grill and put on the lid. After letting the potatoes and carrots cook for about 20 minutes, I seasoned the steaks and placed them in the middle of the grill. I quickly fixed a tossed salad, removed the steaks and vegetables, and sat down to a delicious “hurricane” meal. A bottle of North Fork merlot was the perfect beverage.

Wild Rice / Dried Cranberry Salad with Clementine Vinaigrette

Wild rice/dried cranberry salad with clementine vinaigrette.
JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Wild rice-dried cranberry salad with clementine vinaigrette.

Cook 1 cup of long grain Minnesota (or Canadian) wild rice according to package directions. Cook 1 cup of brown rice in the same manner. (Brown rice comes out best when cooked in a large amount of water like pasta, then drained.) Transfer both the wild and brown rice to a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon canola oil to keep the grains separated.

Coarsely chop 3/4 cup hazelnuts and roast them for 10 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Add these to the rice along with 1 cup dried cranberries and 1 cup thinly sliced scallions. Peel, section and seed four clementine oranges and add the sections to the rice. Toss gently together and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

Make a vinaigrette by removing the zest from one clementine orange and squeezing the juice from it. Add to this 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, a pinch of red pepper flakes and 3/4 cup canola oil. Shake this mixture vigorously in a jar and add to the rice mixture.

Serves 4.

(This recipe was adapted from “The Minnesota Table” by Shelley N.C. Holl and B.J. Carpenter.)

Oven Fried Chicken with
Melba Toast Breading

Cut a 4-pound chicken into 10 pieces (or purchase a cut-up chicken). Season the pieces with 1 tablespoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and set aside.

Whisk two eggs in a bowl with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic and 1 teaspoon powdered onion. Place 1 package of melba toast rounds in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Put the crumbs into a shallow pan. Dip the chicken into the egg mixture and then dredge with the melba crumbs. Place on a rack over a sheet pan. When all the chicken is breaded, put the pan and rack into a 350-degree oven and bake for 1 hour, or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees internal temperature. Remove and cool before refrigerating. Serve either cold or hot.

Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: [email protected]