It’s been an implausible two weeks in the metro New York area since Hurricane Sandy first struck. My family lost power for nine days and we were the luckier ones. In my last blog, with “Frankenstorm” looming, I wrote about the possibility of a power outage, which in effect would cause me to lose the burritos Suzy and I had previously cooked (and frozen) together. But for those of us in the cook and freeze world, where we depend upon advance preparation to get us through our busy weeks, Hurricane Sandy posed a real threat. And, as it turns out, it was no joke — Sandy destroyed not just many freezers full of food, but took lives, devastated property and wiped out an extensive part of our beloved Jersey shore. It’s been a tough two weeks, and as we reorganize our lives, head to work and send our kids back to school, we’re a bit hesitant — fearful I’d say — to start filling our freezers and refrigerators again.
And as I’m regrouping, I have to thank my neighbors on both sides of me for not losing all the food I’ve been cooking and freezing for months and months. Thanks to their generosity, we were given a plug into their generators which we used for our refrigerator, a lamp and some heat. Without them, I wouldn’t have had my breakfast cookies, pumpkin and banana breads, tomato sauce, empanadas and dumplings to share with neighbors and friends throughout the power outage.
In fact, it is food and the acts of kindness associated with food that I will remember most during and after the storm. When my power first went out, we headed down to my friend Elisabeth’s house to keep warm since she had a generator. I lugged a bag full of food with me — pumpkin biscotti, empanadas, dumplings and burritos — to feed our two families. We snacked, talked and comforted one another through her candlelit house for days and days. And then, later at night, my neighbor Eric (we call him the saint of the neighborhood) lit a fire pit in their front yard for cold neighbors to gather. Eric also brought his BBQ around to the front and offered to cook everyone’s meals — sausages, hot dogs and burgers — and I heated the corn fritters and empanadas I had made with Debbie over the summer. It was a communal affair as we passed food around the circle, warming up by the fire and commiserating about our experiences. When I brought my son Cory into the city to visit my parents, the four of us ate lunch together at a mid-town Thai restaurant, talking over Pad Thai and Pad See Ew with Beef. This lunch was a highlight for me as I got to escape our Montclair madness for an hour. And don’t let me forgot to mention all the chips, cookies and candy I stocked up on before the storm. Nothing like some junk food to get you through a power outage!
And when our side of the street got power back, we shared the food we could make in our newly power infused kitchens for those on the south (or dark) side of the street — chicken noodle soup, beef stew and Lou, his artisan bread — anything to help soothe and console our friends.
As always, food eased tension, filled bellies and relaxed people through a difficult time. And it was the food that I had made previously with friends that fed and nourished us through the storm.
Zesty Farm Fresh Corn Fritters
Makes 80 fritters
These corn fritters are best when made with the sweetest farm fresh corn. Make big batches and freeze them to enjoy for months to come. They make a beautiful appetizer for a cocktail party when served with a dollop of sour cream. If you don’t like spice, feel free to leave out the cayenne pepper and chili peppers and then serve them mild with a zesty sour cream.
1 dozen ears of sweet bi-color or yellow corn, kernels removed
4 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups reserved corn stock
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup olive oil
1 small yellow pepper, finely diced
4 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 Serrano chili, seeded and diced (or jalapeno)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Olive oil for cooking
Kosher salt for seasoning
Place corn kernels in a 4 quart pot and cover with water (about 4 cups water). Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes. Strain the corn and reserve the liquid. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Mix the egg and yolk in with the flour mixture. Slowly pour in the corn stock and mix well. Gradually add the olive oil and mix again until a smooth batter forms. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes to an hour (or longer if you need to!).
Once the batter has set, add the corn kernels to the batter along with the peppers, scallions, cilantro and cayenne pepper. Mix together well.
Fill a large skillet (cast iron or non-stick) an inch high with olive oil. Heat the oil on a medium high heat until hot. Drop the corn batter by the tablespoon into the oil and cook until golden, flipping once. Each side should take about 2 — 3 minutes. Cook the fritters in batches. Strain the cooked fritters briefly on a paper towel line plate, sprinkle with salt and transfer to a wax paper lined baking sheet. Place the fritters in the freeze uncovered until hardened and then transfer to freezer bags. To re-heat, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and cook for about 12 minutes, turning once. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.