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White: Easy comfort foods to help ease the stress

By Lee White

Publication: The Times

Published November 15. 2012 4:00AM

As much as I like company, there's a girl named Sandy that arrived, stayed way too long and never, ever helped out.

Old Lyme was a quiet place after storm Sandy, although a strip of light from the Bee & Thistle up Route 1 through Coffee's and Laysville never lost power. I spent a few minutes Tuesday with Linnea at B&T. Bert the Bird perched on my shoulder, but even he was a bit hyper and didn't allow me to scratch his neck. On Thursday morning, I stopped at Coffee's and bought a bacon and egg sandwich.

On the whole, I can't complain and won't, as long as my friend Elise, who lives is Westport, is without heat and electricity, Staten Island and much of Queens and Long Island are dark with many of the beaches and beach houses destroyed and my sweet Jersey shore, where I spent childhood summers, is irrevocably changed.

I have a large generator that I turn on with the flick of a finger. I used it sparingly, two hours in the morning and four to five in the late afternoon and early evening. I and some of my neighbors were able to shower, have coffee and boil water and fill jugs of cold water. Many of us charged cell phones and other electronics. I did all that and cooked quite a bit - a huge pot of pasta marinara with hot sausage, a meatloaf that fed more than 20 people and two chocolate cakes for the parents of the few trick-or-treaters who visited Wednesday night. I didn't lose the contents of my refrigerator or freezer. Here are two easy recipes for comfort food that will warm your tummies.

Jambalaya

Adapted from a recipe given to me by a co-worker in the 1990s.

Yield: Serves 4 and doubling the recipe works beautifully

1/2 pound bacon, diced

1/2 pound sweet or hot sausage

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 stalk celery, diced

1 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup uncooked rice

2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon each dried parsley and thyme

2 bay leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Tabasco or other hot sauce and/or cayenne to taste

In a large skillet, cook bacon and sausage until crisp. Add onions, garlic and celery and saute briefly. Stir in shrimp, tomatoes, rice, chicken broth, herbs, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add cayenne or hot sauce sparingly, to taste. If too thick, add a bit more tomatoes or broth. Serve with more rice, cooked separately, if you like.

Chocolate-Cinnamon
Rice Pudding

From Bon Appetit, but I don't know how long ago

Yield: serves 6

4 1/2 cups milk (2 percent is fine)

1/3 cup long-grain white rice

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

4 large egg yolks

3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Heat 4 cups milk, rice, sugar and cinnamon sticks in heavy large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until rice is tender and mixture is very thick, stirring often, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and discard cinnamon sticks.

Whisk egg yolks and remaining one-half milk in medium bowl. Whisk in some of hot rice mixture. Return mixture to remaining rice. Stir over medium-low heat until thermometer registers 160 degrees, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla. Transfer pudding to large bowl, cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. (I love it hot, too.)

Nibbles

I pretty much ate at home during Sandy's visit. Once I had a little hamburger and fries at Five Guys in East Lyme, and once Sandy departed I and my neighbors, Linda and Scott Brunza and their adorable little girls, drove to Ortega's in Groton.

But Friday night, still powerless, the Kings and I went to a new restaurant called the Common Loon, located where Frank's Gourmet Grill was. We shared an appetizer of fried eggplant and tomatoes alongside a lovely puddle of vodka sauce. It was luscious. I asked the waiter if the Loon does a pizza like that and he told me they would mix and match any ingredients to satisfy a customer. That made me happy.

By the way, entrees of Gorgonzola pasta, chicken and vegetables with Thai spices and seared scallops with orzo were amazing, too.

Common Loon

135 Boston Post Road

East Lyme, CT 06333

(860) 739-5666

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