How to Cook Like a Champ - Even During a Blackout
God, I hope they cleaned that fireplace grate first.
The crock pot recipes that EOW blogger Kevin Shalin shares here each week have become one of our most popular series of posts, but what are you to do when rolling blackouts prevent you from making those tasty crock pot recipes at home?
And what are you to do when it's below freezing outside and you don't want to pile in the car and make a trek out to a restaurant on potentially icy streets? Especially considering just as many restaurants have been experiencing blackouts as residences have?
You stay at home, that's what. And you improvise.
There are several options for those faced with rolling blackouts during this Arctic weather:
1. Cook over your fireplace (you lucky bastard) 2. Cook on your gas stove (you even luckier bastard) 3. Cook on your grill outside (aren't you tough?) 4. Cook on a camp stove 5. Make tuna salad out of your pantry
The last option isn't particularly appealing to us, especially in cold weather. So here are tips on accomplishing the first four items on the list.
Note: Since this weather is expected to continue into the week, with a chance of snow tomorrow and Friday, you really ought to stock up at the grocery store tonight if you plan on staying in. And stopping by REI or Gander Mountain for a portable camp stove isn't the worst idea in the world (after all, you should keep one around for hurricane season anyway).
1. Cooking over your fireplace
Buy firewood and log starters at Home Depot or on the side of whatever road you're taking home tonight. And because I know many Houstonians rarely use their fireplaces, in which case: Please make sure the flue is open before lighting a fire in it.
For dinner, pretend that you're camping. There is absolutely no scenario in which this is not fun, and it serves the dual purpose of distracting your gadget-addicted children if and when the power is out. Impale hot dogs on bamboo skewers and go to town. Heat up a can of beans the old-fashioned way (read: take the paper off the can and puncture the lid before setting it on the fire) to make extra-fancy hot dogs. Roast marshmallows and make S'Mores for dessert.
You can make this all at home, on your stove top.
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
2. Cooking on your gas stove
This goes without saying, but here are a few of our own quick and easy recipes that are particularly suited for the cold weather:
Cassoulet (if Nick could make this at work on a stove top, you can make it at home) Super Easy and Delicious 1015 Onion Soup (serve with plenty of crusty bread and a mug of beer) Braised Sausage and Sauerkraut (easy, fast and very hearty) College Pasta Redux (this will use up some languishing pantry items as well) Cabernet Beef Stew (easy enough, although it takes about an hour to cook) Stewed Turkey Necks (this one is easy and inexpensive; serve with greens and rice) Shrimp & Cauliflower Grits (for the pescatarians in your life)
3. Cooking on your grill outside
Another item that is pretty self-explanatory, but please -- for the love of carbon monoxide poisoning -- do not try to drag your grill into the house and cook on it inside.
Otherwise, bundle your ass up like Randy in A Christmas Story and go to town. Make some chili cheeseburgers. Grill some bacon-wrapped shrimp. Your significant other and/or family will venerate you as a golden effing god. That kind of power is worth braving a little inclement weather.
4. Cook on a camp stove
Even two-burner, butane-fueled camp stoves are less than $100 these days; not a bad investment. And you can cook nearly anything on them. My favorites are hearty cereals like Cream of Wheat or Malt-O-Meal for breakfast, along with a skillet of eggs and bacon on the other burner. You could even conceivably lay a griddle across the two burners and make pancakes. Breakfast for dinner is highly underrated, too, and -- like the fireplace -- keeps the kids happy and occupied.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.