BHS Pandemic Food Shopping Guide

I know a lot of Hungries out there are overwhelmed right now. And you know what, COVID-19 is overwhelming. Whatever your emotions are during this odd time in our lives – bored, weepy, anxious, sleepless, sleepy, lazy, angry, or nonplussed – they are valid, and you should let them flow through you.
I also know many of us are home baking and cooking furiously, which helps us chill out, but even that’s complicated, as store shelves are bare and you don’t want to go to the grocery store too often right now. I thought I’d lend whatever help I can with a foodie’s guide to food shopping during this, the pandemic of our discontent.

Bread aisle

The bread aisle has been cleared out both times I’ve been to the market in the last week. Understandable, as kids are home and sandwiches are easy. Plus, toast is one of the most comforting foods ever, amiright? So get creative with frozen pizza dough, biscuits, and dinner rolls, rolls and biscuits in tube form, or a handy dandy old school box of baking mix. How long has it been since you made garlic cheddar biscuits a la a certain chain seafood restaurant that shall remain nameless? Well, they take about six minutes to smash together if you have said baking mix, and I bet your kids would love a turkey sandwich on one of those little flavor bombs!

Another tip: the Thomas’ English muffins are likely all gone, but check near the place they usually stock the eggs – I was able to buy Bay’s brand the other day, and I think I might like them better than good old Thomas. You can make toaster oven pizzas, killer PB&J sandwiches, or even serve burgers on a good English muffin!
You obviously could also make bread from scratch. I have no advice there. I’m anything but an exceptional baker, but may the odds be ever in your favor. I have successfully made these five-ingredient bagels in my air fryer before, and if you can get your hands on some yogurt, they’re great for sandwiches!

Produce aisle
I’m sure the heavy hitters in this section of the store will vary by region, but in my store over the weekend, there was nary a potato, banana, or onion to be found. The basil was gone in small clamshells, but available in plant form. Romaine and iceberg, gone; collards and frisee in heavy supply. Bell peppers all snatched up; chiles in abundance.

So my first advice is to hit up the frozen veg aisle and see what you can score there. Frozen vegetables aren’t as versatile as fresh, but they ARE just as nutritious, and you’d be surprised what you can do with a baggie of fire roasted mushrooms or mixed onions and green peppers. There’s a brand called Dorot that sells garlic and ginger pre-minced and in tiny little portions, frozen. I also found frozen spinach fully stocked, and will be using that in soups and stir fries in the coming days.
Sometimes you can find lemons and limes in other areas of the store, like the seafood dept. Check there before you despair.

Now circle back to those leftover items in the produce area, and trust that you have the ability to turn these neglected flora into delicious food! Grab those greens you’ve never made yourself and cook them up with the ham hock or smoked turkey leg I promise will still be available in the ransacked meat aisle! If you have older kids, use this chance to start to introduce spice into their diets with a little diced chile in their chili. Roast some of those lonely beets still on the shelf and toss them with local goat cheese, which I guarantee will still be there in the gourmet cheese section waiting for you, dressed in olive oil and a little vinegar with lots of black pepper.

I know you’re missing fresh herbs and aromatics, but scour the international aisle for jarred and bottled sauces like pesto, Goya recaito and sofrito, salsas, chutneys, and marinades. You’d be surprised how high quality some of these products are, and how they can enhance your recipes when fresh ingredients aren’t available.
Meat aisle

Most folks stocking up and panic-buying groceries right now are going for the easiest/cheapest meat cuts first, so boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ground beef and turkey, pork chops, and steaks are likely to be sold out at your store.
I spy chicken livers, second row from the bottom!
But we’re Hungries, aren’t we? We can buy pork neck bones and turn them into a rich Sunday-gravy style tomato sauce. We can scoop up that plastic jar of chicken livers and make New Orleans style dirty rice! You’re home all day, every day, so don’t be afraid to buy a tough cut and chuck that sucker into your crockpot, InstantPot, or just let it braise in the oven all afternoon. This is the time to perfect your carnitas game, your brisket bounty, or your Singaporean chicken rice masterpiece!
Don’t forget that there are also overlooked spots in the store that may still have meat. Frozen seafood and whole turkeys, canned tuna in olive oil from the Italian aisle, and vegetarian alternative products like Impossible burger or Field Roast sausages are all likely in stock. I saw that lots of specialty sausages were still available in my market on Monday – like kielbasa, chorizo, and andouille. You might not normally consider those your main meat for dinner, but as a skillet or sheet-pan dinner, these become a delicious, complete meal. And don’t forget my pancetta pasta with spinach, which is an easy dinner that’s Shawn-certified delicious, and uses these still-available items!

All the carbs
The fresh potatoes are sold out, and my pasta aisle was decimated earlier this week, as was a lot of the rice. Again, look for the items that might be slightly pricier or more niche, but still get you to the same place. All our Barilla and Ronzoni were gone, but the “fancy” Delallo and DeCecco were still in stock (same for the canned tomatoes; Redpack, store brand, and DelMonte: gone; Muir Glen, my favorite anyway, was still fully stocked in the natural foods section). Look high and low and you can find options. And back to the international aisle, how about some German spaetzle instead of egg noodles? Or Thai rice stick noodles instead of white rice for your stir fry?
If you can’t buy plain white or brown rice, check that international aisle again for Latino or Asian brands, or try the Zatarans or Near East mixes instead of Uncle Ben’s. And there’s always grits/polenta! I bet cornmeal is available, and it makes a terrific starch with a lot of the braised and long-cooked meats you might be making right now. Don’t forget that frozen section for carbs as well; I found some raviolis, noodles, and potato products still stocked there this week. If you’ve never tried a frozen egg noodle, this is a fabulous time for a little experimentation at home!

I know it’s a tough time all around, my Hungries, but the ritual of cooking and eating with your family can be a source of fellowship and grace even in times when you’re all crammed into the house together and fraying at the edges. If you have any questions about shopping or cooking with the crazy grocery state of the union, let me know and I’ll help you troubleshoot! Big Hungry Shelby – always hungry; never thirsty!


Buttery Red Pepper Chicken with Cacio e Pepe Orzo

This was never a recipe I intended to write and share, but after playing around in the kitchen one night, Shawn proclaimed that this dinner tasted like something you'd get in a restaurant, so I thought it might be good enough to write down. Try it and let me know what you think!

Buttery Red Pepper Chicken with Cacio e Pepe Orzo
Serves 2

  • 2 Chicken breasts, boneless (skin-on or skinless)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Jar roasted red peppers in olive oil
  • 8 oz Can tomato sauce
  • 3 T Butter
  • Pinch Red pepper flakes or 1 minced Calabrian chile
  • 1/4 C Fresh Basil leaves, torn
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
For Ozro:
  • 1 C Orzo
  • 1 T Butter
  • 3 T Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • Black Pepper
  • Splash Heavy Cream

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and saute in a skillet over med-high heat in 1 T butter and 1 T of the oil from the jar of roasted peppers. 
  2. Boil a large pot of water for orzo. 
  3. In a food processor, blend garlic, roasted peppers, and tomato sauce with some more of the jar oil. If there are garlic cloves in the pepper jar, substitute one of them for the fresh garlic.
  4. Drop orzo into salted, boiling water. Cook according to package directions.
  5. When chicken is nearly cooked, add in sauce with pepper flakes and oregano and bring to a simmer. 
  6. When chicken is cooked through, lower heat to low, and swirl in the remaining butter and torn basil.
  7. Drain ozro, and off heat, add butter, cream, cheese, and pepper. 
  8. Service chicken and sauce over orzo, with additional fresh basil, cheese, or parsley. 


Truffle Love Mushroom Pasta

Until recently, work trips to my company's sector headquarters in Nashua, NH were sweetened by dinners at a restaurant called Pigtale. You may have seen me post food porn from there on my Instagram feed. Unfortunately, Pigtale closed a few months ago, and shows no signs of reopening, so I was inspired to take an item of its menu - pasta with mushroom cream sauce - and invent my own version to make at home. My colleagues Carrie and Brandee also loved that dish, so I'm dedicating this recipe to them.

As you probably know by now, I'm not into following recipes very well. I always want to make food my own, and this pasta is no exception. I decided to dress Pigtale's version up with truffles, but when you make it, you may want to change the type of pasta, the richness of the cream, or the herbs you use to finish the dish. I encourage this! You're the boss of your kitchen, and I would never presume to undermine your authority there.

Fall is almost here, so this quick and easy weeknight dish is perfect for a crisp, cloudy Tuesday or Thursday. Eat it up!

Truffle Love Mushroom Pasta
Serves 2-3

  • 1/2 Box Linguine, Fettucine or Papardelle, cooked 1 min under pkg directions
  • 1T Olive Oil
  • 1C Mushrooms, sliced (I use baby bellas, but do your thang)
  • 1 Shallot, minced (or 1/4C onion)
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Dried Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Truffle Salt
  • 1/2C Light Cream
  • 1T Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1T Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 5 Basil leaves, torn or chiffonade if you're fancy (or chives or parsley)
  • 1 tsp Sabatino Truffle Zesst (optional, delicious, highly recommended)

As water is coming to a boil for pasta, start mushrooms in oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once they start to brown and some of the liquid has cooked out, add shallot and garlic, along with spices. 

Once pasta is in to cook, add cream to mushroom mixture, and bring to a bubble. Lower heat to med-low while pasta cooks. Once it's al dente, add it into skillet and reserve about a 1/2C cooking water. 

Turn off heat, add cheeses and basil, and toss the pasta with the sauce and cheese to mix. Serve in wide bowls sprinkled with more herbs and truffle zest (but never truffle oil! Blech). Make yummy noises whilst eating. 


Is Clayton Trying to Have as Many Restaurants as There are Islands?

There are many more than a thousand islands in the Thousand Islands region. Just north of 1,800, I believe, studding the St. Lawrence River like chips in a cookie, or maybe herbs in a biscuit. Lately, with Clayton proliferation of great eateries, I've been wondering if the village is trying to rival the river with enough dining locations to match its island neighbors.

The Island Bay Pier House opened up out on State Street last fall, and while it isn't located on an island nor on a pier, it is yet another jewel in Clayton's culinary landscape, and you should make an effort to get there this summer.

The space has been redecorated and spiffed up by its new owners, with nautical touches and a serene blue color story. A recent interview with the couple revealed that they hope to expand down to a waterfront dock area, which I think would bring the sense of the river you want when you dine out in Clayton.

Our meal began with a dish full of cheesy, herbed biscuits that may remind you at first of a certain national seafood chain I particularly dislike, but which turn out to be much tastier - more tender and less salty. We stuffed ourselves silly on them, and started to realize we were in for a really good meal, which is exactly what an appetizer should do.

The Caesar salad with shrimp was dressed to perfection with house made dressing, crisp romaine, a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, and grilled, herbed shrimp. Caesar salad shouldn't be fancy - it should be simple but flavorful, and this one did its job. The five shrimp up on top weren't overcooked pencil erasers, as shrimp like to be. They were succulent and well-seasoned.

When the fish of the day is perch, that doesn't inspire a salivary response in me. Or rather, it didn't until I tasted the fried perch at IBPH. This fresh catch was breaded lightly, but enough to create a crisp exterior, which was in delicious contrast to the actually juicy, clean-tasting whitefish interior. My Dad added copious lemon juice, and a sprinkle of parsley on top worked with the citrus to create a fresh flavor in every bite. Smashed potatoes alongside were a rustic, basic accompaniment. This is one of the better fried fish dishes I've had in recent memory. 

Admiral bleu, a play on chicken cordon bleu, seems like a throwback menu choice. On the contrary, this dish was the surprise of the meal - the swiss cheese cream sauce and the simple fact that the chicken itself was cooked properly and not all dried out made it great. The bite of salty ham stuffed inside the chicken and the smart addition of slender spears of grilled asparagus didn't hurt, either. Once again, a shower of fresh parsley over top may seem like just a garnish, but that herbaceous punch actually lends a considerable flavor component to the dish. 

My little birds tell me IBPH has the best wings in town, but we didn't try those on this visit. Everything we did taste, we were nuts about. Less enticing was the noise level in the main dining room - some more soft surfaces added to the decor would maybe help with this. We could barely hear one another at our small table for three on a busy Friday night. I also think more natural light would be welcome - if they open up the back of the building to the water, that would be a huge improvement on the ambiance of the place. 

All that said, the food here is dialed in, and the variety of entrees, sandwiches, and appetizers seems suited well to the restaurant's likely clientele and juxtaposed with other offerings in the village right now. I give Island Bay Pier House a seven on the BHS Scale, and I look forward to another visit once the owners' expansion plans are realized. This new restaurant is a wonderful additional to Clayton's current lineup of great places to eat, cementing this community as my favorite in TI. That's all this time for BHS - always hungry; never thirsty!