In It to Win(e) It: Post-PowerBall Packets of Fish

Lo-Cal Dinner

For those who are wondering…I didn’t win the half a billion dollar PowerBall lottery last night. This really blows my retirement plan and is sort of ruining my Thursday morning. I think in order to win, you have to live in a place like Missouri or, even, apparently, Arizona. And, no, I’m not even one of the two $1million winners in New York State. Very disappointing.

Sad Losing Ticket – with two worthless matching numbers

So, I’m still – like so many – watching my pennies. Trying to use every ounce of everything in the kitchen…Staying on top of expiration dates in the cupboard and fridge…

When people come for dinner or drinks  at my apartment they are charged with bringing white wine. I don’t drink white wine. Ever. Like as TSwift might say: never ever ever. Even in the summer. Even at a ladies luncheon. OK, once I drank white when I was at a holiday party at the apartment of a friend who – due to her entirely white interior decorating scheme – served only white wine. But, I didn’t enjoy it.

People Just leave Wine!

So, in the rare instance that there is left over white wine in my apartment, I try to cook with it. Left over wine is an unusual occasion – you should meet my friends.

This morning I found a half drunk bottle of Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge. I thought about drinking away my sorrows from the PowerBall loss…but, let’s face it…It wasn’t even noon and that would just be too sad.

I also found some capers and lemons in the fridge…thyme in the freezer and, of course, frozen Whole Foods Tilapia. I’m a little obsessed with always having it on hand.

And, I’m still on my quest to lose the Sandy 15lbs.

So I made:

Tilapia En Papillote (serves 2)

OK…first and foremost, if you are using frozen fish, take it out of the freezer, remove it from the packaging, place in a baking dish, cover with Saran Wrap and store in the fridge at least 7 hours before you want to cook it.

Ill-Advised Defrosting

Now – honestly, I’ve forgotten to do this and you can just leave the frozen fish in a covered baking dish on the kitchen counter…but, for whatever reason, you’re not supposed to do it that way. Whatevs, I lived.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1. Place one Tilapia Filet in the center of a 10ish inch x 10ish inch piece of either heavy duty tin foil, or as I did on that fancy Reynold’s Wrap Pan Lining Paper: Parchment on one side, tin foil on the other. It’s like the mullet of cooking papers (business in the front, party in the back)

Fancy!

2. Sprinkle the filet with Thyme or Lemon Thyme

Thyme Sprinkles on the fish on the Parchment side of the pan lining paper

3. Layer on some capers – I love capers, they’re like salty goodness – just thought you should know

Capers On…Lemons Staged

4. Sprinkle with salt – and pepper, if you want

5. Cover the filet with lemon slices

6. Place one pat of butter on top of the lemon slices

Give ’em all a little pat of butter

7. Spoon about a TBSP of white wine over the fish – be careful, you don’t want the wine to (eeks!) spill outside of the parchment paper and be wasted!

8. Fold up the sides of the fancy Reynold’s Parchment/Tin Foil (mullet) wrap around the fish. Make sure there is space between the fish and the wrapping as you want the fish to have room to steam. And, be sure that the packet is completely sealed.

NOTE: if you see the pros do this – they create a perfect half moon shaped packet… I’m just not that artistically skilled or creative. And, you can get the same effect with any shaped packet.

No Points for Style

9. Repeat with three other filets

10. Put the pretty (or not so pretty) packets on a rimmed baking tray into the oven and bake for :12-:14 minutes depending upon thickness of fish

11. Carefully remove the fish from the packets, plate and serve

Pretty Pescatarian Plate

So, with my losing PowerBall ticket I won’t be dining at Perse or jetting off in my private plane to St. Bart’s. Nope. I’ll be hoping that I can continue to count on my white wino friends to leave just a few tablespoons of wine in my fridge to dress up a meal…or two. And, I’ll continue to buy PowerBall and MegaMillions tickets…Cuz, you gotta be in it to win it!

The Sandy 15: Part 2 ‘During’

This is part two of how one can gain 15lbs during a weather disaster. [click here for Part 1]

Part 2

Monday, October 29, continued

Sandy15 hurricane NYC Trader Joe's

These are great…btw

The lights had flickered and though I do have a gas stove top, I thought it best to make a quick dinner before I ended up in the dark. As previously noted, I have a deep seeded fear of starving to death – though have never been out of food – or even in any remote danger of starvation. I decided on a Trader Joe’s frozen turkey burger – quick and easy and would, hopefully, be done before the lights went out.

power outages nyc sandy hurricane

The beginning.

Right around 8:30pm I had heard from my downtown friends that the power was out. Half of Manhattan was in the dark and though the wind was whipping up here, I realized for the first time how lucky I was.

Friends who live outside but near the evacuation zone (Zone A) were now living in the dark as their streets flooded with rushing water.

NYC hurricane Sandy

Washington at 12th St – photo by T Schultz

I clutched a flashlight in one hand and as my windows continued to bow with the pressure, I prayed the winds to stop. And thanked goodness for every watt of electricity that powered my apartment.

By about 12:40am on Tuesday morning the winds had died down a bit and I felt OK about going to bed.

Tuesday, October 30

In the morning, I ventured out for a quick walk. There were passing showers and some wind – but nothing like the day before. Save a few downed trees and some debris in the streets, the upper west side was in really good shape. We were so very lucky.

Downtowners are brave. As noted in several blogs over the past week, they seem cooler, they are more fierce and younger than the typical upper west sider. That said, it was cold and dark downtown. There were no stores open. No traffic lights. No heat. And, we had everything they needed just a walk away.

The migration north was on.

While waiting for our friends to make it uptwown…at about 11:30am something happened. Something good. For just a brief moment, a small hole in the sky cleared and the light bounced off of the clouds that still loomed overhead. And, there was a rainbow – a beacon calling the power-free to the well electrified upper west side.

hurricane sandy rainbow uws

A beacon of hope – the view from my 14th floor apt

As uptowners, we prepared for our guests. I cleaned and made sure I had sheets, towels, water and, of course, wine. [I had gone to 67 St Wines the afternoon before. The line was long, but people were patient.]

Still, I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood was prepared for the influx of people coming to the lucky land of electricity.

Crowded Streets nyc uws abc7

The migration

Once they arrived, the eating frenzy went on…The downtowners were here in full force. We tried to go to Cafe Lux – they had tables available, but not enough staff to serve. We gave PJ Clarke’s a try – but it too was jam packed with people and they told us it could be up to an hour wait for our party of five. Ultimately, we ended up at Shun Lee West and were fortunate to arrive just as they opened the doors at 1:30pm.

Inside, the iconic NYC Chinese restaurant looked like it did on a Lincoln Center Saturday night. Packed with people, waiters bustling to get everyone what they needed.

Shun Lee West nyc

A nighttime crowd at 1:30 on Tuesday

After a lunch of tres fattening grand marnier prawns, crispy beef, some veggies and …wine, we took our guests home and let them settle in.

We passed the afternoon watching the reports. It was so bad and we hadn’t even heard the worst of it yet. The mayor, all three governors (NY, NJ and CT) were holding constant press conferences updating the media on deaths, power outages, floods, rescues etc.

Sandy coverage dominated the airwaves and…we watched. And watched. And watched. All afternoon.

With not much to do, we started strategizing our dinner plans. A lot of the neighborhood restaurants were closed – because although we had electricity, there was still no public transportation and the staff couldn’t get to work. The tunnels and bridges were closed with few exceptions…it was a mess.

Most of the crew of six decided to stay in. We were an equal mix of the UWS residents and the displaced. Two of us though went to my fave Italian spot, Bello Giardino on West 71st. Nick, the owner, had personally driven to pick up each member of his staff and was going to drive them home after the dinner rush.

I love Bello Giardino – it’s a longtime neighborhood spot with a very personal feel. I think Nick knew how important being open would be to his regulars.

Bello Giardino uws

Nicky’s Famous Meatballs

bello giardino uws

Della Nonna Della-Licious

And, we ate. More fat food…I had spaghetti and ‘Nicky’s famous meatballs’ and my downtown guest enjoyed the ravioli della nonna.

No dieting going on. At. All.

We had survived Day 2. The Manhattan displaced were happily entrenched in the warm, electrified safety of uptown.

The downtowners were settling in. There was no news as to when power might be back on.

We watched more coverage…until we just couldn’t watch any more. And, went to bed.

Hurricane Sandy dangling crane

After

By the way, that crane collapsed in the winds early on in the storm…

……………………………………………….More tomorrow

Hookers – Like People Who Catch Fish

Tilapia in a Lemon, White Wine, Caper Sauce

Hook Yourself Up with A Grown Up Dinner for One

With Halloween rapidly approaching, I think back on all of the costumes I selected growing up. For the first 8 or so years, I was a witch – spare me the life-art comments. Then, when I was finally allowed to select my own costumes, I was a cat (hate cats, not sure why I did that), a hobo – cuz I was going to Halloween during the depression? A candy striper – always the do-gooder – smiley face.

Most of the time my parents were OK with whatever I chose to be. My mother even made the witch costume that I wore for the first 8 years – hold comments until the end. But in 7th grade my friends and I on the verge of becoming little women decided to go a little more risque.

Risque…hmmm.  Bear in mind that in my somewhat conservative catholic home I wasn’t even allowed to wear a non-competitive swim suit in 7th or 8th or 9th grade. And, when I sported my first ‘fashion’ swimwear at 14, my father sent me home from the pool.

Toddlers in Tiaras

She’s such a pretty woman!

So, when I announced proudly that the girls and I were going to be hookers, you can imagine the reaction I received.

Yep, hookers.

I’m not even sure that I knew what hookers really did – but I did know that we would be able to look a lot cuter than we had as hobos the year prior.

Naively, I didn’t really anticipate any negative reaction from my parents. I mean I pretty much figured: Hookers. Hobos. Whatever.

Uhm, no.

My father instantly put the kibosh on that idea and informed me that the only hookers in the family would be people hooking fish.

OK. So candy striper repeat it was. Of course, it was an over-made up candy striper – but a do-good candy striper nonetheless.

As far as fishing and hookers…A couple of nights ago, I hooked a couple of tilapia filets at Whole Foods and made:

Tilapia in a White Wine Sauce (serves 1 – there’s no reason you can’t have a real meal when dining alone)

Frozen Tilapia Pescatarian Vegetarian

Have on hand

NOTE: If you’re using the Whole Foods frozen tilapia, 7 hours before you intend to cook, take one package out of the freezer, remove the packaging, place the filets in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

1. Mise en place:

  • 1 tsp of capers rinsed and drained
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine – I used chardonnay because that’s what I had, but you might want to use a drier one
  • 1 tsp parsley chopped
  • the zest of one lemon
  • the juice of one lemon
Whole Foods frozen tiliapia

Mise En Place to Make even Anne Burrell Proud

2. In a 10-inch skillet over medium, heat 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter.

3. Salt and Pepper the filets on both sides, gently coat in flour and place in the heated skillet

Tilapia searing in butter olive oil

Browning the Fish

4. Cook on each side for +/- :04 minutes – depending upon the thickness of the fish.

Lemon Caper White Wine Shallot Sauce

Beautifully Browned

5. Once the fish is wholly cooked, remove from the skillet and keep warm

6. Add the shallot to the skillet and saute until fragrant – about 2 mins

Lemon White Wine Caper shallot sauce

Saute the Shallot

7. Add the white wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Allow the sauce to thicken slightly – about :03mins. If you don’t feel like it’s thickening enough…throw in a little butter (1 tsp) and stir until it melts into the sauce

Whole Foods frozen tilapia

Add in White Wine and Lemon Juice

8. Stir in the lemon zest, parsley and capers

Lemon White Wine Shallot Caper Sauce

Stir in Parsley and Lemon Zest

9. Stir to combine flavors – about :02 mins. Then pour over the fish and serve

Cooking with Wine

Pour the Sauce over the Fish

Halloween is a time when you’re allowed and encouraged to be something you’re not. Whether it’s a witch (stop it), a hobo or even a hooker.

And, while I wasn’t ever allowed to dress like Pretty Woman, I ultimately became quite the skilled hooker…and cooker of fish.