Pantry Raid: Baked Fried Fish

Fish Breading Prep

Fish Breading Prep

One of the greatest benefits to living in my apartment is the trash process. When the garbage is full, I take the bag to the tiny room down the hall, open the hatch and throw the bag down the chute. And it’s gone. Just like that. I can do this any day of the week, any time of the day. Sometimes, I do it in my pajamas – that’s right. In my pajamas.

Recently I was upstate at a friend’s country home. It’s an amazing 1830’s Federal Style home on a big piece of property with nature all around – it’s for sale, I can send you the details. The home is so inviting, in fact, that a giant skunk found its way into one of the window wells and decided to take a nap there…Once we discovered the snoozing skunk, we did what any good Manhattanites would do…we called the police. The officer who arrived kindly confirmed that it was, indeed, a skunk. And that there was nothing he could do to move it. Fortunately for us, country skunk made its own way out of the window well without spraying and well before morning.

Since my friend’s home is for sale, I thought we might want to do an emergency Pantry Raid: go through the kitchen and toss any food items that were expired.

Large Kitchen = Many Cabinets = A Lot of Foodstuff…

The moment I got started, I knew this would be no easy task. There were no fewer than 6 boxes of Chicken Stock (exp 11/11/2010), 2 boxes of Tomato Soup (exp 09/11/2011), 1 box Bisquick (exp 10/15/2010), Nuts, Chocolate, Expensive Cake and Cookie Mixes, crackers, breakfast bars, cereal, grated parmesan cheese from the last decade etc…All well past the expiration dates…

Then, we had to strategerize how to throw all the expired food away. See, trash pick up is once a week up there…and, on Thursdays. We were leaving on Sunday. It’s still pretty hot right now..even upstate. I think you understand the challenge. We couldn’t leave two large garbage bags of post-expiry perishables in a hot bag, in a hot trash bin, in a skunk infested land for a week…uhm gross. Much brainstorming and 3 phone calls later, we found a neighbor willing to come by and take everything out Wednesday night.

Another reminder that living in tiny spaces in NYC, has its benefits.

Regardless of how it happens, I hate throwing away food. As Melissa D’Arabian constantly reminds us: the most expensive ingredients are the ones you throw away.

In my house growing up, expiration dates were just directional information. If cheese or bread had mold, we cut the mold off – ‘It’s penicillin’ my mother would say. Or, ‘stale bread is halfway to toast’. And I turned out OK. I mean, right?

But, I’m not partial to eating penicillin and I’m a little nuts about going through my ‘pantry’.  And determining what is in danger of expiring and creating from there.

Kitchen Pantry

More of a pity than a pantry…but it’s NYC.

This past weekend, when doing my pantry raid I found some well-aged but not yet expired Panko Bread Crumbs and during the freezer-evaluation, some vacu-sealed frozen tilapia…Since there was like totally no mold on either I decided to make…

Baked Fried Fish (serves 2)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a rimmed baking tray with rack insert lightly sprayed with nonstick spray

1. In a bowl combine 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, 1 tbsp Lemon Zest, 1 tsp Lemon Thyme, 1tsp Krazy Mixed Up Salt and 2 tbsp of melted butter.

Panko Lemon Thyme Breading Mix

Panko, Lovely Lemon Thyme, Butter KMUS Breading

2. In a second bowl, whisk one egg white until well frothed – do this by hand to build your arm strength.

NOTE: You can, apparently, freeze the unused yolk.., but I think that’s sort of gross and would opt to keep the yolk in the fridge overnight and jack up an omelet with an extra yolk in the morning.

3. One at a time – Coat 2 medium sized fish filets in the egg white froth (I used tilapia, but you can use any white, flaky fish…cod would work or haddock. Don’t spend a ton of money here.)

4. Put the egg white-d filet into the Panko mix and coat well. If the panko isn’t adhering well, there’s no shame in gently pressing more of the breading onto the top of the fish.

5. Transfer the breaded fish to the prepared rimmed baking tray. Using the rack helps the fish to cook evenly…or so it’s said. I lined the baking dish with aluminum foil for easier clean up.

Breaded fish pre oven

Lovely Tilapia Breaded and Ready for the Oven

6. Bake 15-20 minutes until the breading is golden brown and the fish is flaky and delicious

Baked Fried Fish

Baked Fried Fish post Oven

Eat.

That’s it. I served it with roasted asparagus and parmesan cous-cous.

While penicillin is derived from mold that develops on grains – I’m not really sure if the particular mold that developed on our bread or cheese from childhood really had penicillin benefits of any kind. And, I’m not sure eating just the ‘good parts’ is really a good idea.

And…even though trash disposal from my apartment is simple…throwing out unused, past expiration date food is expensive.

Best to avoid the penicillin predicament and do frequent Pantry Raids: check expiration dates on your food stock and cook from there.

Shrimp Crepes Starring My Darlin’ Lemon Thyme

Crepes with Lemony Shrimp, Peas, Corn

Oh my darlin’

Oh my darlin’

Oh my darlin’ lemon thyme

Walked the farmer’s market this past weekend and was lured by the fresh, bright aroma of the herb guy’s lemon thyme. You could smell it from six feet away. It’s absolutely amazing. So amazing that I built an entire meal around layering in lemon flavor. I’ve since learned that while lemon thyme is nothing like regular thyme – there are similarities. As per WHfoods.org: both contain an oil that has been shown to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures – specifically in the brain. Even though this information is based on tests with rats, I feel like I’m smarter for eating it.  I’m certainly remembering a lot of song lyrics lately…

1 large lemon thyme bunch,  $2

Better brain cells, priceless

Lemony Thyme at the Farmer's Market

Lured in by this Lemony Thyme

You can’t possibly use this entire bunch of thyme…so:

First use: pull the leaves of 5 or 6 stems and place in small bowl in kitchen to surround yourself with fresh and bright lemon aroma while cooking.

Second: pull the leaves off of all of the stems. Reserve one tbsp…put the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer for later use.

With the tbsp: use to layer lemony flavor into lemony shrimp crepes.

Lemony Shrimp Crepes (serves 4)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1. In a large skillet over med/high melt 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add 1 small or 1/2 a large chopped shallot and saute until fragrant (about 2 mins)

Saute the shallot

2. Stir in the juice of one lemon and saute for another minute or so

3. Add 20 – 24 shrimps – depending upon size you will want 2 – 4 shrimps per crepe and 2 crepes per person

4. Add the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of lemon thyme, salt and pepper and stir

Saute Shrimp with Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, Shallots and Lemon Thyme

5. The shrimps will only take a couple of minutes per side to cook …so be quick here…Add 1/2 cup of dry rose wine. You can add a dry white wine…but since shrimps are pink when cooked, I thought a pink wine would be prettier. Plus the pinot grapes in a rose add a good deal of flavor.

6. Turn the heat up and allow some of the wine to evaporate.

7. Turn heat to low and stir in 1 – 1/2 cups of mornay sauce with peas and corn. (Mornay Sauce Recipe) Put the remaining mornay sauce in a sauce pan over low heat.

Shrimp Crepes in Mornay Sauce with Peas and Corn

Shrimp in Mornay Sauce with Peas and Corn

8. Set up your assembly station:

  • Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
  • Place 8 Crepes on a cutting board (Savory Crepe Recipe)
  •  Mornay sauce in sauce pan
  • Lemony shrimp mixture
Shrimp Crepes Assembly

Assembly Station

9. Assemble the crepes

  • Schmear a little of the mornay sauce on the crepe
  • layer on 2 – 3 shrimps
  • roll the crepes and place in the baking dish
  • Once all are rolled and in place, cover the crepes with a good amount of the remaining mornay sauce

Shrimp Crepe Assembly Combo – click to see PDF

10. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 mins until completely heated through and serve

Sometimes you base an outfit on the shoes you want to wear. Sometimes a meal is built around the lure of one amazing herb. Bright, fresh lemon thyme is my new favorite herb and my current kitchen obsession. In addition to its incredible aroma and flavor, I’m totally getting smarter. Oh my darlin’ lemon thyme.

Be Prepared When Preparing Miso Glazed Cod

Miso Glazed Sea Bass With Sauteed Spinach

Be Prepared – I think those Boy Scouts are on to something…

In the late ’90s I had a job that took me all around the world. I spent so much time on airplanes that I seriously thought I could be losing bone mass. See there was a study released at the time about the astronauts who spent long periods in space losing bone mass due to the lack of gravity or something. I was pretty sure that was happening to me.

Even though I often traveled alone, when I went to Tokyo for nine days back then I was traveling with a colleague. We were on a mission to gain more distribution for our brand. For nine days we traveled around Tokyo meeting with retailers and securing positioning for our products. For nine nights, we checked out the hotspots and mixed with the ex-pats.

Geronimo! Shot Bar Roppongi

Geronimo! Shot Bar Roppongi

On the last night there, we were at Geronimo! Shot Bar (ex-pat hotspot in Roppongi) spending our remaining Yen. At about 11pm, we called it a night and walked out to grab a taxi to the hotel. Then the strangest thing happened…In my pocket I found 40,000 Yen. 40,000! 40,000! Such a big number, but was really only equal to about $10. Still,Yen are useless in the States and I wasn’t about to take any home.

So back to the bar and when we exhausted our 40k, we managed to locate some lovely bad boy ex-pat bankers who hadn’t yet spent their per diem…bar led to bar..Roppongi never closes…And, I think I may have stumbled back to the hotel around 4am.

The next morning – really later that morning – I was scheduled to take a 7:30am bus to the airport to get the only direct flight back to New York. So, I set my alarm and called for a wake up call.

I’m sure both of those things happened.

But I woke instead to a pounding on my door and someone screaming my name…Furious that someone was interrupting my much needed sleep, I tried at first to ignore it. But it wouldn’t stop. It just kept pounding and pounding on the door. I got out of bed, opened the door and saw a hotel employee…He was screaming:

‘Your bus is here! Your bus is here!”

I was so confused and grabbed in disbelief at his wrist…Indeed, he was correct. His watch read 7:30am.

I looked at him and started to cry. I hadn’t packed and my life was strewn all over the hotel room. I couldn’t miss the one direct flight back to NYC. Tears. Panic. Gasping.

One thing about fancy hotels in Tokyo…Amazing service. And the guy at my door took about one second to assess the situation, put his fingers to his mouth and blew out a loud shrill whistle. Suddenly, three other hotel employees appeared as if out of no where. My guy, let’s call him ‘The General’ went into action:

‘We pack for you! We pack for you!’

‘You brush teeth! You brush teeth!’ – not too subtle hint from The General.

‘We pack for you!’

And they did. In no more than :40 seconds the room was packed, my teeth were brushed, I was dressed and they were carrying me downstairs. They poured me onto the bus and I was off.

Be prepared. Might have been a better idea to pack before going bad-boy-banker-bar-hopping in Roppongi. Yep. That might have been better.

One of the reasons certain foods are so intimidating to cook is that they’re just too delicious  and you can’t believe yourself capable of mimicking such mastery. One of these such dishes is what I call the ‘magic cod’ that they serve at Nobu. The magic cod – officially known as the Miso Glazed Black Cod – is A-mazing…

It’s all about being prepared – but, it’s so easy to make! And when preparing in a small kitchen, there are some useful tips…

Miso Glazed Black Cod (Or Sea Bass), (serves 4-6)

1. In a small saucepan over medium/high heat combine 3 tbsp of Mirin (looks like soy sauce and in the same section of the grocery store) with 3 tbsp Sake and bring to a boil.

2. Add in 1/2 cup of White Miso Paste – kept in the refrigerator section. Whisk until the miso is dissolved

Mirin and Miso Paste may not be in your regular grocery store. I’ve found them at Fairway, Whole Foods and Japanese specialty food shops (even in the midwest).

3. Add in 1/3 cup Sugar continuing to whisk over medium heat until just dissolved

NOTE: If you have a whisk with a longer handle, use it. It’s a lot of whisking over the heat and you can burn your wrist….

4. Remove the mixture from heat, transfer to a baking dish and allow to cool

Sea Bass marinating in the Miso, Sake, Mirin, Sugar mix

5. Put 4-6 7ish OZ Black Cod fillets into the marinade and spoon the marinade over the tops of each…The recipe calls for Black Cod…but, right now Black Cod is crazy expensive – like $40/lb – so the stores aren’t carrying it. You can use Sea Bass or Halibut. That’s Sea Bass in the pic.

Refrigerate for 24 – 48 hours – see what I mean about being prepared…

NOTE: The recipe also calls for the skin to be removed..But I leave it on and all is AOK

6. To cook…preheat the oven to 400 degrees and heat and veggie oil a grill pan over high heat

7. Scrape the excess marinade off of the fish – it’s more like a grainy pasty cover – and place skin side up on the grill pan. Cook until the fish is browned – about 2-3 minutes.

NOTE: The fish is covered in sugar. Sugar burns -OK. Sugar pops spewing burnt sugar beads all over your small kitchen – Not OK. I loosely cover the grill pan with tin foil to avoid having to pick charred sugar off of my ceiling.

8. Once browned, flip the fish onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 10 minutes

9. Transfer to a plate and serve.

I’m so grateful to ‘The General’ who called in the troops to Pack for Me! and instruct me to Brush Teeth! But, the tears, gasps and panic could have been avoided if I had only been prepared. The Nobu Miso Glazed Cod/Sea Bass is perfectly simple to make…if you have some time to Be Prepared.

Dramatic Improvisations in Soft Drinks and Grilling

So, I’m flying recently on a small commuter jet out of Newark. It’s a beautiful day and I’m not anticipating any issues. I’m a pretty good flier and while I do clutch the arm rests during turbulence, I really never panic. We frequent fliers tend to take for granted the safety instructions – I do note that the no-smoking sign is on but I never follow along on the safety pamphlet located in the seat pocket in front of me. The sing-song rhythm of the safety instructions and other inflight announcements give me a sense of security when flying. So, when the flight attendant veered off script, I perked up and paid attention….

Here’s what she said:

“Ladies and Gentlemen…” [dramatic pause with sigh] “I have some really bad news….”

We’re in the air at this point so I’m now starting to breathe heavily as my pulse rate shoots up. When you’re flying, ‘bad news‘ might be along the lines of “we’ve lost cabin pressure and in just a few seconds your heads will literally explode” or if it’s the 1970’s “we’ve been hi-jacked and are headed to Cuba”….

The flight attendant after her dramatic pause announced: “We have no juice on board…”

Another pause as I wonder if ‘no juice’ means we’re out of fuel and will be plunging 25,000 feet to the ground. Farewell life!

She finished with: “We do have Coca-Cola products; Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Coffee brewed on board. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Really? Really? No juice! – tragedy. Now, that was a dramatic presentation!

I, myself, may have been accused from time to time of being a little dramatic. And, today I’m feeling dramatically and tragically sad about the rapidly approaching end of summer. With this inevitable end comes the return back to the City. No more weekends on Nantucket. No more trips to Ohio. A fading tan and thus fading beauty. No more summer Fridays. No more road trips. No more trips upstate and antiquing.  No more beachiness. I don’t hike, but think I may miss hiking as September nears. I am spiraling in despair…And, then I realize most sadly with a gasp a sigh and a tear, no more use of friends’ and family’s outdoor grills.

So, just as we passengers on that Delta Connection Flight to Cincinnati had to make do and drink Coca-Cola products or coffee in lieu of juice, I will bravely improvise and return to my indoor grilling solutions.

First things first, you need a grill pan. I have this one. It’s my only piece of Calphalon and while I’m not really into Calphalon products, I must admit, this pan works perfectly and is large enough to grill 3-4 pieces of meat/fish/chicken but small enough to stack on a 12 inch frying pan in my limited kitchen cabinet space.

Here’s an easy affordable indoor grilling recipe:

Grilled Cod Filets

Basic marinade so as not to overpower the fish…

In a small bowl, combine the juice of one lemon with a tbsp of dijon mustard using a whisk. When totally combined slowly drizzle in 1/3 cup of olive oil and continue whisking until all bubbles are gone and mixture is wholly emulsified.

Add a tsp of crushed thyme to the mixture. Fresh Thyme is good too – just know that the ratio of usage is 2 to 1 fresh herbs to dried. Add salt and pepper and pour the mixture over 2-3 filets of cod. If you’re so inclined, you can chiffonade some basil leaves and put on the fish. Cod (not black cod) is a very affordable fish.

Cover and put in the fridge for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Heat a grill pan over medium/high heat and even though the pan is non-stick, spray sparingly with cooking spray.

Add fish and grill 4-6 minutes per side depending on thickness.

A few hints for perfect preparation without neighbor aggravation:

1. Open your windows to create a cross draft. If you only have windows on one side (like in my apartment) open your door. The fish will smoke up and this will keep you from setting off the smoke detector in your apartment/house.

2. Use cod or tilapia or sea bass or any white flaky fish when indoor grilling. These are not stinky fishes. DO NOT grill salmon indoors as the scent will stay in your home for days afterwards.

3. If you’re in an apartment, you might want to close the doors to any adjoining rooms while indoor grilling – while cod is not a fishy-fish, the ‘grill scent’ will permeate towels or bedding.

For one Delta Flight Attendant, no juice in the service cart evoked the inner thespian. For me the inevitable end of summer has be spiraling to despair. It’s all about how you recover and react to these tragedies. I will buck up and bravely face life without an outdoor grill.  You can be dramatic about it but sometimes you just have to improvise.