Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shallow-poached fish

This winter, we eased into a pretty simple pattern. 

Each week we roasted a bird (mostly chicken) that we ate from for a few days and used to make stock. We've got four cups of stock left in the freezer, with room for plenty more.

Also, at least once a week, I've been poaching fish. Until this year, I really didn't understand poaching, at least not poaching at its best. But after reading The Art of Simple Food, I'm converted.

Poaching has got to be the simplest way to cook and flavor fish. And I'm talking about the shallow poach, which requires little liquid and even less effort. 

Basically, you put in enough water to go halfway up the fish (I usually put the fish into the pan to measure, then take it out). I usually add my seasonings here, so they steep for a long time. I might add rosemary or thyme, sliced lemon, a clove of garlic cut in half, and maybe a few drops of sherry vinegar. Sometimes, we use wine, but the vinegar adds a lot of texture.

Heat the water until it begins to boil, then turn the heat all the way down. You want constant heat, but no bubbles. When the water's settled, place the fish back in. 

Here's where things get really cool. With poaching, you can actually see the food get cooked. Of course, you can always watch the food cook, but the fish begins to cook as soon as it touches the water. It's amazing to watch, in part because the water is perfectly still, so nothing else is happening. 

Then after three or five minutes (depending on the thickness of the cut), you flip it. Another three or five minutes, and it's done. You'll know because it looks the same as all other cooked fish in the end. And for sauce, you can swirl a little butter into the remaining poaching liquid. I swear, it doesn't get any easier. 

Labels: ,