Poached fish is easy and tasty, and this cooking technique is perfect for lean fish like sole, haddock, halibut, snapper, or tilapia, as well as fatty fish like trout or salmon. Poaching locks in the moisture and adds flavor but not fat. You can serve the poached fish with a white wine sauce or use the poaching liquid to make the sauce.
You can poach fish in a stockpot or soup pot, or you can use a fish poacher with a rack for holding your fish. This means you can easily remove it from the poaching liquid without the risk of breaking it. A fish poacher is long and narrow, to enable you to poach whole fish. It also means you can poach in the oven for even heating. If you do not have one, just use your biggest pot.
The poaching liquid can be white wine, water, a combination of water and white wine, vegetable or fish stock, or perhaps something with garlic, lemon, or herbs. There are lots of different ways to make a flavorful liquid for poaching. The fish must be completely covered by this liquid, so prepare plenty. If you are poaching a whole fish, let the poaching liquid cool before use. For smaller portions like filets it should be hot.
Preparing the Fish
Make some shallow diagonal cuts on the skin side of the filets, to stop them curling up during poaching. Another method is to roll the filets into spirals. Begin at the big end and roll towards the tip, ensuring the skin is inside. A third way is to fold them in half with the skin facing inward.
For a whole fish, put it in the cold poaching liquid, and then bring it to a simmer. Wrap whole fish like trout in cheesecloth, to stop it curling while it cooks. For filets, bring the liquid to a simmer and then add the fish when the liquid gets to 160 degrees F.
The liquid should be between 160 and 180 degrees F the whole time, so do not let it boil. There should not be many bubbles. Use a thermometer if you have one, just to ensure the temperature is correct. Cook the fish for 5 minutes, or until it is done, then carefully remove it from the liquid.
How to Make a Sauce
If you have made a sauce already then simply serve the fish with the prepared sauce. If you want to use the poaching liquid to make a sauce, keep the fish warm in the meantime. Transfer 2 cups of the poaching liquid to a pot and reduce it by half over a high heat.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in another pan and cook gently. Let it foam but do not let it brown. When it stops foaming, add 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stir quickly to get an even texture. Whisk this butter-flour roux into the liquid to make the sauce. The flour will thicken it and the butter will give it a luxurious flavor and glossiness. Serve the fish with this sauce.
Learning how to poach fish is a great idea, because it means you have another cooking method at your disposal for preparing seafood, and poaching is also healthy because you do not need to use butter or oil to cook the fish. Using it in the sauce is optional, of course.
Picture, recipes and/or content upgraded: 01-23-16
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