Too many people are intimidated by the thought of poaching fish. They mistakenly assume that it's a difficult skill to master, or that the poached fish is likely to turn out soggy and bland or dried out and unpleasantly fishy.
Well, they're wrong.
If you've always wanted to poach fish but were afraid to try, these foolproof instructions are for you. Just follow these six simple steps with any fresh fish you wish to poach:
- Choose a Poaching Liquid: Preferred options include white wine, broth (chicken or vegetable), or even plain water. You'll need 1 to 1 1/2 cups for 1 to 1 1/2 lbs fish fillets.
- Select Fish-Friendly Vegetables: Good choices include sliced fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced carrots & celery, chopped green onions, thinly sliced fresh ginger & lemongrass with snow peas. Use one or more of what you like, remembering to keep it simple and that the fish has the starring role. All you need is a cup or so of vegetables, depending on type (strongly flavored ones like ginger & lemongrass should be used sparingly).
- Add Complementary Herbs & Spices: Add a Tablespoon or so of chopped fresh herbs or a teaspoon or so of dried. Good choices include parsley, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, oregano, or cilantro. Use less of a stronger herbs such as rosemary or cilantro than you would a milder herb like parsley. A twist or two of freshly-ground black or white pepper from a peppermill is nice, as well as a touch of sea salt. If you want to get "fancy," add a little bit of freshly-scraped lemon, lime or orange zest. Or get creative and add a sprinkling of Caribbean Key Lime Spice.
- Prepare the "Fish Bath": Place the poaching liquid, vegetables & herbs in a 10" skillet or similar frying pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
- Start Cooking: Uncover the skillet and use a spatula or serving spoon to carefully lower the fish fillets into the hot liquid. Spoon the liquid over the fish so that exposed surface is moistened. Cover and simmer until the fish is done, about 6 to 8 minutes. You know the fish is done when it flakes easily and you insert a fork at the thickest part and the flesh is opaque white instead of translucent. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to gently remove the fish along with the vegetables to a plate and keep warm while you make a sauce with the poaching liquid.
- Finish the Sauce: Return the liquid to a boil and boil, uncovered, until reduced to less than half a cup of liquid. Spoon this sauce over the fish and vegetables.