Poaching

poaching: to cook ingredients by submerging in liquid that is just below the boiling point.

Poaching has fallen out of favor as a primary cooking method and is often only thought of as a way to cook eggs and sad, skinless chicken breasts. But beyond the chicken and the egg, is a vast array of ways to keep the moisture in ingredients and enhance those flavors by adding aromatics of any sort. And by using the “starting off cold” method in the Basic Poached Salmon recipe, you have a good deal of wiggle room for timing, making it a very strong, but simple, dish for your repertoire.

Process

  • Combine a lot of aromatic vegetables and herbs with a flavorful liquid like stock, wine, or beer
  • Place what you want to poach in the liquid while it is cold.
  • Bring it to just below a simmer.
  • When the food to be poached is 3/4 of the way cooked, turn off the heat and allow it to carry over in the warm liquid.
  • Lift from the liquid and transfer to serving dishes.
  • Boil the poaching liquid to reduce into a tasty sauce to serve over the poached dish. Taste the liquid as it goes to decide when it is flavorful enough to serve on its own.

Things to Know

  • Use as little liquid as possible to just cover the ingredients. Using too much liquid will pull flavor out of the ingredients as opposed to adding the flavors of the liquid to them.
  • Poach in any liquid you want. Water, stock, wine, beer, milk, cream…
  • Enhance the flavor of the poaching liquid.  Those flavors will add to the final dish and are a good way to use up scraps of aromatic vegetables, half empty bottles of wine or beer and a knob of butter left from breakfast.
  • Err on the side of undercooking the ingredients.
  • Something crunchy with poached ingredients highlights the subtle textures from poaching—breadcrumbs with poached vegetables; candied almonds with poached meringues.
  • Poached food is best served warm to cool. This gives a lot of flexibility in the timing of the dish which you can use to your advantage at a dinner party.

Hallmarks of Success

  • Still has texture—not mushy
  • Flavorful—delicate and not boiled into oblivion

Trouble Shooting

  • If the final protein tastes tacky in your mouth, it was overcooked. Cook less time or turn of the cooking liquid sooner.
  • If it tastes bland, add more aromatics or season the protein with salt a good 20 min before cooking to be sure that that seasoning penetrates.