Poaching is a great way of cooking foods that cuts fat, enhances flavor and keeps delicate foods from turning tough. This simple cooking method involves slow simmering eggs, meat, poultry, fish, seafood or fruit in a flavorful liquid just long enough to cook it through.
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Shallow and Deep Poaching
There are two main types of poaching: shallow poaching and deep poaching. With shallow poaching, you add enough liquid to cover the item to be poached by about two-thirds. And don't forget to cover the pan so that steam will cook the part of the item that isn't covered.
The item to be shallow-poached should generally be portion-sized or smaller to make sure it cooks through quickly. Shallow poaching is especially good for fish fillets and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
Sometimes the poaching liquid is cooked down to reduce it and then enriched with butter to make beurre blanc, a rich sauce used to coat the poached food.
With deep poaching, the food is completely immersed in barely simmering, well seasoned liquid. Use this method to poach eggs, fruits and even whole poultry.
The Poaching Liquid
The poaching liquid, known as a court bouillon, typically consists of three components: the base liquid, an acidic ingredient and flavorings.
Liquids used for poaching include plain water, chicken stock and red or white wine. Any mixture of these three can be used as well.
Adding an acidic ingredient to the poaching liquid helps the proteins in the poached food hold together. Acidity also enhances flavor. Lemon juice, lime juice, sour orange juice, red wine, white wine, vinegar and verjuice can all be used.
Flavorings are optional additions to your court bouillon, but they add a lot of flavor. Finely chop any vegetables to make sure they release all their flavor. Herbs and spices can usually be left whole. Try finely chopped onions, shallots, carrots and celery. And don't forget to season the poaching liquid with salt.
(Caribbean lime-poached fish)
Blaff is a way a preparing fish that is popular in the Caribbean, especially on the island of Martinique. Fish is marinated in lime juice, garlic and hot peppers and is then poached in the marinade. Some say the name comes from the sound the fish makes as you plop it in the simmering broth. Others say it comes from a mispronunciation of the word "broth" itself. Read more »
(Italian lemon-marinated shrimp)
Gamberetti all'agro is a simple antipasto is popular all along the Italian coast. The simple flavors of the poached shrimp mingled with citrusy juice make a perfect finger food for a summer's evening get-together. Read more »
(Singaporean Hainanese chicken rice)
Hainanese chicken rice (海南鸡饭) is based on a dish from Hainan province in China and was adapted by the immigrant Chinese population in Singapore. Chicken rice is one of Singapore's most popular meals. Read more »
(Israeli, Jewish matzo balls in broth)
This recipe will give you knaidlach (KNAYD-lach) just like Bubbe used to make. In this most famous of Passover dishes, matzo meal is mixed with eggs and a little water and oil and gently formed into balls that are simmered then served in chicken broth. Also spelled knaidels or knaidelach. Read more »
(Georgian chicken with walnut sauce)
Satsivi is a creamy, flavorful walnut sauce that is served with a variety of dishes in the Caucusus nation of Georgia. In this recipe, it is paired with poached chicken. Kotmis satsivi is often a part of large buffet spreads for family celebrations and get-togethers in Georgian, and it is a favorite dish around Christmas time. Read more »
(French Provençal cod and vegetables with garlic mayonnaise)
This garlic lovefest is an old favorite for the people of the Provence region of France. Hand-made garlic mayonnaise is served as a wonderfully pungent accompaniment to platters of poached cod and a variety of seasonal vegetables. Le grand aïoli is especially popular at large village gatherings. Sometimes called l'aïoli monstre or simply l'aïoli. Serve with a nice rosé wine. Read more »
(French pears poached in red wine)
As a French dessert, poires au vin rouge is a classic and a fine way to finish an autumn meal when pears are in season. Perfect after a dinner of venison, duck or goose. Read more »
(French chicken in a pot)
Poule au Pot, literally "chicken in a pot," is typical Sunday dinner fare in the French countryside. A whole chicken is filled with a seasoned bread stuffing and gently poached along with vegetables in simmering broth. The broth is served as a soup to start the meal. The chicken and vegetables are then served as the main course along with the stuffing, which cooks up like a large dumpling and is sliced into rounds. Read more »
(Chinese fish in sweet vinegar sauce)
West Lake vinegar fish (Xi Hu Cu Yu) is one of the most famous dishes of the Zhejiang culinary tradition in eastern China. Fish poached and glazed with a sweet vinegar sauce, this dish is named after a large, beautiful lake in the city of Hangzhou. Good for Chinese New Year when serving whole fish is considered lucky. Read more »
(Chinese drunken chicken)
Chinese drunken chicken, or zuiji (醉雞), is a great dish from China's eastern coastal region that makes a delicious addition to any buffet table or party spread. The dish is simple to make. Just poach chicken pieces and then drown them in a boozy rice wine marinade. Zuiji is particularly popular in the summer months, as it is most often served cold. Read more »