Poaching is a great way to cook a big whole
fish, particularly one that you will be serving cold, because poaching
cooks without fat, which would congeal on the fish when it cooled.
Poaching makes the skin of the fish easy to remove, leaving the flesh
underneath smooth and intact, even-colored, and pretty looking. Best of
all, poaching doesn't alter the delicate taste of the fish.
Fish is traditionally poached in a court
bouillon, a vegetable stock flavored with white wine, but is often
simplified by just combining water, white wine, salt and a bouquet garni
in the pan with the fish.
You need a fish poacher or a large deep
roasting pan to poach a big fish. A poacher is a long narrow lidded pot
with handles at either end that is fitted with a two-handled rack. A fish
poacher is easier to use than a roasting pan because the rack makes it
easy to pull the fish out of the hot water without its falling apart. And
the shape of the poacher allows you to use a minimum of liquid.
Fish poachers come in different sizes.
Obviously, the larger the fish, the larger the poacher you'll need. But
if the fish is too large for your poacher, ask your fish retailer to cut
off the head and the tail.
It's best to heat the poacher over two
Poach fish in a court bouillon, or for
simplicity, in salted water with a splash of white wine and a bouquet
Start the fish in cold liquid so that
the outside of the fish doesn't overcook before the inside is cooked
Poach fish for 7 to 10 minutes per inch
of thickness. Start timing the cooking once the liquid has come to the
simmer. Begin checking doneness after cooking for 7 minutes per inch by
lifting the rack out and setting it on an angle on the rim of the
poacher. Make a small cut down to the bone, parallel to the backbone, in
the middle of the fish and peek in. The flesh should pull away from the
bone and have lost most of its translucency. Or test by sticking an
instant-read thermometer into the back of the fish, again along the
backbone - the thickest part of the fish. It's done when it reaches 135oF.
The skin of poached fish has an
unpleasant texture and should be peeled off as soon as the fish is
cooked or it will stick.
Poach in a Fish Poacher
1. Place the fish to be poached in
the fish poacher and ladle over enough cooled court bouillon to
completely cover the fish. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Simmer the fish gently until
done. Lift the rack out of the poacher and set it on an angle on top
of the poacher, To remove the skin, cut through it at the base of the
Peel off the skin with your fingers and discard. Gently turn the fish
out onto a serving platter and peel the skin off the other side. If
the fish is too large or awkward to handle, leave the skin on the
bottom and discard when serving.
Serving a Poached Fish
1. Insert 2 spoons or a fish knife in the dark line that
runs along the center of the top of the fish. Gently separate the 2
halves of the top fillet.
2. Cut the fillets into sections with one of the spoons -
here, the top fillet is sectioned into sixths, but for a larger
fish, you'll need to cut more pieces.
Continue sectioning the fillet and transfer the pieces to hot
Lift the spinal column to detach it from the bottom fillet.
Break the spinal column where it joins the head and set it and the
head aside on the platter.
Pull away any bones that remain attached to the bottom fillet.
Separate the bottom fillet into sections, leaving the skin behind if
you haven't already removed it, and serve.