Poached fish


This isn’t about going out in the dark of night and illegally catching fish without a permit, this is about the gentle art of simmering a portion of fish in a liquid to cook the fish.

I prefer to do this with a nice piece of coloured smoked fish such as cod or haddock to contrast against a white sauce, but you can do this with most fillets of fish and adjust the sauce to suit.  If find this method is just as good as steaming and I get a sauce out of the process as well.

One thing to note is that I leave the skin on for poaching some fish and remove it for others.  It depends on how strong the flesh is, if in doubt leave it on, you can always remove it before serving.  The only thing you need to do is make sure it’s clean and remove all the loose scales.  It’s easier to ask your fishmongers to do that for you but you can do it yourself using a de-scaler or by running the broad flat surface of a knife over the skin at a slight angle to the skin (it will collect the scales as you go).  If you don’t then you will need to strain your liquid before making the sauce.

You can choose to poach in water, milk or a combination of both.  You can add extra flavour in terms of seasoning, herbs and spices to make this into something a little different but I’m just going to explain the basics.

You have two basic options for poaching fish, in the oven or in a pan on the hob.  I prefer using the hob but the oven works just as well and is sometimes more convenient.

Make sure you’ve a pan large enough for your fillet of fish, or cut the fish into suitable portions to fit the pan.  You’ll find it easier and using a pair of kitchen scissors than you will with a knife.

Note: If you’re using milk, make sure the pan doesn’t get so hot that it starts to burn at the bottom of the pan, and you don’t want it to boil over.  A nice gentle heat will do the fish more justice than a raging furnace.

Bring the pan to a near boil and turn the heat down a little, you’re looking for a gentle simmering action, a full boil will just tear the fish to pieces eventually.

Monitor the fish, you’re looking for the fish to change to a more solid colour and for the flesh to become flaky.  If it’s done correctly the flakes of fish will separate when eaten with the least bit of effort.

Once cooked remove it from the pan with a large slotted spoon, occasionally I use two to make sure the fish doesn’t collapse when I lift it.

Remove any excess liquid, pat dry if necessary with a kitchen towel and serve with some fresh vegetables or some spiced potato wedges.

Keep the remaining liquid to make your parsley sauce

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