This post is inspired by an article I’d read in the Gourmet Traveler magazine – it said “poaching a whole fish makes for a very impressive and relatively painless main course for dinner parties”. Well, of course that caught my attention – it was “the catch of the day” for me! Excuse the bad joke!
It goes on to say that the delicate cooking method if done correctly highlights the pure flavor of the fish (unadulterated by oil).
The advice is to invest in a “fish kettle” which is available from kitchenware stores. It is a long and narrow saucepan with a lid and comes in very hand for cooking a whole fish.
Fish can be poached in salted water but the most popular “court bouillon” is more commonly used which is a simple stock of celery, parsley, onion, bay leaves and sometimes combinations of other herbs and spices. You can also add a little acid like lemon juice or vinegar which adds to the great taste sensation (especially with oilier fish like salmon or ocean trout).
The process of poaching should be gentle with the liquid kept around 80 degrees. If you don’t have the luxury of a thermometer, you need to look for small bubbles rising and breaking on the surface. This gentle heat keeps the flesh light and flaky.
To test if the fish is ready, the most reliable method is to slit the fish at the backbone and lift the flesh that is closest to the bone and check that it’s not too pink in color.
The best way to serve the fish is to gently peel back the skin using your fingers or a knife. Discard the skin and flake off the bone in large chunks.
Thanks Gourmet Traveler for this great dinner party tip!
The Hostess with the Mostess