Poaching is a moist heat method of cooking. Food is either partially or fully submerged in a liquid, usually water, milk or liquid flavored with wine and stock.
The difference between poaching and simmering or boiling is that poaching is done at a very low heat. This makes poaching perfect for eggs, fish, chicken and delicate fruits and vegetables.
While poaching is a light and low fat way of cooking, it should not be low on flavor.
I have been bored to death by bland poached chicken and flavorless poached salmon because there is no Maillard reaction. Food will not brown while poaching and brown food equals flavorful food. But, done correctly, poaching can yield a tender and delicious flavor packed meal if you follow a few tips.
The trick for delicious and flavorful poaching is to use aromatics in your poaching liquid. I like to layer a generous amount of FRESH herbs in the bottom of my poaching vessel, and then I add my food to be poached. I then add wine, citrus slices or peel, peppercorns, dried chili peppers for a zippy pop, star anise and then my stock or water.
Be sure not to boil the whole set-up or your food will be dry, tough and awful. It is a paradox that food dries out when boiled in liquid. But it does!
As the proteins or cells in vegetables tighten up in the heated liquid, they begin to squeeze out their juices. If the poaching liquid gets too hot and simmers or Heaven forbid, boils, the food will shrivel up and completely dry out. YIKES, kitchen disaster!
So, while poaching seems like a great answer to what to do with all that salmon, it should be approached with thought and an eye on flavor and low heat.
My Chicken Pho recipe uses my poaching technique to make the perfect soup.
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