Poaching – or cooking food in simmering liquid – is an easy and useful method of keeping a wide variety of dishes moist and delicious. Most people are familiar with poached eggs, but many do not realize you can poach nearly any type of food, including meat, fish, poultry, fruits, and vegetables.
The Basics of Poaching Food
To poach, all you need is a pot, some liquid, food, and a stove top. The pot should be big enough to easily accommodate the food that’s cooking, plus enough liquid to cover that food. If the pot is too small, the food won’t cook properly, so don’t cram the pot full.
Although water is fine for poaching, using a more flavorful alternative results in tastier food. Stock, bouillon, broth, or wine are better choices (and can be mixed with each other).
A common mistake when poaching is to boil the food. Instead, the food should barely simmer.
How to Poach Eggs
This is one case where using water as the poaching liquid is perfectly satisfactory. Add some vinegar to the water to help keep the whites in tact; use about 1 teaspoon for every 2 or 3 cups of water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat until the water is just simmering. Crack an egg and gently slide it (sans shell) into the liquid. Cov er until cooked to your preference. Typically, it takes about 3 minutes for medium firmness and about 2 minutes if you want the eggs a bit runny. Remove the egg from the pot with a slotted spoon.
How to Poach Meat, Poultry, Fish, and Vegetables
Fill a pot with enough liquid to completely cover the food. If poaching poultry, breasts work best. Large pieces of meat rarely poach well.
Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the food and reduce the heat so the liquid simmers slightly. Poach until the meat is cooked through. 8 oz. of fish takes only about 10 minutes to cook, while 8 oz. of chicken takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
How to Poach Fruit
Combine 2 cups white wine (spirits work, too), 1 cup granulated sugar, and 5 cups of water in a saucepan. Add some spices (for example, 5 or 6 cinnamon sticks and 2 strips of citrus peel). Stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Place the peeled fruit in the pan, very gently; the liquid should completely cover the fruit. If the fruit floats, place a piece of cheesecloth over the fruit and a heat proof plate that’s small enough to fit inside the pan on top of cheesecloth; this will weigh the fruit down. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat so it just simmers. Cook until the fruit is tender, but not so soft it starts falling apart. Remove from the liquid with a slotted spoon.
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