Poach perfect

Wine-poached pears

Recently, a lot of recipes for poached foods have flickered across my news feeds. It’s no wonder, because poaching is a timeless method to gently cook many types of foods while also enhancing their flavor.

Poaching liquids are as varied as the foods cooked in them and add distinctive flavors to the finished dish. Wine is a favorite for poaching, but coffee and tea are also frequently employed, as in this tea-poached salmon and these tea-poached plums. I think the gin-poached cherries that accompany this buttermilk cake sound delightful. Ginger-infused coconut milk serves ably in this poached lobster dish. Ginger also enhances the broth in this poached shrimp recipe.

While cooking foods fully submerged in hot oil is frying, cooking foods in oil at low temperatures can be considered poaching. Bacon lovers can make bacon fat-poached pork tenderloin. If that seems too heavy, try this olive oil-poached shrimp.

So many foods lend themselves to poaching that it’s difficult to find something that doesn’t benefit from this technique. We’ve already discussed seafood, pork and fruit, and of course poached chicken is perfect for chicken salad. And now that we know a really foolproof method for poaching eggs, there is almost no limit to the number of ways we can serve them. And if you don’t like the idea of a poached whole egg, how about just part of the egg? This recipe for poached meringues (aka floating islands) uses the traditional crème anglaise, although I prefer this Jacques Pepin recipe featuring a delicious peach sauce.

Poaching is great for any season, too. Fall flavors shine through in this wine-poached apple recipe, and these eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce sound like the perfect thing on a cold winter’s evening. When rhubarb arrives in spring, poached rhubarb royale sounds like the perfect way to celebrate.

Occasionally you don’t poach to enhance flavor but rather to mellow it. That’s why J.M. Hirsch recently poached garlic to make a pasta sauce with robust, but not overpowering, garlic flavor. Poaching oily fish in milk is another established technique to tame overbearing flavor characteristics.

Another great attribute of poached desserts is that many are vegan, so they can fit most diets (sorry, Paleo). Whether you poach something to enhance its flavor, to achieve an ideal texture, or to mellow an intense taste, poaching is perfect any time. What is your favorite poached food?

Photo of red wine-poached pears by Darcie Boschee

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  • Jane  on  February 19, 2014

    Poached eggs are my favorite way of cooking eggs and since I started using the straining technique we posted a while back, they look so much better. It's not my favorite technique for other foods as I like the caramelized edges you get from roasting or frying. I did poach tuna in olive oil once (from Fish Without a Doubt) but again not a favorite method.

  • darcie_b  on  February 19, 2014

    I forgot to mention poaching bratwurst in beer!! I usually put the poached brats on the grill for added flavor. I poach a lot of pears since they never seem to be quite ripe enough when I want to serve them.

  • Jane  on  February 19, 2014

    I do always poach sausages before I grill them as it ensures they are cooked through. I poach them in a mix of beer and water or apple juice and water.

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