The process of cooking food in simmering water or stock.
There is nothing mystical or difficult about poaching food. Although the most common poaching ingredient is eggs, you can also poach your fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables, and even beef. The benefit to poaching is that it makes the food more easily digestible, and infuses it with flavor during the gentle cooking. You don't need fancy tools to poach, although I would advise a simple egg poacher for eggs to keep them together and formed. Depending on what you are poaching, all you need is a pot large enough for the food to fit into and still be covered by at least an inch of liquid. A rack is helpful when doing delicate fish, however a large slotted turner will work as well.
The basic poaching method is to heat the poaching liquid to just below a simmer, immerse the food into the liquid, and allow it to cook gently until finished. Do not let the liquid begin to simmer rapidly! A few random bubbles are okay, but the surface of the water should move gently without excessive bubbling. Because the cooking is gentle, and the food is completely immersed, the flavors in the poaching liquid infuse into the food while cooking. Therefore, all your flavoring goes directly into the liquid, rather than onto the food itself.
- Fill an appropriately sized pot with liquid which complements the food that you are poaching. For example, chicken stock for chicken or vegetable stock for fish. Use enough liquid to cover the food by at least an inch and a half.
- Add about 1/4 cup of vinegar, wine, or other acid per each quart of liquid that you are using. The acid helps to preserve the texture and color of the food that you are poaching. It also helps the flavors from your liquid to be absorbed by the meat.
- Next add your seasonings. Be creative, for this is where all that wonderful flavor is going to come from!
- Bring liquid to a boil over heat.
- Add your food, then reduce the heat to just below a simmer. When the heat has been adjusted to the correct cooking temperature, there should be no bubbles breaking the surface of the poaching liquid, and the food should be completely covered with an inch or so to spare.
- Cook for recommended cooking time, or until done.
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