Monday, February 9, 2009

Poached (Not Boiled) in Oil

Tonight I tried out a cooking technique that I've been wanting to try for a long time. I always hear about chefs poaching fish in olive oil and the fact that it produces superior fish. I've shyed away from taking on this technique primarily because of the amount of oil involved and the thought that it would produce oily fish (it doesn't).

Last week on Top Chef, the "cheftestants" were replicating dishes from Le Bernardin and being judged by Eric Ripert, chef and part-owner of Le Bernardin. One of the dishes involved poaching fish in oil (specifically: Escolar -- White Tuna Poached in Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Sea Beans and Potato Crisps; Light Red Wine Bearnaise) and, of course, I started thinking about it again.

This morning, I picked up some absolutely beautiful halibut and was thinking about how to prepare it. Ever one for simplicity I consulted Bitten and found exactly what I was looking for: Halibut and Root Vegetable in Olive Oil. Fortunately I had also picked up a new bottle of olive oil.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly, in that I didn't do the root vegetables. But I did use the poaching technique (with sliced garlic). First of all, keeping the oil between 180 and 200 degrees was incredibly difficult. For much of the time my oil hovered near 230 degrees. (Perhaps this constitutes "boiled" in oil.) However, I felt as though it was cooking properly (i.e., it wasn't frying) and so I did the best I could with controlling the heat.

Secondly, the halibut sort of fell into pieces when it was time to remove it from the oil. This wasn't a big deal. I set the fish on paper towels to drain before putting on my plate; I need not have bothered, because very little oil was on/in the fish. I squeezed some lemon juice over it and let it rest briefly. I then plated it and little j (sans halibut) and I sat down to dinner. I tried to persuade little j to try some, but it was a non-starter and she was much more interested in the artichokes I prepared.

Overall, I think this is a worthwhile technique for fish and something I would like to try again, although I don't know if two cups of olive oil for dinner for one is such a great use of resources.

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