Wine-Poached Fish

Here’s an existential question for you: Why do they put an expiration date on buttermilk? Buttermilk is not an ingredient I work with often, but I happened to have some in my fridge from making biscuits, and while I was wondering how to use it up, I noticed the expiration date had passed. So I started sniffing the buttermilk to see if it had gone bad. The trouble is, buttermilk has already technically gone bad, or soured — that’s what makes it buttermilk.

Luckily, we have the Internet now or I wouldn’t know anything about anything, so in about 60 seconds, I was able to discover that the expiration date on a carton of buttermilk is pretty arbitrary. People reported using buttermilk up to a month after the date had passed and said you should throw it out if it clearly smells rancid or there’s mold growing on it. Eww. No worries there.

But what I made for dinner was wine-poached fish fillets. This is really more of a cooking technique than a recipe, a method for keeping fish moist and infusing it with flavor while it cooks. I used salmon fillets and served it with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes (ahh, that’s where the buttermilk went!).

The poaching liquid is one part white wine (the same kind you would drink with dinner) and one part chicken stock. How much liquid you need depends on a) the size of your pan and b) the thickness of your fillets. You want the liquid to come up to two-thirds of the height of the fish.

Add to the liquid: herb sprigs (I used rosemary); whole peppercorns; sea salt; lemon slices; whole garlic, sliced thickly; and thickly sliced shallot. Feel free to vary as suits you. Cover and heat over medium-low to the point where the liquid is just bubbling. Simmer until the fish is fully cooked, which again depends on the thickness of your fillets. Fully cooked fish will be opaque in the middle and flake easily under a fork. Spoon a little of the poaching liquid over the fish to serve and garnish with more fresh herbs, a little butter and lemon wedges for squeezing.


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14 thoughts on “Wine-Poached Fish

  1. husband 1 November 2006 at 1:46 pm

    This is one of my favorite techniques for fish. I swap a a number of different liquids–even buttermilk. So perhpas you should have poached in that to get rid of it.

  2. Marty 1 November 2006 at 3:21 pm

    It was still pretty damn good.

  3. simplycooking 2 November 2006 at 11:12 am

    I will try poaching in buttermilk sometime, if I ever have any again–good idea. Wine is always going to be my number-one choice, though. Gives me an excuse to open a new bottle, not that I need one. 🙂

  4. Wilf Krutzmann 5 November 2006 at 9:57 pm

    I am a bit of a wino and write a monthly column,articles etc and have a fun blog. But in my more pretentious moments I am a wannabe chef. So for tonights supper I pulled out a 2005 Scrubby Rise Sauvignon blanc from Wirra Wirra Vineyards in Australia with very fresh and vibrant flavours and used your poached salmon recipe. Geepers, what an incredible dish that turned out to be. My next column on Sauvignons will most certainly refer to this marvellous cooking technique.

  5. simplycooking 7 November 2006 at 9:06 am

    Thank you so much! I will definitely check out your blog. I love wine but consider myself quite the novice on the subject. I did just read in Cook’s Illustrated that the preferred white wine for cooking was a sauvignon blanc because of the clear, bright flavors it brings to the dish.

  6. […] slow-poaching fish like salmon. This method actually doesn’t take that much longer than poaching fish on the stovetop. But it has several advantages over the stovetop […]

  7. […] slow-poaching fish like salmon. This method actually doesn’t take that much longer than poaching fish on the stovetop. But it has several advantages over the stovetop […]

  8. […] pan-fry (thin fillets), pan-sear (thick fillets and steaks) or poach (especially […]

  9. victell 31 August 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Mmm sounds yummy!

  10. Huli 10 February 2012 at 5:34 am

    This sound delicious need to try this recipe out. I love the poaching technique and have poached Fish, Eggs & Chicken need to poach fruits next :). I have briefly written about this technique my blog Now gotta try this recipe out. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Joseph 3 April 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Did you do anything with the residual poaching liquid? I’m wondering if it might be good used as broth for a soup.

  12. Shannon 3 April 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I think what I did with it was froze it and used it for poaching a second time. I think it would make a nice broth for a fish soup as well.

  13. Huli 16 May 2012 at 1:58 am

    Joseph, I actually use the poaching liquid as a soup but I like Shannon’s idea of freezing it and using it again.

  14. Alison 10 June 2012 at 1:23 am

    I am about to do this and use the liquid in a white sauce to make a fish pie.

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