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"Poaching" fish in fats


ulterior epicure
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I want to poach lobster in butter. At what temperature should I maintain the butter/oil for optimal texture? I want it barely cooked.

I'm assuming shellfish and fish should be treated differently. How about poaching fish in fatty media? E.g. olive oil-poached halibut, etc...

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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I have never poached lobster but I remember an episode of Alton Brown's on poaching that suggested the poaching temperature be at the desired end temperature of the food being poached and that you could hold it forever at that temperature without overcooking.

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Forgive me but isn't 'poaching' fish in fats otherwise known as frying or am I missing something very obvious  :unsure:

It depends on the temperature. "frying" involves high heat, which leads to drying out the product (internal water of product evaporates, dehydfrating it). Therefore, frying is a dry method of cooking. If the temperature of the fat is below 100º Celsius (boiling point) then no water evaporates, and that's just poaching (this is how you make duck confit... or any other confit).

So, as I'm not sure how clear my explanation was (I'm certainly not a teacher):

High temperature = dry cooking method = frying

Low temperature = moist cooking method = poaching or confit

Hope this helped.

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I want to poach lobster in butter.  At what temperature should I maintain the butter/oil for optimal texture?  I want it barely cooked.

I'm assuming shellfish and fish should be treated differently. How about poaching fish in fatty media?  E.g. olive oil-poached halibut, etc...

Why not just seal the lobster in butter and cook it en sous vide?

PS: I am a guy.

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Thomas Keller describes butter poached lobster in The French Laundry Cookbook. They make a  beurre monte and cook de-shelled tails and claws at 160-190 degrees for five or six minutes.

Doh! Duh. I have that cookbook and I've read that recipe. I don't know why I didn't think of that! Thanks! :huh:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I want to poach lobster in butter.  At what temperature should I maintain the butter/oil for optimal texture?  I want it barely cooked.

I'm assuming shellfish and fish should be treated differently. How about poaching fish in fatty media?  E.g. olive oil-poached halibut, etc...

Why not just seal the lobster in butter and cook it en sous vide?

I don't have a cryovac.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I've used the confit method to successfully poach fish in oil, switching out the duck fat for olive oil.

Preheat your over to 200 degrees F. Take a nice, meaty fillet of the fish of your choice (halibut, salmon, tuna, belly), salt it if you like, and put it in a deep, ovenproof vessel. Cover the fish with olive oil (by cover I mean "immerse"). The fish should be submerged in a bath of olive oil, and covered by at least a half inch, more is better. You needn't use your best extra-virgin olive oil. Inexpensive, light olive oil with a mild flavor is best in my book.

Cover the vessel with foil and put it in the oven. The oil will slowly heat, gently cooking the fish from all sides and preventing it from drying out. It will need to stay in the oven for a while, but since I'm impatient I check frequently once the oil is up to temperature. With your thermometer, check for an internal temperature of 130-140 for halibut-type fish. For salmon and tuna, I like to stop at 120-130.

Remove the fish gently from the oil (it will be very delicate) and serve. Once the oil cools, it can be well-strained, refrigerated, and re-used.

brian

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Apparently, Thomas Keller now does his lobsters sous vide, rather than butter-poached as described in the FL cookbook. The two methods should give essentially the same result, so you should definitely comb through the bits of "lobster sous vide" information on eG for ideas on butter poaching. Since I coincidentally did lobster sous vide this weekend for the first time, I'll try to share what I've learned from others:

- The technique Keller describes for removing the shells (steeping the lobsters briefly in hot but not boiling water) seems to be the recommended way to go, though I had some difficulty. After the prescribed 2 minutes of steeping, my lobsters were still wriggling around in the pot. Since I was not up for ripping a live lobster in half with my bare hands, I let them steep for another 2 minutes till they were motionless. I felt that by that time, the exterior of the lobster tail flesh looked fully cooked. I don't know if this is how it should be.

- Nathanm recommends in the eG SV thread to cook lobster at 113F till the core reaches that temp. I was afraid that would be a bit low for my tastes, as my experience with fish is I do not like it quite that rare.

- Others recommend anywhere from 130-140F, although I think it's safe to say that those are higher than the desired core temp, so you need to be very precise with how long you are cooking. According to this post, this is what Keller currently does: lobster sous vide at 138F, but only for a few minutes. According to McGee via this post, there are enzymes in crustaceans that turn the meat mushy, and they're activated around 130-140F, so it might be best to avoid getting up to this temperature at all, as by the time the core reaches what you're looking for, the exterior may have those enzymes activated.

- Shola from StudioKitchen, in a thread on IdeasInFood, recommends cooking lobster at 125F, and he considers this the "holding temperature", meaning it will not overcook at this temp. Without any better information to go by, that seemed about the right core temp I was looking for. I cryopacked the tails with some butter, star anise, and tarragon, and cooked it at 125F for about 40 minutes.

- I was not thrilled with my end result: I found the meat kind of chewy. Again, I'm not sure if it's because I toughened the exterior too much during steeping. Still, if I were to try it again, I might go 120F, and see if it makes a difference.

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al wang

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I do lobster CSV at 120 for about 20-30 minutes. The texture is somewhat different, more gelatinous, and to some chewier, at that low temp. I follow Keller's hot bath method to deshell and have had no problems.

I also do an olive oil "poached" salmon CSV at about 123. You can let it go for like an hour or more and it gets really silky.

I also poach tuna in olive oil, but I'm not convinced this method is the cooking strategy for tuna. Maybe I'm just not partial to it. I hold my oil at like 150 and cook until the center is just medium-rare, so not a confit like the others have mentioned.

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Both Charlie Trotter ("Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter") and Ming Tsai ("Simply Ming") have detailed the procedure for poaching seafood in fat on their public television shows.

Charlie Trotter did salmon poached in herb-infused olive oil, and Ming did butter-poached lobster, the details of which you can find here: butter poached lobster

Unfortunately, I cannot find the archives for the Charlie Trotter shows, but I do recall that he cooked the salmon at extremely low temperature for an extended period of time, and that he infused the oil with herbs and removed them before poaching the salmon.

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Paula Wolfert, in the Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, has a recipe for salmon poached in olive oil. Her intro includes a description for using the same technique for squid, clams, other fish fillets, etc. I've never tried it (not sure why) but there is a thread on eGullet for the cookbook that has user reviews.


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Thanks, everyone! All of this is very helpful! I've read that Ming Tsai recipe before - I need to go back and read Thomas Keller's one. Will report back!

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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The technique Keller describes for removing the shells (steeping the lobsters briefly in hot but not boiling water) seems to be the recommended way to go, though I had some difficulty. After the prescribed 2 minutes of steeping, my lobsters were still wriggling around in the pot. Since I was not up for ripping a live lobster in half with my bare hands, I let them steep for another 2 minutes till they were motionless. I felt that by that time, the exterior of the lobster tail flesh looked fully cooked. I don't know if this is how it should be.

It might be a good idea to kill the lobsters before steeping...just drive a chef's knife through the head. Kills them instantly and would allow you to make sure you can remove the meat after 2 minutes.

BTW, doesn't Keller reccomend pouring boiling water over the lobsters to do this? My memory may be a bit fuzzy....

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BTW, doesn't Keller reccomend pouring boiling water over the lobsters to do this? My memory may be a bit fuzzy....

I should have been more clear: you boil the water, but then you pour that water over the lobsters off the heat, so it's no longer boiling...

---

al wang

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I do lobster CSV at 120 for about 20-30 minutes.  The texture is somewhat different, more gelatinous, and to some chewier, at that low temp.  I follow Keller's hot bath method to deshell and have had no problems.

You follow Keller's method up to the point of deshelling and then you sous vide at 120 for 20-30 minutes? I'm not sure I want to follow Keller's method for poaching - he calls for heating the beurre monte to 180-190 and putting the lobster in for just 5-6 minutes. Does anyone think that temperature would be too high - even for a short cooking time?

Whoever said upthread that Keller doesn't actually poach in butter, but rather sous vides - that jives with my experience. The Main Lobster "Cuit Sous Vides" was tough and stringy - I much preferred the Sweet Butter-Poached Scottish Langoustine that I had at per se (which was the only memorable course from that meal, actually).

The take-away I get from this is that:

1. TK's butter-poaching method (at 180-190 for 5-6 for a 1 1/2 to 2 lb lobster (tail and claws deshelled)) does produce great results,

2. Sous vides lobster doesn't work as well (unless my experience at TFL was anomoly - which is quite possible as that meal was a disappointing experience overall), and

3. Butter-poaching works for shrimp/langoustines/prawns as well.

I also do an olive oil "poached" salmon CSV at about 123.  You can let it go for like an hour or more and it gets really silky.
I've not experienced that with salmon, but I have with halibut and other white-fleshed fish. It is very silky.
I also poach tuna in olive oil, but I'm not convinced this method is the cooking strategy for tuna.  Maybe I'm just not partial to it.  I hold my oil at like 150 and cook until the center is just medium-rare, so not a confit like the others have mentioned.
In total agreement. Poaching tuna in fat doesn't seem to do anything extraordinary to tuna - in fact, I find the results to be very simlar to poaching tuna in water-based media. Tuna gets too "steaky" and tough - no silkiness. I'm not a scientist, so I have no clue why this might be. I suspect that swordfish and shark meat might also turn out similarly meaty in a oil/fat-based poaching treatment.

One question about Keller's beurre monte recipe: he says that a tablespoon of water is all you need, whether you're using 1/4 lb. or 20 lbs of butter. :huh: Is this right? Also, how, exactly, does one boil 1 tablespoon of water? Especially, if you need to do in a pot big enough to fit more than 4 cups of butter??

Thanks everyone!

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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how, exactly, does one boil 1 tablespoon of water?

Uhhhh.... how about boiling a half cup or cup of water in a separate vessel and pouring off one tablespoon into the preheated pot where it is to be used?

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This is a very interesting - and useful - discussion. I love the idea of lipid-poaching meat although I have yet to actually do it. Does lean beef work well?

What are the best candidates for cooking this way?

Anybody have a top ten list?

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

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I've been using the Keller butter-poaching method w/ some success with scallops. I try to keep the beurre monte at around 160F, and keep them in it for about 3-5 minutes...

I've tried it with shrimp, but been disappointed with the results.

I am looking forward to trying it with lobster, but alas, while I've convinced my mostly-vegetarian wife that shrimp and scallops "don't count," she draws the line at lobsters... So it may be a while...

jk

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I've used the Keller beurre monte method and agree it produces probably "better" result than the CSV with butter in the bag method which is very similar. The CSV method does produce a somewhat different texture, probably because of the longer, slower cooking time. When I use the beurre monte I keep it at lke 160ish too, but on the 5+ min side than the 3 min side in regards to time.

You can cook anything in beurre monte, including lean meats. Cooking tenderloin in butter then quickly searing the beef is an interesting preparation. You can also sear first then hold in beurre monte, though I don't like this as much. The beurre monte poach followed by a very quick sear allows for some of the butter to brown and adds more flavor. I also do asparagus poached in a truffle infused beurre monte.

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