Oven-based packet poached fish

In Recipies on January 4, 2011 at 10:10 am


"Oh deer" He said, "poached"



Packet poaching is an easy way to poach fish with a minimum of effort; especially with the cleanup, since the cooking vessel can be rinsed and tossed into the recycling bin.


Poaching takes place between 140-180 degrees (F).  “Mr. Science” would know this is not the same as “boiling”.  Bubbles may form at the bottom of the cooking vessel, but should not rise to the surface.  An instant-read thermometer will help you get the poaching liquid (in traditional poaching) to the right temperature.


Oven-based packet poaching works best with thin cuts of fish.  Flounder and tilapia fit the bill perfectly.


Thicker cuts, like cod loins, salmon fillets or steaks, are better prepared in a poaching pan because, by the time the inner part of a thicker cut is fully cooked, the outer portion will probably be much hotter than the ideal poaching temperature.  If the cook wishes to keep the poached item from having a greasy taste or texture, it is necessary to keep the oils floating on top of the poaching liquid.  Besides, once the temperature exceeds the boiling point, we are “steaming”.


Because of the above-captioned science, poaching is a very healthy method of cooking.


And, now, the cooking…


Packet Poached Tilapia


4-8 tilapia fillets, rinsed

juice of one lemon, strained

1-2 TBS good quality olive oil

heavy duty foil squares, large enough to wrap the fish portions loosely

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place a fish fillet in the center of a foil square.  Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together.  Now, quickly, spoon (1-2 tsp) of the oil/lemon juice mixture over the fish before the oil and juice separates. Salt and pepper to taste.  Loosely wrap each fish portion in the foil.  Place the packets on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 4-8 minutes.  If you hear boiling or sizzling from the packets, remove them for a moment.  Remember, we do not want to steam (or bake) the fish. The oil becomes “part” of the steaming vessel and it adds no oily taste provided the fish is removed pronto, before it begins to cool.  It will take a bit of experimentation (But that is the fun of Phyne Dyning!) to determine your cooking time.  The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.


But wait!  There’s more!


Tilapia and flounder are both very mild fish.  They lend themselves to being enhanced with delicate flavors.


Faye Levy, author of Feast from the Mideast, offered a foil-baked trout recipe that lends itself well to packet poaching.


Add ½ tsp of curry powder, 4 large cloves of garlic (minced), and a pinch of cayenne to the olive oil and lemon juice.  Top with jalapeno slices, minced onion, and diced cherry tomatoes.  Wrap and place in the oven as with the basic recipe.  Serve over basmati rice.  When her version is poached, instead of baked, the onion/pepper/tomato lends a nice texture challenge to the soft flesh of the fish.


Here is a Thai-inspired version:


Substitute lime juice for lemon juice and add ¼ tsp galangal.  Drizzle over fish as in the basic recipe.  Before wrapping the fish, place ½ of a basil leaf on top of each fish portion.  Wrap and prepare as in the basic recipe.


And a very basic Scandinavian twist:


Prepare the basic recipe.  Sprinkle with dried dill.  Salt and pepper.  Wrap and cook.


Play around with your own versions.  Invent a Caribbean version!  Go for it in a lowbrow fashion by seasoning the poaching liquid with a few drops of packet sauce left over from your least jaunt to Popeye’s.  Phyne Dyners who have adventure flowing in their blood can even take this recipe camping (remember to pack out the foil!).


Phyne Dyning is dynamic.  It moves.  Take a familiar or simple recipe and take it in your own direction.


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