Just in case you’re wondering if anything I ever make is a complete, unmitigated, epic failure, let me tell you about Halibut Poached in Olive Oil. And then let’s never speak of it again.
Halibut is probably my favorite fish. And like many things I’m fond of, it ain’t cheap (I’m looking at you, Louboutin suede platform pumps). I can’t remember exactly what the market price was for the fillets I bought for this recipe but I think it’s safe to say…ouch.
This recipe is from the Poach chapter and by “poach,” Ruhlman tells us he means first, things that are already tender: fish, some meats, root vegetables, eggs (vs. a brisket, which would be braising) and that he also means cooking below the simmer. The liquid can be water, water with aromatics, stock (as in court bouillon), or fat, as we do in this case. This is how we make duck confit, a technique very high on my “to do” list. As you can imagine, poaching is great for things that need to be cooked gently and carefully because they are prone to over-cooking (like fish) and don’t have connective tissue that needs to be broken down.
It all makes lovely sense and yet something went awry for me.
Problem 1: you bring the oil temperature to 150 degrees before you add the fish and then you must maintain a temperature of between 145-155 for 10-15 minutes. I absolutely could not keep the temp this low, even on the lowest setting of my burner.
Problem 2: pescatory corporal integrity. That is, the fish fell apart. Almost immediately. Just collapsed into hopeless shreds of expensive failure. See why I like shoes? They almost never disappoint a girl like this.
It didn’t taste horrible but look at the picture. It’s hard to get excited about lumps of grey fish that you had such high hopes for.
Quite honestly, I don’t know what happened here and that’s maddening. I did everything by the book, and it all sounded like it should absolutely work. I’ve poached fish before with good results.
So what went wrong? Why did an expensive piece of protein and a trustworthy chef conspire to betray me so cruelly? I don’t know; why are those damn shoes $875? Why do my daughter and I sing “Call Me Maybe” when we walk the dogs at night? Some mysteries are just too dense and inscrutable to fathom.
I wish you better luck. The recipe is on page 285 of Ruhlman’s Twenty.