One of the easiest methods of preparing fish is by poaching. This is a technique whereby food is cooked by submerging in a liquid such as milk, stock, water or wine. It is perfect for cooking fish since it is a “moist heat” cooking method. The fish is rendered full of flavor and unbelievably tender. The recipe given below follows that pattern. I can it Nuyorican Versian since it encompasses the main ingredients inherent in Nuyorican/Puerto Rican cuisine.
In that vein, this recipe calls for achiote, which is used for coloring and flavoring of dishes, and is very popular in our culture. Achiote is made by cooking 1 tablespoon annatto seeds (found in any Latino or Asian market) in ½ cup olive oil over moderate heat for 5 minutes. The oil will turn a bright-orange red, and the longer it steeps in the oil, the darker the hue. Remove from heat. Let it cool, then strain into a glass jar or container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Now, for those who don’t have the time or inclination to prepare achiote, you can make a short cut by mixing ½ teaspoon ground turmeric in 3 tablespoons olive oil. It will give you the same orange-red coloring.
For this recipe you can use any firm, white-fleshed fillets such as haddock, cod, perch, tilapia, turbot, catfish, bass, turbot or snapper. It even works with blue-fish fillets, so you can give that a try as well. We served the fillets over risotto, and it was great! But, if you prefer, a veggie side dish and some crusty bread will do nicely, along with a chilled white wine. Hell, with the wine, drink what you prefer. We are not purists on that realm. My mother, of late memory, would drink her favorite wine, Manischewitz Sherry, with whatever was offered. She was a true individual.
POACHED FISH – NUYORICAN VERSION
3 pounds firm, white fish fillets of your choice (see above)
10-12 whole black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon fresh dill or ¼ teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons achiote
¼ cup dry white wine
½ cup water
1. Rinse fillets under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a mortar, crush peppercorns, garlic, oregano and salt. Blend in olive oil.
3. Rub fish fillets with the seasoning. Brush with the achiote.
4. Place fish in a heavy saucepan of fish poacher. Add white wine and water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes.
5. Carefully remove fish using a pancake turner or spatula and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.