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Wait-before you turn away from this idea because, like me, you spend most of your time trying to get oil out of your life, let me share the science behind cooking with oil and then let me implore you to try this approach one time and see that we can make fish taste impossibly restaurant-quality good in our own kitchens without much effort.

Oil and water don’t mix. When we use oil instead of water for poaching, it serves as a barrier to the moisture of the fish, essentially locking in juices. The moisture in turn doesn’t allow the oil to penetrate the fish. That’s our start. Use oil to cook fish.

fish poaching

The recipe reads more complicated than it is in reality because it’s adapted fromCook’s Illustrated magazine, one publication from the America’s Test Kitchen folksy media family that uses science to perfect cooking. I’ve shared some of their specific instructions, but simplified it after preparing the recipe a few times. I promise after reading through the recipe, you’ll see that the steps are rather simple.

You can poach the fish without the vinaigrette, but with so few ingredients and a blender to do the heavy lifting, the tangy tomato sauce will be worth your time especially with a 30 second reheat for leftovers of fish or any other protein.

oil-poached fish fillets with tomato vinaigrette

We prepared this dish with halibut, but cod, sea bass or snapper will also hold up well. Half of the olive oil and onion will be discarded after, so use a lesser expensive olive oil or even a neutral oil like canola. You can also use a similar sized ramekin bowl in place of the onion.

preptime: 20 minutes 4 servings

baketime: 24-29 minutes (low & slow)

  • 4 6-oz skinless white fish fillets (1″ thick)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 onion peeled
  • 4 oz cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 small shallot, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped (for garnish, optional)
  • 3 oz. cherry tomatoes, sliced
  1. Remove fillets from the refrigerator, pat dry with paper towel, season each with a little salt, let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Turn oven to 250°. Add adjust rack to upper middle position in the oven.
  3. Heat oil in oven-safe 10″skillet (that has a lid) to 180°, about 3.5 minutes on med-low heat. The oil should be just warm enough to go into the low temp oven, not make the fish sizzle.
  4. Add the onion to the center of the skillet and place the fillets, skin-side up (these are skinless fillets, but you can see where the skin had been) around the pan. Spoon a little oil over each fillet. Cover the skillet and
  5. Bake for 15 minutes (this is one of two bake sessions)
  6. While the fish bakes, begin to prepare the vinaigrette. In a blender, add tomatoes, vinegar, shallot, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper – don’t blend yet.
  7. Back to fish – after 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, and using two spatulas or tongs/spatula, gently turn over each fillet.
  8. Cover pan and return to the oven for another 9-14 minutes, until the fillets reach 130-135°. If you don’t have a thermometer, bake for 12 minutes or adjust according to thickness of the fillets.
  9. After baking, gently remove the fillets to a platter and cover with a foil tent.
  10. Pour 1/2 cup of the baking oil into the blender with the tomato combination. Blend for 1-2 minutes until emulsified.
  11. Serving: place one fillet in the center of a shallow bowl or plate. Spoon the vinaigrette around the fillet. Garnish with parsley and sliced cherry tomatoes.

recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com


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