Tips on Poaching Fish from Julia Child

There's lots of room for choice and improvisation in the poaching recipes in Julia and Jacques Cooking At Home. Jacques likes to use fillets with the skin on, but I prefer the skin off, and I score the skinned or "milky" side to keep them from curling. Use whatever aromatic or seasonings you like or have available. If you don't have shallots, use scallions. If you like garlic, add some.

The more classical oven-poaching has you arrange the seasoned fillets in a buttered flameproof baking dish with their sprinkling of shallots and their poaching liquid. You bring them just to the simmer on top of the stove, cover them with buttered wax or parchment paper to protect and to help steam as well as bake them. You slip them into your preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven and they usually need 7 to 10 minutes.

When are they done? Whichever way you poach your fish fillets--oven or stovetop--they are done when the color has changed from translucent (not solid white) to opaque (milky white). The flesh is no longer squashy and raw; it has taken on texture, and is lightly springy to the touch. When just done the juices have swelled in the flesh and are ready to escape; you can begin to smell cooking fish. That is the moment you are waiting for. A little longer and the juices will have left the flesh; you have overcooked your fish, it will have stiffened, and the flesh will flake.

Mash, blend, or purée it to the desired consistency and adjust the seasonings. Serve the soup right away, or set aside until serving time. Garnish or vary the soup with additional ingredients as suggested.