Today’s recipe is perfect for a chilly day like today. What happened to spring? I guess it’s technically still winter and we were all just getting spoiled with 65 degree days in February. Our planet is totally melting, but I digress. Today I’m teaching you the sultry and simple cooking technique known as “poaching in butter”. Let that sink in for a minute. Mmmmm… Butter.
This is a fancy schmancy cooking method, but it also happens to be one of the easiest, most foolproof ones out there. It works well with vegetables, and even better with seafood. Lobster, shrimp, clams, crab, and any firm, meaty fish. I’m demonstrating the recipe with my favorite sustainable fish, which you should all know by now is barramundi.
Barramundi has a firm and meaty texture, which makes it ideal for this cooking technique. I would avoid really thin and flimsy fish like flounder or dover sole, as they run the risk of falling apart mid-poach. Any substantial fish will take well to butter poaching, but if you can get your hands on some Australis barramundi, I highly recommend you go that route. In addition to being delicious, it’s also one of the healthiest fish out there (rich in omega 3’s and zero mercury, PCB’s, antibiotics, hormones, or GMOs). And since we’re going to submerge it in a pool of butter… Balance. That’s all I’m saying.
First you’ll want to add a little white wine and some aromatics to the pan for extra flavor. I’m using garlic and thyme, but you can totally play around with other spices if you’d like. Next, the butter. I recommend using a good quality European butter here (such as Finlandia) since they have a higher butter fat content than standard American butters. More butterfat means less water, which means more good stuff to coat your fish. European butters also tend to have more flavor, and that will go a long way in this recipe. Use salted butter for best results.
The key to perfect butter poaching is to never let the butter boil. That will be your biggest challenge. Tiny bubbles around the edges of the pan should be the hottest you ever let it get, and you should even try to avoid that. Boiling will cause the butter to separate (gross) and will make the fish cook faster than we want. A really nice, slow poach in butter will result in fish that’s incredibly tender, and for lack of a better descriptor, buttery. It will also make it practically impossible to overcook.
Spoon a little bit of that butter sauce over top of the fish, and you, my friend, are in for some really good eatin’.
(My recipe plug-in is working again. Hooray!)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 14 tablespoons good quality salted butter
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 4 cups assorted vegetables such as carrots, baby potatoes and/or zucchini*
- 4 6-ounce skinless Australis barramundi fillets, or other firm, meaty fish
- salt and pepper
- flaky sea salt, for serving
- Minced fresh parsley, for serving
- Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour white wine into a large sauté pan with high sides and place over medium-low heat. Add the butter, garlic, and thyme, then swirl the pan around and allow the butter to slowly melt.
- Add the vegetables, then gently toss to coat with butter. Poach for about 5 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a roasting pan and finish cooking in the oven (leave the garlic and thyme behind). Cook-time will vary depending on the vegetables and their size. Check after 10 minutes - they’ll be done when a fork can easily pierce the center.
- Carefully place the barramundi fillets in the butter. Season with salt and pepper, then swirl the pan around so butter coats the top of each fillet. Adjust the heat to keep the butter just below a simmer in order to prevent it from breaking. Allow the fish to poach slowly until it becomes opaque. Thicker fillets may be flipped over to finish cooking on the other side.
- Spoon vegetables on to a plate, then carefully place a barramundi fillet over top. Drizzle some of the butter sauce around the plate, then sprinkle the fish with flaky sea salt and parsley. Serve with lemon wedges on the side if desired.
- *A number of different vegetables work well with this preparation. Try broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, parsnips, winter squash, radishes, turnips, or your favorite vegetable.
- Leftover butter may be frozen and used to poach fish again at a later date.