Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poach This!

Up until today my only experience with poached food was poached eggs (my favorite!) and the one time I had poached salmon, which was disgusting and totally flavorless. In my class we are learning about ways to impart more flavor into nutritious cooking techniques. This includes using a much more flavorful court bouillon in which to poach proteins instead of simple water with lemon and herbs, which is traditional and incredibly boring and lacking in flavor.

In groups we are given certain ingredients to use and then build flavors around them. In our case, today we were told to poach pork loin and make a sauce to accompany it. Also, we were to steam broccoli, roast baby golden beets, and compliment them with a cranberry gastrique. In the case of poaching chicken and pork loin (basically anything that isn't fish, which is more delicate), we were told that we can slightly under cook them when poaching, and then finish them with a light sear in a barely greased pan (an oiled paper towel is how we greased it).

Our poaching liquid consisted of orange juice, guava nectar, lime juice, lime zest, fresh ginger, and strong black tea. We cooked it and reduced it a bit to release some of the ginger flavor into the rest of the liquid. We then poached our pieces of pork until about 130 degrees, and then finished cooking them with a light sear in the pan until about 145 degrees for HACCP safe (or less if you want it a little pink).

To accompany the pork, I made (for the very first time!) a chutney. We didn't have apples, which is what I wanted to use, but we had a couple bosc pears which we peeled and cut up macedoine (1/4" cubes) along with some finely minced fresh ginger (a tablespoon or so), the juice of half a lemon, and a couple splashes of sherry vinegar. I cooked it over medium heat for a while until the pears were fairly tender but still had a good bite to them. The mixture was a bit dry so I added a few generous splashes of orange juice and cooked it a little longer, and then finally finished it with maybe a tablespoon (give or take) of brown sugar. The sugar melted into the pears and cut through the tartness and also added a bit of thickness to the little bit of liquid that there was. The chef said it was really good, which made me super happy because it was my first time making chutney!

Finally, for the vegetables, we steamed the broccoli and roasted the baby golden beets. We made a cranberry gastrique by reducing balsamic vinegar with sliced red onions, and then adding some dried cranberries, and finishing it with some brown sugar. All of these components were plated with some communal whole-wheat couscous flavored with tomato and basil (but not much else, I wasn't the biggest fan).

Although I would probably never poach pork on my own time, it actually turned out pretty well, and we luckily didn't over cook it because it would have been incredibly dry. I think our flavors worked really well together, but I wasn't too pleased with our plating design. It's hard to find compromise when four people are deciding how to plate one plate together. I think over time we will get better at it, haha. Here are some pics!

Our court bouillon: orange juice, guava nectar, lime juice, lime zest, fresh ginger, black tea

Pear-Ginger Chutney

Our food (clockwise from top): broccoli and golden beets, poached and seared pork loin, court bouillon (poaching liquid), pear-ginger chutney, cranberry-onion gastrique

Our show plate

Poached pork loin with balsamic reduction, steamed asparagus, and sun-dried tomato gremolata

Poached chicken with green beans

Indian-poached chicken breast with pineapples

Poached tilapia with olive and sun-dried tomato tapenade and brûléed lemons


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