Fish pans are widely available at price points from $20 to $5000 — yes, you read that correctly, there are some very glam copper ones from France. All work equally well, unless they don’t seal properly.
If you have a fish pan that doesn’t sit tight and flush, all is not lost, but you need some school supplies. Go get yourself some binder clips. It works great and looks pretty adorable if you go for the colorful ones. I got mine at Staples, and they were absolutely fine in my oven. They did not melt, but they did get hot, so be careful.
Fish pans have three parts, the pot, the lid, and an insert that allows you to lift the fish up easily when cooking is complete. It also keeps the fish (or vegetables) hovering above the very bottom but still in the cooking liquid.
The pans come in different sizes, but even the smallest ones I have seen, all have plenty of room for a whole fish or two, or fillets.
Add plenty of herbs, garlic, mushrooms, milk, and butter, all enveloped together. It tastes as fantastic as these pictures look, which is something, because I still cannot believe how awesome this all looks, and I took the photos.
This leads us to the other important note on cooking fish: use dairy instead of water or broth. It will be about as delectable and decadent as it gets, as the lactic acid is brilliant at marinating and adds enormous flavor to the fish. The butter is, well, butter, and it elevates everything. Milk with some knobs of butter, and then it’s all down to your particular preferences on what herbs to add.
Poaching meat in milk is delicious. But as one of the most well-known rules of kashruth, second only to avoiding bacon, this is a no-no. However, fish you can cook in dairy. Add butter, and basically, live out all of your food fantasies when it comes to mixing animal flesh and dairy. Be generous with salt and pepper and count yourself blessed.
It is so good.
This is not a recipe as it is a call to arms.
Buttermilk was used here; it’s a personal favorite for its creamy zip. But you can use any dairy you prefer. Because milk contains fat (unlike water or broth), it does an incredible job of absorbing the flavors added to the pan. In this case, tons of herbs, whole and cloves of garlic, and four kinds of mushrooms — and some anchovies, carrots, olives, two types of salt, white and black pepper, and new potatoes for luck.
Buy some fish, fillets or whole, milk of your choice (the more fat, the better), herbs you love, any other bits you adore, juniper berries would be fantastic if you had them on hand, and throw it all into a pot.
A fish pan is excellent — mine has a bronze fin and fish face that double as handles and brings enormous joy to my life — but it is not necessary as an oven-friendly pot or cast iron pan would be great.
Bring your poaching liquid to a simmer over medium heat, do not bring the liquid to a rolling boil – keep it at a simmer. Cook the fish for 10 minutes more, or until the center of the fish appears opaque and flakes when nudged with a fork. This, of course, depends on the amount of fish you are cooking, along with any other bits in the pan, so look it up online. The internet was built for something greater, we may have hoped for world peace, but no, it’s now best suited to cooking tips. It’s not nothing.
Or, if you prefer using your oven: bring the poaching liquid and fish to a simmer on the stovetop and heat your oven to 400C. When the simmering starts transfer the whole dish to the oven for 10 -15 minutes depending on your preferences for ‘done’ levels and the amount you packed into your pot. Super easy, and tasty, and gorgeous to bring to the table.
The fish will taste even better if you soak it in the milk for 20 or so minutes beforehand.
Look at it! There are two fish cooked to perfection hiding under there. And it tasted even better.