Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Poaching 101

My pink converse were on the case…

It was time to tackle poaching.

Burtons Grill is a popular restaurant with locations in Massachusetts, Virginia, & Connecticut. Their focus is on fresh food, specializing in seasonal & quality ingredients. To showcase their Valentine’s Day menu, Executive Chef Danny Azzarello & sous chef Envaldo Carmo from the Hingham location wowed a crowd at Williams-Sonoma.

On the menu were lobster tails poached in a lemon butter sauce and Bosc pears poached in port wine. According to, “the definition of poaching is ‘to cook an item by submerging it in a liquid that is just barely simmering.’" The temperature of the cooking liquid must be closely monitored. Using a digital thermometer should give you an accurate read.

Shallow submerging, or poaching, happens at a temperature of 160 degrees. A lemon butter sauce has been prepared with shallots, white wine, and heavy cream. Heating the liquid prior to preparing the lobster tails ensures a smooth preparation. Complete recipes for the lobster and pears from Denise Baron, the Culinary Director of Burtons Grill, are included at the end of this post.

Chef Azzarello then demonstrated how to prepare the lobster tails. As he noted, you could just rip the meat out and throw it in, but since he works at a restaurant it’s his job to make food look good, too.

Using kitchen shears, he cuts in a straight line down the back of the lobster.

Pulling the two pieces of shell apart carefully, he pulls the meat partially out of the lobster tail. Be careful not to fully remove the lobster tail.

The lobster meat should rest on top of the tail. This is important for presentation.

Place the prepared lobster tails in the simmering sauce. Place lid on. Poach until fully cooked.

The final result is not only's delectable! When the lobster was passed around, I confess that I took the biggest bite. How often do you get free lobster?? The lobster is perfectly cooked, silky in texture, with citrus notes. There's a slight chew to the meat, but it's not rubbery at all. The butter sauce is rich, but not overpowering.

Next up...poached pears.

This is a Bosc pear. Burtons Grill uses Bosc pears because they are much bigger and have a firmer texture. This firm texture ensures that they don't fall apart during poaching.

The pears are poached in a port, water, sugar combination. Deep submerging, or poaching at 180 degrees, is used for pears as they are far less delicate.

While the pears poached, sous chef Carmo prepared a salad of arugula & spinach, topped with a mustard vinaigrette, candied walnuts, and bleu cheese.

The freshly poached pears still had a nice bite, with a magenta exterior and a pale interior. Chef Azzarello had poached some pears the day before and brought those for comparison. They were much darker purple and had a more pronounced port flavor. When pre-poaching fruit, you can store it in the cooking liquid and keep for a few days.

I would go to Burtons Grill just to have this salad. The salty and sweet flavors were perfectly balanced, and the walnuts added a much needed crunch.

Even though Valentine's Day has since passed, Burtons Grill offers high quality, seasonally-inspired food year round. If you visit- let me know what you think!

Butter Poached Lobster

Yield: 5 servings

Tools Needed

Kitchen sheers, metal half pans with lids, wire racks, skewers


5- 6 oz. Canadian Lobster Tails

Method of Preparation

1. Bring water to a boil. Drop lobster tails in boiling water for 2 minutes, remove and place immediately in an ice bath.

2. Once cooled, using kitchen sheers, cut the upper shell of the lobster down to the tail, make a cut to the left and right of the tail so it is easier for the tail to come out.

3. Gently pull lobster tail out of shell but leaving it still intact at the bottom of the tail. The idea is to rest the met along the shell so it sits up higher. The tail will shrink when cooked so we need to cut down the shell by half.

4. Bring to a boil equal parts of lemon butter and water in a half pan. Place on a wire rack on the stove and cover with a plastic half pan lid. It should hold temp at 160- this is a great poaching temp.

5. When an order comes in, place a skewer down the tail, this is going to help the tail from curling up to nothing.

6. Drop tail in poaching liquid and set timer for 10 minutes. If you have a lot of tails going in at the same time they will need to longer to cook because they will lower the temperature of the poaching liquid. You might need to place direct on a stove to bring temp back up to 160.

7. After 10 minutes, check doneness of lobster tail. If not firm, cook for an additional 2 minutes and check again.

8. When done, place tail in a separate half hotel pain with a wire rack to catch any excess poaching liquid. This is the holding tank until tail is ready to sell.

Poached Pears

Yield: 32 slices= 10 orders

Tools Needed
saucepan, measuring cups and spoons, shallow plastic
1/3 pan with lid, tongs

4 Bosc pears, halved, cored (use 1/2 tsp.), then each half quartered
2 cups Warre's Warrior port
3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar

Method of Preparation
1. Combine port, water and sugar in saucepan. Stir well until sugar is dissolved.
Bring poaching liquid to boil.

2. Add pears and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 7-15 minutes until pears
start to soften, turning at least once.

3. Pour pears and liquid into plastic 1/3 pan and allow to cool at room temperature.
Once cooled, cover, label, date and store in walk-in.

Note - Poaching liquid can be re-used once.
- Ripeness of the pears plays a big role in cook time. The more ripe
they are, the less time they need to poach. Please monitor carefully!

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