How to Poach a Turbot

“Until recently, turbot was a fish that few of us had seen. It is the second largest flat fish, only halibut being larger, and can reach a length of 3 feet. In the wild, it swims exclusively on the other side of the Atlantic where it rivals sole as the ultimate fish deluxe. What makes it so appealing is its firm white flesh that, when taken from a large wild turbot, can produce fillets over an inch thick. Turbot is never cheap.

Fortunately turbot is now farmed and is relatively easy to track down in the United States. It’s easily filleted—the technique is the same as for any flat fish—but it makes a dramatic sight when poached whole.

The problem with poaching flat fish, is the need for a poacher that fits the fish. There are such things—they’re called turbotières—but they can cost upwards of a thousand dollars since it seems they come only in copper. To get around this, I rigged up my own flat fish poacher by cutting a cake rack to the size of my largest roasting pan. I then strung string on the ends to act as handles.

When poaching any fish, it’s ideal to prepare a vegetable stock, called a court-bouillon, but given that this means chopping onions or leeks, carrots, and maybe fennel, in a pinch it’s ok to just use salted water flavored with a large bouquet garni containing plenty of thyme and parsley.

Bring the water or strained court-bouillon to the simmer in the roasting pan. Put the fish on the rack and slowly lower it into the simmering liquid. Control the temperature so that the fish is in liquid that’s barely moving. Poach for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

When the fish is ready, lift up the rack with the string handles and transfer it to a cutting board for filleting.” ~ James Peterson

A Quick Note: This recipe was a unique submission Jim created and shot especially for Browne Trading Co.  from his  home studio in Brooklyn, NY –  literally  days after Hurricane Sandy hit the area in November, 2012!  Here he is using our Spanish turbot . This fish was a little under 4 pounds in weight, yielding a little under 2 pounds of fillet prepared, which serves 4-6 people.  – Nick Branchina