We are talking all about poaching in today’s post with some of our favorite things we love to poach at home! And one of the recipes that is at the top of our list is Wine-Poached Shallots and Onions. These tasty bites make a delicious addition to a variety of dishes, so we keep them around to add that special touch to our meals.
What foods can be poached?
Poaching is one of the oldest cooking techniques known to humans. It can and has been used for a wide array of foods from proteins to vegetables to fruit. When people think of poaching, the usual suspects come to mind, like eggs, fish, artichokes, or pears.
But there are classic poaching dishes involving beef, chicken, veal, and other ingredients that aren’t usually prepared with this technique. We use the poaching technique often, and a couple of our favorites are Poached Halibut with Tarragon Cream Sauce and Perfectly Poached Eggs to make Cajun Crab Cake Benedicts.
We include some helpful tips and info about poaching below including our go-to poaching sauce pots, the Calphalon Premier™ Hard-Anodized Nonstick 1.5 qt Sauce Pan or 2.5 qt Sauce Pan.
What does it mean to poach food?
So, let’s get the technical part out of the way first. Poaching generally means a complete submersion of your food item in a cooking liquid. Do you notice the ambiguity of “food item” and “cooking liquid?” Good! That means there are more options than you think.
This technique is under-used and over-abused but can be quite interesting given a bit of thought.
Poaching Liquid Temperature
When poaching, the temperature should be between 140° and 180°F (60°-82°C) and kept relatively constant. That seems like a wide range, but considering that boiling water is basically 212°F (100°C), there is a considerable difference between poaching and boiling. And considering that chicken needs to be at an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), the poaching liquid in this case would be at or above that mark.
What types of liquids can be used to poach food?
Sometimes, the cooking liquid plays a large part in flavoring the product being poached. That’s where the fun part of poaching lies for us!
Poaching can be so much more interesting than submerging a food in hot water and cooking until tender or done! What if you poached eggs in white wine, or red wine, or prosecco? Hmmm…from a “Cooking with Wine” perspective, I’m just saying it might be an option. Actually, this method has existed for quite a while and is just not used enough, in our opinion.
The same concept exists for all foods, and sometimes it makes sense to season the poaching liquid quite aggressively to impart flavor to your product. Even when we poach food in water, we may add a variety of herbs and spices to season the water and the food while we poach it.
Wine-Poached Shallots and Onions
So how about poaching beautiful pearl onions and/or shallots in red wine? That’s what we did here, and we opted for the “and” because they both have subtly different flavor profiles.
When you read the recipe and realize that 2/3 of a bottle of wine is being poured into a pot to poach onions and shallots, you might grimace a bit. But have no fear, this poaching liquid can be saved, seasoned, and used again tomorrow morning for some poached eggs! Maybe as a marinade? A sauce? Save it and you can really expand on what you already do! Plus, there’s still a third of a bottle to drink while you cook these. Bonus!
One of our favorite ways to use these Wine-Poached Shallots and Onions is with our Grapefruit Herb Chicken with Supreme Sauce recipe, but the possibilities are endless with these.
Why poach shallots and onions in wine?
Wine-poached onions or shallots are a very sexy addition to a variety of dishes. They look great and taste amazing. These are not difficult at all, but the most important aspect of poaching these is to be patient. Sure, you can boil the hell out of the wine and cook them faster, but you will ultimately end up with a mushy outside and crunchy inside of your shallot/onion and they tend to fall apart.
The most difficult part of this recipe is peeling the onions and shallots. The pearl onions are not that hard to peel with a paring knife, but I’m not going to sell it as “fun,” either. For the pearl onions, it is easiest to place them in a bowl of hot (really hot, just below boiling hot) water and let them soak for a few minutes first. Then you can peel them a bit easier with a paring knife. Shallots can be peeled just fine with a paring knife. The root end should be cut off just a little, which will ensure that the shallot/onion stays together as it poaches.
Does the size of the shallot and onions matter?
We prefer the size of pearl onions, but boiler onions, which are slightly larger, also work well. Shallots are usually more difficult to source in consistent sizes. You can use small or large shallots. If they are bite size, serve whole or halved and if they’re larger, just slice to about 1/3” (or a little less than a centimeter) when they are done for a nice visual presentation as well.
You certainly can play with flavors here (sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, anise…the list doesn’t end), but if you have a decent wine, you just don’t have to add anything to it and the flavor of the onions or shallots is subtly altered and enhanced. The results are a tender, sweet and subtly tangy onion/shallot that should complement whatever you serve!
The wonderful thing about poaching is that you likely have everything you need already in your kitchen! Because the goal is to submerge the food in the poaching liquid, a sauce pot is your best bet here. We use either our Calphalon Premier™ Hard-Anodized Nonstick 1.5 qt Sauce Pan or 2.5 qt Sauce Pan depending on how much we plan to poach, and in this case the 1.5 qt size is perfect. Even heating is important here, and Calphalon sauce pans give us the perfect poach every time.
We hope you enjoy this recipe for Wine-Poached Shallots and Onions and that you found these tips for poaching food helpful! If you give these a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
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