Mission: Poachable Transcript

Computer Map

GUEST: Computer Voice
            Head Agent Voice
            The Frenchman

[the back of Alton's shirt says, "Affton Automotive Whse."]

COMPUTER VOICE: Initiating Agent Search. Agent located.

Initiating Agent Search
Agent Located

    Oof. Augh. Oooof. Hgmgh.  Ooof. Aaaaaaaaaah!  Oof.

HEAD AGENT: Good morning, Mr. Brown. French authorities have notified us that the notorious food terrorist known as The Frenchman has escaped from the Home for the Culinarily Insane outside Lyon. Just this morning the State Department intercepted the following transmission.



THE FRENCHMAN: I stood by as [you] grilled, seared and blackened your food into charcoal while the fine art of poaching was abandoned to languish. Now, I will make you pay for your lack of vision. Whoa, hoo, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaaa!


TCR 01:01.29:04
CTL  0:02:17:26
V----  A----

HA: You mission, should you decide to accept it, intercept and neutralize The Frenchman. Of course, if you or any member of your team are killed or captured, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.


    Well, thanks a lot.


    [voice over] Having dealt with The Frenchman before, I knew I'd need a team that was both ruthless and fearless.


    Of course, my intern, Paul, was neither but he was puppy-dog loyal. So, he would be my eyes and ears in the field.  

Personnel Search Results

Agent Designation:


    Human Shield
    Whipping Boy

    W would handle the hardware with her usual warmth and charm, ...

Agent Designation:

    Hardware Ordinance
    Special Ops Acquisitions
    Disciplinary Actions

... while my new iron-curtain comrade, The Doctor, crunched the science.

Agent Designation:
The Doctor

    Science Officer

Nuclear Science

The Kitchen

GUEST: Paul Merchant

    With the team firmly in place, it was time to reconsider poaching, as well as breakfast.

    Note: generally poaching refers to cooking by submersion in a liquid held just under the simmer. Literally, I believe it is French for 'pouch' and refers to the shape an egg takes on once it has been perfectly poached. 

at or just under 185°

    Now to perfectly poach 1 to 4 eggs, we being with a non-stick sauce pan or skillet filled with about an inch of water. Note: non-stick is important because eggs aren't. Okay, bring that to a simmer along with a teaspoon of salt and a couple of shots of vinegar. The acid will speed the setting of the egg whites preventing them from feathering, thus producing an neater shape or poach.

non-stick skillet
1" H2O

1 tsp salt (kosher)
2 shots (± 1 tsp) vinegar

Feathering - the tendency of the thinner, outer egg white to spread in the pan.

    Note: although various vinegars can be used for the addition of flavor—red wine, champagne, and the like—plain old white distilled vinegar will render the most neutral results. Next, the eggs. The shortest road to poached egg disaster is to crack them directly into the cooking water. Instead, crack each egg into an individual custard cup. That way you can slide them into the water.
    Starting at 12 o'clock, bring the cup all the way down to the water and ease the egg in. You want to keep it in as tight a package as possible. The next egg goes in at 4 o'clock and then the last at 8 o'clock.

Since the membrane surrounding the yolk dissolves
with time, fresh eggs are best for poaching.

    Note: working with the clock method assures that you'll always pull the eggs in the order they were put down. That means even cooking. Also, the lid is crucial. Lidding now. The vapor that forms inside the pan will make sure that the tops of the eggs, which sometimes float to the surface, will set.

    Now, turn off the heat and wait.

remove from heat
wait 7 minutes

PAUL MERCHANT: Uh, Sir? Uh, Paul to Sir. Uh, the subject has been acquired.
AB: Roger that, Paul. You are go. I repeat, go, for phase one.


    [voice over]  Spotting The Frenchman had been a snap, even for Paul, who then trailed him from the Air France terminal to the Rent-A-Renault lot outside the airport. Since the Renaults were all in the shop, The Frenchman decided to check out a Bavarian number.

The Kitchen

    A few minutes later, 7 being my preference, and the heat stored in the water has set the egg white to a soft, custard consistency while transforming what would otherwise be a runny yolk into a nice soft golden lava flow, the perfect addition to a vinegary dinner salad.

Why vinegary? Because the fat in the yolks will join up
with the oil in the dressing and mask the dressing's acidity.

    Now, if you do not intend on eating your poachers immediately, you still got to get them out of this water. Just put them into an ice water bath and you can refrigerate this for up to 8 hours before reheating for 1 minute in simmering water.

refrigerate up to 8 hours

reheat for 1 min.
in simmering H20

      Ah. Excuse me. Note: it would seem that the gentle moist heat of the poaching liquid would be environment for a number of high-protein foods which ordinarily tend to dry out and overcook. For instance, eggs and chicken and tender cuts of pork and, of course, fish—all kinds of fish, from, uh, well, these catfish fillets to these sea bass steaks to, uh, Moby Dick here are prefect poaching candidates. Because, in order to be at their flavorful best, they must be moist. And that's what poaching is all about. It's especially good for foods that are going to be cooked ahead and served cold.

Besides high protein foods, fruits such as pears and stone
fruits can be poached in a light syrup or even ginger ale.


GUEST: Paul, Field OP

PM : Uh, Paul to Sir. Paul to Sir. Over.
AB: Go, Paul. Over.
PM: Where, Sir. Over.
AB: It means 'talk'. Over.
PM: Oh, okay. Over.
AB: So? Over.
PM: He's at the market, Sir. Over.

    I knew it. I knew it.

AB: Uh, what's he doing? Over.
PM: Shopping, Sir. Over.
AB: This I could figure for myself, Paul. What for? Over.
PM: Uh, he's cleared out the onions and the celery and the fresh thyme ...
TF: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
PM: ... and the garlic and the lemons. And now he's going for the peppercorns. Oh, oh geez.
AB: What? What?
PM: He's just stole from some old lady's cart.
AB: Oh, the gall.
PM: He's French, Sir. Of course he's a Gaul. I guess that's why he's buying all the wine. Over.
AB: Wine? What kind? Over.
PM: White. He's started with the French and he's moved to the Californian.

    Californian? He must be desperate.

AB: All right. Good work, Paul. Don't lose him. Over and out.

    What is that fiend up to? All that acidity, the aromatics, the herbs. Of course, the king of poaching elixirs. He's make court bouillon. And from the sound of it, he's making a lot. [pulls walkie-talkie with ear piece]  Oww!


The Kitchen

    [voice over]  I could tell by his grocery list that The Frenchman was building his court bouillon, or short-stock, by the book.

If you would rather skip the wine, use
vegetable broth with a shot of wine vinegar.

    Since it can subtly elevate a food's flavor without covering it up, court bouillon is the ideal cooking environment for delicate meats and seafood.

Never use ground or cracked peppercorns in place of whole.

    Of course as I amassed the ingredients, I realized that there was one thing The Frenchman hadn't bothered to buy, and that, of course, was water. And he was going to need a lot of it.

H20 is a key ingredient. If it doesn't taste good at the tap, use bottled.

    Note: court bouillon is really nothing more than 3 simple components: acidic liquid, aromatic vegetables, and herbs. • acidic liquid
• aromatics
• herbs / spices
    First, the liquid. One and a half cups of water, half a cup of white wine—any kind will do—and the juice of one lemon. That's it for the liquids.

1 1/2 C H20
1/2 C white wine
juice of 1 lemon

    Next up, the aromatics: one onion, chopped, one half rib of celery, chopped, and one garlic clove, chopped fine. That's all for the aromatics.

1 onion, chopped
1/2 celery rib, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped fine

    New up, the herbage: one teaspoon of black peppercorns, 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme and one single bay leaf.

1 tsp black peppercorns
4 - 5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf

Bring this to a boil over high heat, then back down the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. And that's it.


bring to boil
reduce heat
simmer 8 min.

    [voice over] Still, I sensed I was missing a piece of the poaching puzzle.
    Time to visit the Doctor.

Meanwhile at the market

GUEST: Checkout Clerk and Two Customers

MFC: [catching Paul following him in the checkout line]  Weeeellll. Bon jour,
        Mesouir Paul. Mwha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.


GUEST: "The Doctor", Ph.D. Collector

AB: Good morning, Doctor.
THE DOCTOR: Good morning, AB. What are you doing here?
AB: I need everything you've got on poaching.
TD: Greatly misunderstood.
AB: Actually, I was hoping for a little more.

TD: The poaching temperature can not be seen. This is big problem. Most of us are psychologically driven to cook only at the boil because we can see it. Look. [indicates fish tank with bubbles rising]

212°F at sea level

AB: What did you do to my fish?
TD: If you saw water pot doing this, what would you say?
AB: I'd say you boiled my fish.
TD: Of course. When water reaches 212 degrees, vapor escapes the liquid phase creating bubbles. Heh.

For more boiling, check out
the "Physicist On The Roof" scene in "Jam Session."

TD: There, what do you see?
AB: Simmering water.
TD: Eh, more exact?
AB: [tests the water] 185 degree water.
TD: Ah, you had to measure.
AB: Yeah.
TD: See, water is very tricky.
AB: What's your point, Doc? Where's this going?

TD: At 185, most recipes are calling for poaching at this temperature, yes?
AB: Yes.
TD: So, what if I put piece of fish in this water? What would happen?

Traditionally, a poaching liquid is held at anywhere from
175° - 195° ... depending of course on who you ask.

AB: Well, eventually the internal temperature of the fish would be raised to 185 degrees. It's a little thing we call equilibrium. I would've thought you knew th ... [burns arm on side of tank] knew that.
TD: Oh. Heh, heh. I would've thought you would have known that was hot, AB.
AB: Eeeh.
TD: Okay. So, what if I give you piece of meat served at internal temperature of 185?
AB: Oh, I don't know. Something funny, maybe. Like, uh, hey, I didn't order the toast.
TD: Heh, he, he. You think that's funny?
AB: Oh, yeah. You see, if it's toast ...
TD: Heat is heat. This is true, yes?
AB: Yes.

TD: No mater if it's wet or dry. If heat gets too high, then the meat will be squeezed into dryness. So what do we learn from poaching at this temperature?

Strange but true: "wet" heat can dry out foods even quicker than "dry" heats.

AB: Well, let's see. You've got to be there. You've got to watch it very closely or else it will move from undercooked to overcooked very fast and ... ah, it's complicated. Why even bother with poaching?

Traditional poaching
offers a very narrow
window of success.

TD: There is simple solution. We work it out in seventies. Brezhnev understood!
AB: Doc, I'm trying to save the world from a mad man here.

TD: Maintain liquid at temperature that you desire final food to be.

"Maintain liquid at temperature that you desire the final food to be."

AB: Come again.
TD: What is perfect internal temperature for fish?
AB: Well, 140 give or take.
TD: Leave water at 140. You can put the fish in all day long.
AB: Ah, but 140 is not hot to kill surface bacteria, my friend.

TD: You are smart man!  Okay, take water up to boil first. Then add food. Then back it down to target temperature. Technically, you can leave it in there forever.

• Bring poaching liquid to a
• Add food
• Reduce heat to target temp.

AB: Hmm.
TD: This gives the cook time to not be in a hurry and it lets the flavors in the liquid penetrate the meat.
PM: Paul to Sir. Paul to Sir.
AB: Excuse me, Doc. Go, Paul.
PM: I think we've run into a little problem, Sir.
AB: Specify. Over.
MFC: Give me that phone. Hey there, fuzzy-headed boy. Looks like I've got your apprentice, huh?

    He's going down.

For fool proof poaching, bring liquid to a boil then reduce
and hold as close as possible to the food's target temperature.


GUEST: W, Elusive Equipment Specialist

    Having considered the Doctor's theories, I knew that there was one tool I would have to have to put them into practice.

AB: W, nice of you to drop in. Did you bring my electric skillet?
 W: In the back. But if you're facing The Frenchman, you'll need an edge. Open the case in the front seat.
AB: Hmm. Spatulas. I've already got a spatula, W.
 W: I know. But not all spatulas are good for all jobs. That solid spatula of yours fine for flipping burgers. But turning a fish fillet with that will turn it to confetti. A slotted or perforated model will reduce surface drag.
AB: Hmmm. I'm not too keen on the angle on this one. Hey. This. I could rock a rainbow trout to sleep with this baby.
 W: Ordinarily, I'd agree, but your skillet is non-stick and those surfaces won't stand up metal utensils the way stovetop pans do. You may want to go with the plastic model.
AB: I like the vicious little curve on this guy right here.  [turns around and W is gone] Hey, W [she's not there] ... How does she do that?


    [voice over] The Frenchman had told me that if I ever wanted to see Paul alive again I would have to meet him for a one-on-one poaching show down. Not that I really cared about Paul that much, but, hey, there's cooking pride here. Of course, I'd wondered if I'd gotten the address wrong until I spotted his signal. Lucky for me, I'd figured out the secret to perfect poaching using my electric skillet.

TF: Eh, bon jour, my fuzzy-headed friend. We meet again.
AB: Where are you holding Paul, you French farce.
TF: Whoa, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
PM: [enters carrying TF food tray]
AB: Paul? What are you doing?

PM: Je vie pour servir le principal maintenant!

Me toil for the master now.

TF: Hah, ha, ha, ha, ha.

    Who knew he had a brain to wash.

AB: You won't get away with this.
TF: I already have.

PM: Français mangent régleront vous libère.{?}

French eats will set you free.

TF: Ah, you see? He's coming along nicely.
AB: All right. Where's your court bouillon, Frenchy?
TF: In the lake. I just push this button right here and a valve routes it into the city drinking water supply. Then, you'll have no choice but the poach. Whoa, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
PM: ?????
AB: Aw, shut up, Paul!  Get ready to rumble, snail chump.
TF: Allez!  Let's go. [PM dumps AB's court bouillon out on the ground]  Oh, what shame. It looks like it's empty. I win, you loose.

AB: Not so fast, Frenchman. Court bouillon may be king, but it ain't the only poaching liquid on the block. Prepare to meet catfish au lait.

evaporated milk

TF: Your catfish good. My sea bass ...

PM: Très magnifique!

Really, really good!

AB: Shut up! Prepare to meet humility.

    [voice over] Robo Paul brought a scant half inch of The Frenchman's court bouillon to a boil then slipped in the bass. Now notice that he had adopted the shallow-poaching method—really a hybrid poaching/steam method—favored by the French.

simmering court
bouillon (1 pint)

sea bass (four 4 oz fillets)

note partial submersion

Court bouillon can be reused several times. It can also be frozen.

    Paul dropped the heat to a simmer, covered the pan, and turned his attention to an elaborate sauce. The Frenchman decided to soak up soleil. Experience was on his side. I wasn't.

    I tried in vain to snap Paul's synapses back into shape. But, after realizing it was useless, I turned to my fish. I started with a 12 ounce of evaporated milk.

one 12 oz can evaporated milk

Evaporated milk has had 60% of its original moisture removed.

    Added to that, about a teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning. I followed that up with a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon and a half of kosher salt.

1 tsp Old Bay or other "Crab Boil" seasoning

1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Since some of its sugars caramelize during reduction,
evaporated milk has a slightly sweet flavor.

To use evaporated milk in a recipe calling for fresh,
simply mix with equal parts of H2O.

Very cold evaporated milk can be whipped like whipping cream.

    Of course, I wondered if there was something else I could do for the flavor. And then it hit me: half an onion, thinly sliced. That would do the trick. Of course, I would have to bring this all the way up to a boil before I added the fish. That was going to take a little bit of time. Of course, it won't take as nearly as much time if you use the lid.

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

bring to a boil

Covered liquids always heat faster than uncovered liquids.

    Now that my poached juice was at a bacteria smoking 212 degrees, it was time to add the fish. Four 5 ounce fillets of fresh catfish, farmed raised, I might mention.

4 catfish fillets

    Now, unlike The Frenchman who preferred the shallow method, I go for almost full immersion, making sure that the fish comes right to the edge of the liquid or vice versa. Now my fish would be done in about 5 minutes. But, since I was going to drop the temperature in the skillet to 140, I'd be able to leave it there all day long. That was my secret against The Frenchman.

5 - 6 minutes

    Down to 140 and on with the lid.

reduce heat to
low (140° - 145°)

Other candidates for milk poaching: shark, halibut, monkfish, bluefish.

    Will the toque-hair's sea bass take the cake thus opening the town's taps to his beastly bouillon or will AB's catfish foil the fiendish Frenchman's folly? And what about Paul? Will his seared cerebellum surrender to francomania forever? Stay tuned for this week's harrowing conclusion.


    [voice over]  As The Frenchman's fish creped inexorably towards its date with dryness, Paul continually stirred a sauce that would never see a plate. I, on the other hand, confident that my fish would stay perfect for days, made my move.

TF: Ah. Let's tend to the fish right now.
AB: Oh, Frenchy. Lookie what I got.
TF: Whaaah!

    That's right. He knows that if one molecule of this liver hits that court bouillon, it will be as bitter as Waterloo.

AB: Oh, whatcha going to do? Oh, what about your fish?
PM & TF: Whoo, hoo, hoo.
AB: What about your bouillon? What about the liver? What about the fish? [throws liver in the lake]
PM & TF: Whooooooooooooooaaaaah!
AB: Mission accomplished.

Since it breaks down into bitter particles when cooked, even small amounts of liver can ruin a batch of stock or court bouillon.

PM: Paul to Sir. Paul to Sir. Over.
AB: It's over, Paul.
PM: Where are we?
AB: Well, it's a little tough to explain. But what I can tell you is that sea bass poached in court bouillon is a really, really tasty dish. Unfortunately, the great white one just didn't get back to it in time and now, well, even the nicest beurre blanc in the world can't save it. Nice texture, though, on that sauce.
PM: Thanks, I guess.

AB: Of course, on the other hand, our catfish is prefect. Look at that. Moist. Succulent. Flavorful. And what's best is that its going to stay that way for about half an hour. Oh, yeah. That's good eats. You know, Paul, we've really just scratched the surface of poachable foods. After this, well, there's mousselines, sausages, pears, mushrooms, heck, all perfectly poachable. Not to mention ...

notice ready-made sauce

PM: Bien manger? Uh, I meant to say ...
AB: ... good eats.

The End?

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010