Recipes

White Wine–Poached Fish

James Beard

Author and Educator

“I am all for drinking and cooking with simple wines that don’t cost an arm and a leg,” said James Beard. In this simple and comforting recipe, the wine “gives the sauce its subtle delicacy.” 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 small onion, cut in half
  • Small bunch of parsley, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 large or 8 small fish fillets, such as Dover sole
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Boiled potatoes, for serving
  • Chopped spinach, for serving

Method

Fill large sauté pan with 1-inch of water and add white wine, onion, and 3 to 4 sprigs of parsley. Finely chop remaining parsley and set aside. Bring pan to a boil and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce to a simmer and carefully add the fish fillets. Cook until the fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes (or use the timing principle of 10 minutes per inch of fish measured at the thickest point).

Transfer the fillets to a large, hot baking dish or rimmed sheet pan in a single layer; set aside. Strain the poaching liquid, reserving 1 cup and pour it back into the pan. Simmer on medium-high until reduced by half.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Blend in the flour using a whisk, and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly stir in the reduced poaching liquid while continuously whisking. Add the heavy cream, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, tarragon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Pour sauce over the fish, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, and run under the broiler until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Watch carefully as it can easily burn.

Serve with tiny boiled potatoes and perhaps chopped spinach, and drink the rest of the wine. This might be an inexpensive Mountain White from the Napa Valley in California, a fine Alsatian Riesling, or a Pouilly-Feuissé from the Burgundy district of France, depending on how much you want to spend

--

Adapted from James Beard's original recipe. Recipe photo and food styling by Judy Kim.

Yield

4 servings