Poached Cod with Cilantro and Jalapeño Vinaigrette

March 28, 2012

While I made a mess in the kitchen, the final results are amazing. Perhaps the best fish I’ve ever prepared. The fish was perfectly cooked; moist and tender. The strong flavors of the cilantro, garlic and jalapenos perfectly complemented the subtleness of the poached fish. Because the jalapeño seeds were discarded, the vinaigrette (really more of a salsa) was not overly spicy. It was like something you’d buy in an expensive restaurant. 5-stars.

Best fish I’ve ever cooked

The principle fish recipe published in the March / April issue of Cook’s Illustrated was for Poached Fish Fillets with Sherry-Tomato Vinaigrette, but they also published a variation using a Cilantro and Jalapeño Vinaigrette which sounded more interesting.


  1. The recipe simply says to use four 6-oz fish fillets each being about 1″-thick. Of course, no supermarket sells fish like that; they want to sell you the entire half fish which includes the tapered ends. I just bought two halves of cod, and cooked the tapered ends separating in case anyone want more fish (which was a hit).
  2. Supposedly in step 5 I was going to need to wait up to 8 minutes for the oil to cool to 185-degrees. In fact, I had to heat the oil up on the burner for a few minutes. I’m not sure why.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $14.50.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Started: 5:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

4 skinless white fish fillets about 1″-thick.
Kosher salt
2 jalapeños
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1/2 onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 avocado

4 jalapeños
1/2 small shallot
6 sprigs fresh cilantro
8 teaspoons fresh lime juice (from 1 to 1-1/2 limes)
Kosher salt

  1. Set a rack to both the middle and the lower-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 250-degrees.
  2. Cut your fish into 6-oz pieces and pat dry using paper towels. Sprinkle each fillet with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, Remove stems and seeds from your jalapenos and slice into 1/8″-thick rings. Peel your garlic cloves. Cut an onion if half, peel one half and save the second half for another day.
  4. Set a 10″ non-stick skillet over medium burner. Add 1/2 cup oil and pre-heat until shimmering. Fry jalapeno rings for about 2 minutes until crisp, but not until they’ve browned. Press peeled garlic cloves directly into oil and continue frying for 30 seconds until they start to become golden.  Pour the contends of the skillet through a fine-mesh strainer into a Pyrex measuring cup. Remove jalapeños and garlic to paper towel–lined Pyrex pie plate or casserole dish. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt. No need to wash the strainer yet.
  5. Increase amount of oil in measuring cup so that you have 3/4 cup, and pour back into the skillet (but off the heat). Put the onion cut-side-down in the center of the skillet. Allow the oil to cool to 180-degrees, which could take between zero and 8 minutes. (I actually had to heat my oil up to 180-degrees)
  6. Meanwhile, prepare your ingredients for the vinaigrette. Remove stems from jalapenos, slice in half and discard pith and seeds, and add to blender. Peel shallot and add to blender. Add cilantro sprigs, lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to blender, but do not blend until step 10. (you’re still waiting to add some olive oil from the fish)
  7. Place fish with skin-side-up in oil, which should rise to cover about half-way up the fillets. Spoon a little oil over each piece of fish, cover your pan, and place on middle rack and cook for 15 minutes at 250-degrees.
  8. Remove covered skillet from oven and flip fish using two spatulas. Replace lid onto skillet and place on middle rack and continue to cook for 10 minutes longer until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 135-degrees. After 5 minutes of cooking put the fried jalapeños and garlic on the lower-middle oven rack to warm them through.
  9. When fish reaches desired temperature, place on serving platter and tent with aluminum foil.
  10. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil used to cook the fish to blender. Blend for 1 minute on high speed. Add any juices from fish that have accumulated to blender, adjust salt according to your taste. Blend for 10 more seconds on high speed. Run vinaigrette through fine-mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press solids down to extract as much vinaigrette as possible.
  11. Place each fish fillet on individual serving place and top with fried jalapenos and garlic, chopped cilantro leaves and avocado cubes. Drizzle vinaigrette around each individual piece of fish (not on-top) so that diners can control the amount of sauce/heat they like. Serve remaining vinaigrette separately.

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