Just after Top Chef wrapped, I was doing a small tour of cooking demonstrations that took me to Michigan (any excuse to get back to Ann Arbor, where I went to college, is worth it. Go Blue!). It was during early spring, so what I wanted to create was a simple and refreshing cold noodle saladwith Asian flavors that highlighted the season, when asparagus is at its peak. The soy sauce, shiitake mushrooms, and buckwheat noodles are pure umami — that savory fifth taste often connected with Japanese food. Poaching the shrimp in olive oil helps lock in the natural juices and creates a beautiful texture. Once you’ve had a shrimp so delicately poached that it almost melts in your mouth, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the tiny delicacies.
When I discovered that poaching seafood in olive oil turns the texture butter-smooth, I fell in love with this technique. What sets this method apart is that while pan-frying uses high heat to create a crisp outer layer that traps in the moisture, poaching at a low temperature in oil surrounds theprotein with fat, allowing it to slowly steam on the inside. (Just think of it like barbecue-low and slow is the way to go.) Also, as opposed to frying, where the goal is not to have the flavor of the oil picked up by the food, in poaching you want that flavor to soak in, so it’s very important to use high-quality oil. It’s worth the extra money, and you can strain the oil after poaching to use invinaigrettes, soup bases, or even to poach again. Beyond low and slow, other primary tips to remember with this technique are to always use an oven since you can regulate the temperature a bit more than on the stove, and always pull out the fish or shellfish just before it seems done, as it will continue to cook (carry over) because of the hot oil trapped within. The best news, though, is that this is a very forgiving method, so even a slightly overcooked piece of fish is still going to be very moist. (Of course, it’s always better to aim for the right texture, but after a few tries you’ll probably nail it.)
- 12 jumbo (11-15) shrimp count
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 1/3 cup, plus 5 teaspoons olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 8 ounces soba noodles
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 green onions, whites and greens thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
- Rub the shrimp with half of the garlic and ginger, and the sriracha. Cover and let the shrimp marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Spread the asparagus out on a baking sheet and brush it with 2 1/2 teaspoons of the oil. Roast just until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove, season with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Toss the shiitakes with another 2 1/2 teaspoons of oil, spread them out on a baking sheet, and transfer to the oven. Roast just until the mushrooms begin to shrivel, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
- Put the shrimp in a small baking dish or ovenproof sauté pan, cover with the remaining 1/3 cup oil and season lightly with salt. Cover the dish with foil and poach the shrimp in the oven just until the exteriors are bright orange and if you slice into one, the interior is still opaque, about 15 minutes (don’t worry that it doesn’t look completely done as it will carry-over cook a bit). Remove the shrimp from the oil and reserve the oil, allowing it to cool.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Rinse with cold water and set aside to cool.
- Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces and the shiitakes into thin strips. Toss the vegetables with the cooled noodles.
- Whisk together the remaining ginger and garlic with the soy sauce, honey, and mustard. Slowly whisk in the reserved poaching oil. Pour the dressing over the noodles and toss well to combine. Top with the shrimp, green onions, and sesame seeds before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izard/Chronicle Books, 2011.
Provided by: KitchenDaily Editors