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Poaching with Milk May Seem Unusual—But This is Why You Should Be Doing It

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When milk’s involved, magic happens. We’re partnering with Milk Life to learn all about the essential role the farm-fresh beverage plays in elevating everyday recipes—and sharing recipes, tools, and tips for incorporating milk’s rich and smooth texture into wholesome at-home cooking. Read up here.

Poaching in milk may feel contrary to your most basic kitchen instincts—you heat the milk? And then put meat? Or vegetables? Or egg?! —but milk has been a poaching liquid as long as anyone has poached anything: Think of the classic old Italian recipe maiale al latte—pork cooked in milk—wherein a hunk of pork shoulder or loin poaches in a milk bath. The result is a super-tender piece of meat surrounded by what once was milk and what now is heaps of super thick, golden, buttery sauce. Now replicate that experience for fish, cauliflower, chicken. We’re starting to feel a little happier about fall. You?

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Why poach in milk? Well, the tenderness is one reason: The lactic acid in dairy milk tenderizes whatever it is you’re cooking (and this means, as a bonus, that you can use tougher, more muscular, and thus more flavorful and also less expensive, cuts of meat, like the pork shoulder in maiale al latte). It also makes its own sauce: Simply remove the meat or fish or vegetable you’ve cooked in it once it’s done, reduce the milk, and ta-da!

We asked chef James Briscione to give us a milk-poaching lesson, and insight in all the foods that are great poached in milk. Watch how he does it in the video below:

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Basic Milk Poaching

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Makes 2 to 3 pounds of protein or vegetable
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts/1 to 2 pounds firm white fish filet/1 to 2 vegetable “steaks”
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 to 8 branches woody herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour (for gluten-free, use rice flour)
  • 1 quart whole or 2% milk, plus more as needed
  • Zest of 1 lemon, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • pinches nutmeg
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Make magic with milk this fall. We're partnering with Milk Life to learn all about milk and the incredible things cows can do—and arming you with recipes, tools, and tips for making use of milk’s superpowers while we’re at it. Have a look at just how essential its seat at the table is here.

Tags: milk life