Cooking with water

Local chefs and restaurants share recipes where H20 is the star of the show.

When it comes to cooking, water doesn’t make a lot of the foods you eat; water makes a lot of the foods you eat better. Moist-heat cooking methods such as boiling, blanching, poaching and braising are excellent at softening tough fibers in food. Cooking with wet heat also is healthier than many dry heat methods since no added fats are needed for cooking or flavor. We reached out to a few of our favorite local chefs and restaurants to get their favorite water-related recipes. Dive on in!

Fish out of water

If you’re on the hook for Easter brunch this year, treat your guests to this local favorite, straight from the brunch menu at ELA’S On the Water. The key here is using water to create the perfect poached eggs.

ELA’S On the Water – Smoked salmon benedict



1 English muffin

4 ounces smoked salmon

2 poached eggs (method below)

Hollandaise sauce (recipe below)

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Salt and pepper

Directions [1] Toast the English muffin. Place on a plate, cut sides up. [2] Lay two ounces of smoked salmon on top of each muffin half, followed by a poached egg. Season with salt and pepper. [3] Spoon hollandaise sauce over the eggs. Garnish with chopped parsley. If you want to present it exactly the way ELA’S does, serve it with breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit.

Ingredients (hollandaise sauce)

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)

Pinch cayenne

Pinch salt

Directions [1] Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. [2] Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler). The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. [3] Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat. Whisk in cayenne and salt. [4] Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use for the eggs benedict. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

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Perfect poached eggs


1 teaspoon champagne vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 bowl ice water

Directions [1] Fill a saucepan with water and place over medium heat. Stir in vinegar and salt. Bring to a gentle, slow simmer and reduce heat to low. [2] Break each egg into a small custard cup or saucer. Hold the saucer near the water’s surface and slip each egg into the simmering water. [3] Let egg white set for a minute or two. Use a spatula to gently lift each egg from the bottom to prevent sticking. Cook around 6 minutes, until white is firm and yolk is runny. [4] Use a slotted spoon to lift each poached egg and place in ice water to stop the cooking process. Reheat eggs for 2 minutes in simmering water. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Grits worth kissing

Water plays a key role in this sophisticated dish from Vineyard executive chef Pascal Vignau — poaching the eggs and cooking the grits. “Stone ground grits are best to use for flavor and consistency and can be adjusted for personal taste,” Vignau said.

Vineyard – Roasted butternut squash grits with poached egg, toasted pecan and mustard green pesto

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 1/2 cups white stone ground grits

1 tablespoon sea salt

4 ounces butter

4 ounces cream

4 ounces dried aged Gouda cheese, grated

1 pound butternut squash, finely diced (1/4 inch)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

4 ounces olive oil

4 poached eggs (method on page 96)

Mustard green pesto (recipe below)

Directions [1] Place grits, salt and 4 cups of water in a large saucepan. Cook at medium heat to boil. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes, depending on the grits. Stir frequently. [2] In a cast iron sauté pan, melt butter on high heat. Add oil and fry squash 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with foil and remove from stove. Set aside. [3] Using a whisk, stir cream into grits. Add cheese, butternut squash and mix well. [4] In a serving bowl, spoon an ample serving of grits. With the back of the spoon, make a nest in the middle. Place a warm poached egg on the grits and top off with a generous spoon of pesto.

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Mustard green pesto


4 ounces pecan pieces, toasted

1 small bunch tender mustard greens (baby kale)

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon dried aged Gouda cheese, grated

Directions [1] Place pecan pieces on a flat pan. Toast at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. [2] Place greens, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor. Mix well. Pulse in oil, cheese and pecans to a chunky texture. Let rest before serving.

A taste of Thai

Discover the magic of ginger water with this delicious ginger poached shrimp over a Thai noodle bowl. The recipe was provided by Berkeley Hall sous chef Tim Uphold. “My love for Southern food has brought me to the South and keeps me excited about exploring new dishes to put a fresh, different twist on,” Uphold said.

Berkeley Hall – Ginger poached shrimp


4 ounces fresh ginger

1 quart water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound raw large shrimp (26/30)

Directions [1] Blend ginger and water until fully pureed. Add ginger water to a pot and bring to a boil. [2] Add shrimp to water and cook for 3 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink. [3] Remove from water and place in an ice bath and chill for 5 minutes.

Thai peanut sauce


1/2 cup peanut butter

2 tablespoons low sodium or gluten free soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, to your liking

2-4 tablespoons warm water

3 garlic cloves, pressed or grated

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2-4 tablespoons apple juice

Directions Mix all Ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Thai noodle bowl


Cooked vermicelli rice noodle

Shelled edamame

Julienne red bell pepper

Pickled red onion

Snow peas

Directions [1] Toss noodles in peanut sauce then place in a serving bowl. [2] Toss edamame, bell pepper, red onion and snow peas. Top noodles with mixture and shrimp.

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Blender worth buying

Vitamix Professional 300

This commercial-grade blender expertly prepares everything from crowd-pleasing appetizers to hot soups and frozen desserts. Its 2.2 hp motor propels blades up to 240 mph to blend the toughest ingredients. Available at Le Cookery. $529.

In hot water

In this recipe from Spring Island executive chef Jeremy Halker, water is used in a sous vide cooking technique, where water is essentially the oven. “This preparation is properly served chilled with your choice of favorite sauces,” Halker said. “I enjoy mine with a watercress puree and horseradish whipped cream. Some roasted baby beets go nicely as well.”

Spring Island – Salmon 108


2 pounds Faroe Island salmon or your favorite salmon fillet

1/4 cup kosher sea salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon pink peppercorn

Directions [1] Clean the salmon fillet, picking out any additional pin bones that may be left from the fish market. Butterfly the whole fillet to create an even surface for the roulade of salmon. Cut the butterflied salmon fillet in half to make two even sides. [2] Mix salt, sugar and pink peppercorn in a small bowl. On a flat sheet pan, sprinkle the salt mixture evenly on both sides of the salmon fillets. Let sit for 45 minutes to an hour. Notice there should be some liquid that has come from the salmon on sheet pan. With a clean cloth, pat dry the fillets. [3] Using plastic film, pull out a long enough sheet that you can roll the salmon portions into a roulade or the shape of a paper towel roll. Roll the salmon fillet into a cylinder until tightly formed. Cut the plastic wrap and twist both ends until the roulade is nice and tight. [4] Set your immersion circulator to 108 degrees. With a vacuum sealer and a large enough bag, place the salmon roulade in the bag and seal. [5] Once the water bath has reached proper temperature, drop salmon roulades in and let cook for 1 hour (no longer than 1 hour and 15 minutes). [6] Once cooked, remove bags from water and place in a large container of ice water to chill. Place the container in your refrigerator overnight or at least eight hours to properly set. [7] Remove salmon from packaging and slice to your desired thickness of portions. Typically, one full side of salmon will feed 8-10 people.

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Hot product

Anova Precision Cooker

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Five wet cooking methods

1. Blanching

Food is scalded in boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and plunged into cold water to halt the cooking process.

Good for
Removing pesticide residues, decreasing microbial load

Bad for
Water-soluble and heat sensitive nutrients

Pro tip
Loosen the skin of peaches or tomatoes by blanching for 30 seconds. Almonds take 1 minute.

2. Boiling

Food is cooked in water with many large bubbles rapidly breaking the surface.

Good for
Pasta, potatoes

Bad for

Pro tip
If there is no food in the water, get to the boiling point as fast as possible. If there is food, slowly climb to a boil over lower heat.

3. Braising

Food is slowly simmered (180-190 degrees) in a small amount of liquid in a covered pot. Typically, the food is first sautéed or seared at a high temperature.

Good for
Tough cuts of meat, otherwise unpalatable foods

Bad for
Expensive, tender meats

Pro tip
Use a whole cut of meat with the braising liquid covering two-thirds of the food in the pan. You can use water but will have a more flavorful experience using stock with something acidic like tomatoes, beer or vinegar.

4. Poaching

Food is submerged in water at a lower heat (160-180 degrees). This method is particularly suitable for delicate foods such as eggs, poultry, fish or fruit.

Good for
Healthy eaters (no fat used to cook or flavor the food)

Bad for
Heavy meats and proteins

Pro tip
Create a whirlpool to help an egg stay together, wrapping the white around the yolk.

5. Steaming

Boiling water is vaporized into steam, carrying heat to nearby food, thus cooking the food.

Good for
Vegetables, clams

Bad for

Pro tip
When a steamer is unavailable, food can be steamed inside a wok, supported over boiling water in the bottom of the wok by a metal frame.

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