Fish in Crazy Water: a Poached Fish Recipe

I’m a regular poacher — of fish, that is! This recipe is one of two poached fish dishes that I make on the latest episode of The Sporting Chef. I definitely don’t recommend the illegal kind of poaching, but you will never regret trying the cooking technique.

The Italian name for this dish it is Pesce all’Acqua Pazza — literally, “fish in crazy water.” The “crazy” part is the heat from the red pepper flakes. My version also includes white wine, garlic cloves, and grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes if you like).

two white plates with servings of pached fish in crazy water, slices of toasted bread on the side
Poached Fish in Crazy Water gets its heat from red pepper flakes.

The Benefits of Poaching as a Cooking Method

One of the biggest complaints about baked fish is that it easily gets overcooked and dry. Any poaching liquid will keep your fish moist and tender during cooking. Some recipes use milk, while this one uses a garlic, herbs, and white wine broth.

This cooking method also preserves the natural flavors and textures of the fish and gives you the opportunity to experiment with various seasonings. As a bonus, it’s healthy because it keeps the added fat to a minimum.

How to Make Poached Fish in Crazy Water

Poached fish is easy and fairly quick to make. Any firm white fish will work for this recipe; I like to use red snapper fillets.

The steps are:

  1. Briefly sauté the onions, garlic, and other seasonings.
  2. Add the grape tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the poaching liquid. In this recipe, I use water and wine. Add the bay leaf and parsley and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add fish to the liquid. If your fish has skin on it, place the skin side down. Submerge the fillets evenly and spoon the tomato mixture over them.
  5. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat until the fish reaches 110 degrees, about 4-7 minutes. Let poached fish continue to cook in broth off the heat until the fish reaches 135 degrees. A kitchen thermometer is the easiest way to ensure the right internal temperature.
  6. Taste and adjust your seasonings as desired. If you’d like a little more heat, add more red pepper flakes.
  7. Carefully remove the bay leaf and parsley stems with a slotted spoon.
  8. Wide, shallow bowls are ideal for serving. Serve the poached fish with slices of crusty bread to dip in the “crazy” sauce.
two white plates with servings of fish poached in milk and herbs, slices of toasted bread on the side

Fish in Crazy Water – Poached Fish Recipe

Course Main Course
Cuisine American


  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt divided
  • teaspoon pepper
  • 12 ounces red snapper or any firm white fish, cut into 4 fillets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 ounces grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 cups water
  • dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves and 7 stems


  • Season the fish filets with ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a in a large skillet or a sauté pan large enough to fit all 4 fish fillets. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Sauté until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the water, wine, oregano, parsley stems, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley leaves and bring to a simmer. Place the fish in the pan, skin-side down if there is skin. Spoon some of the tomato mixture over the fish. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 4 to 7 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 110 degrees. Remove the fish from the heat and allow the fish to continue to cook off the heat for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches 135 degrees. Taste the broth and adjust seasonings.
  • Remove the parsley stems and bay leaf. Transfer the fish to 4 wide, shallow bowls and spoon the broth and tomato sauce over each fillet. Sprinkle with the extra parsley over the top of the fish.
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