Arctic char is in my top ten faves in the seafood world. While I love salmon, steelhead trout and regular trout, this one is my very favorite, and at least around here, it is cheaper than most wild-caught salmon (with the exception of the rather uninteresting “silverbright” variety). At any rate, any of the Arctic char recipes I leave here can be used for any salmon or trout. They’re all Salmonidae species. Although I’d check the source before dining on the skin, as detailed.
It is the third time I’ve succumbed to posting an Arctic char recipe. these things are that versatile and that good.
It is sustainably farmed in Iceland, Canada and Scotland. I once saw some of it for sale as being a product of Chile, and I avoided that selection. (Chile? Arctic??? Then again, Chile? Atlantic?) So, read labels. Seafood, fortunately, is required in the US to be labelled with country-of-origin. If this is missing, ask. Or, dodge out.
At any rate, the good Arctic char farms use lakes to raise this fish, and are thus able to control for the wild populations to keep them from interbreeding. As it is an extremely cold water fish, I will sometimes eat the char sourced from Iceland or Canada as sashimi — I take care to freeze it for at least three days prior. (I do this for any raw fish I prepare at home, btw.)
Arctic char is also a more slender and smaller fish than most salmon. Among other things, this makes this fish quite adaptable to pan-frying without having to flip it during the cooking process. However, if you have a smaller, somewhat more skinny section of wild salmon, or if you have steelhead trout (alas most of this seems to come from Chile these days, but sometimes you can find it from Canada), or just plain ole trout (rainbow or other), feel free to substitute in.
One of the highlights of prepping the fish this way, is that you get to eat some mighty fine and crispy skin. (Make sure your fillet has been de-scaled!)
1 teaspoon Avocado or other cooking oil (I now find this oil at Costco, so I no longer hesitate to recommend it. Ghee is another good option. Both have high smoking points.
0.75 pounds of Arctic char, more or less, as a fillet, skin-on but no scales.
One large slice of lemon.
Lemon pepper to taste. (I recommend Trader Joe’s in its little grinding container.)
2 ounces Goat cheese.
Optional: Any of: 1 teaspoon minced red onion; a dusting of fresh cilantro, lemon wedges
Get everything ready and together — I hate wasting minutes while something is cooking delving back to the innards of my undersized fridge looking for the goat cheese, which has usually fallen back and under the bok choy…
You’ll need a skillet — I’ve been using the cast iron one, but whatever you’ve got to hand. Pre-heat it on the cook top (hey, in the past we’d say, “pre-heat it on the range”, but whatever) to medium high, and reduce to a low medium once the oil almost reaches that smoking point. You’ll see a little vapor or two try to do just that. (Another good reason for the avocado oil; it has a high smoke point. Along with the fact that I’ve yet to read anything seriously bad about it…) Anyhow, on my antiquated electric range (it is way too old ever to accept being called a “cook top” — it doesn’t even have a timer), the reading you should turn the heat to is “3”.
Drop in the fish, skin side down. Squeeze the lemon slice over the surface that is exposed. Grind some lemon pepper onto the fish. Add the goat cheese in lumps here and there, as depicted above. Cover. If your skillet doesn’t come with a lid, aluminum foil works.
Allow to fry for about 8-10 minutes, peaking occasionally. Once the surface of the fish is cooked (whitened by the heat) cook one minute more. If you are doing this with a thick cut of salmon, allow for two more minutes of cooking; and if you are doing this with any fish you are not really sure of the source of… yes, most trout, I’m afraid… do those extra two minutes, too.
Remove and plate. Top with any or all of the optional toppings if you wish. (I was not that coordinated today.)
The skin may well separate and remain behind on the skillet — pull it off and eat it if it is crispy, and again, if you trust your seafood source. Although the fat cooks off during this process, any fat-soluble pesticides will malinger here. If it is attached to the fish, likewise pull it off and eat as a warm tiny-plate side, again with the above proviso. I would NOT do this with “Atlantic” salmon or with trout (unless I personally caught said trout in a reliable river or stream).
Ideally served with a nice tossed salad and some type of lemony dressing.
ADDENDUM ~ MY FAVE SEAFOOD SPECIES
Not in order, but I will include ten of them here.
Arctic Char (including the rest of the Salmonidae family of fishes). See above…
Striped Bass. They’ve come back from the brink, and with sustainable wild fishing, they have a hope.
Bluefish. You do have to look at that bluefish on ice at the fish mongers carefully, but if you avoid the rainbow-hued specimens, and go for the right coloration, you gotta great dinner in front of you. First time or two you do it, take an expert bluefish sorter with you. Too many of them wear the Slytherin hat…
Sardines. Yes, sometimes you can buy them fresh, and seriously, these are to die for! Remove head and guts, and pan fry with seasonings, and you got a CATCH on your hands! Everything after cooking is edible, except the backbone and those oversized scales which are super easy on this fish to remove. The tail and fins are crispy food, as is the rest of this little guy, fins and all. Plan for at least three fish per serving.
Dover Sole. Again, you have to judge them by appearance, and you will most likely get something edible if you are on the East Coast. It’s not my first choice, but if I like how they look, and if my reliable fish monger seems encouraging, I’ll buy this for dishes such as fish tacos. I’d love to tap into a good tilapia supply for white fish, but right now those are helping farm-to-table restaurants more than me.
Rhode Island Red Shrimp. They’re caught off of Rhode Island, natch, and taste great if you really cook them very Briefly. They are wild-caught. I prefer not to buy farmed shrimp — way way too many abuses out there, and I am currently still leary about Gulf Shrimp, even though these are mostly wild-caught. I seriously do prefer to add my own oil…
Maine Shrimp. They are only available in the coldest months of the year — otherwise they go way out to sea, do their own thing, and don’t become dinner. Fine. I can wait.
Octopus. Made the way my brother makes it, Greek style. The baby octopi aren’t bad, either.
Oysters. Preferably served raw with a fine mignonette, or even just a simple squeeze of lemon, topped with a shaving of green onion. On occasion, a bit of fresh shredded horseradish works wonders. These are definitely highlights in good shoreline seafood restaurants, where if they are a little off the beaten path, they’re not too pricey. I’ve yet to brave opening up the shells, myself.
Miscellaneous, depending on what really looks good at the market!