Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Arctic Char in the Arctic Freeze

We try very hard to use sustainably caught or raised fish whenever possible. Arctic Char is one of our favorites. In terms of cost it goes for about $10-11 a pound at Whole Foods. Char is on the recommended list for the Seafood Watch List.

This recipe is for Butter-Basted Salmon (or Char) with Tea from a fantastic cookbook by Rick Moonen & Roy Finamore called Fish Without a Doubt. I think the tea in this recipe is the key to the whole thing. The smokiness of it is present but doesn't overpower the flavor of the fish. I think it should also be mentioned that the accompanying cucumber salad and horseradish cream recipes should be served with them. I wasn't sure how much I was going to like them but in all honesty the whole thing was awesome.

Butter-Basted Salmon (or Char) with Tea
by Rick Moonen & Roy Finamore
  • 4 - 7 ounce pieces of Wild Salmon (char) fillet, skin on
  • Course Salt
  • 2 tsp lapsang souchong tea powder (we got our's at Teavana. To make the powder, spoon some of the tea leaves into a spice grinder and process to a fine dust.)
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted Butter
  • Mom's Cucumber Salad (see recipe below)
  • Horseradish Cream (see recipe below)
  1. Season the fish on both sides with salt, then rub all over with the tea powder. Wrap the fish tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Have a big spoon ready next to the stove as well as a few layers of paper towels. When the pan is good and hot, cut 4 tablespoons of butter into pieces and add them to the skillet.
  3. When the butter has melted and stopped sizzling, add the fish, skin side down, putting it in the far side of the pan, leaving space in the part nearest you. Turn the heat down to medium and press down on the fish with a spatula; this helps set the skin, getting it started on its way to being crisp and delicious.
  4. After about 2 minutes, cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into pieces and add them to the skillet. As the butter melts, tilt and pull the skillet toward you and start basting the fish, using the spoon to pour the bubbling butter over the fish. You're pulling the skillet toward you so the fish will get the benefit of the heat, even though you have the pan tilted; lower the pan once in a while as you're cooking the fish. As you cook and baste, the butter will brown and its nuttiness will flavor the fish. As the fish cooks, the flesh will turn a milky pink.
  5. After 5 minutes, it should feel firm. If you have any doubts, use a knife to poke into your portion; the fish should be rosy inside. Use a spatula to take the fish out of the skillet and set it on the paper towels. Use another paper towel to blot the fish.
  6. To serve, pile a mound of cucumber salad in the center of each dinner plate. Set a piece of salmon/char on top, skin side up, and spoon a ring of horseradish cream around the cucumber salad.
Mom's Cucumber Salad
  • 2 - Cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4" slices
  • Coarse Salt
  • 1 - small Red Onion, cut into very thin slices
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Dill
  • 1 Cup of Rice Vinegar
  1. Put the cucumbers in a colander with a generous teaspoon of salt and toss.
  2. Fill a sealable plastic bag with ice cubes and put it on top of the cukes to weight them and keep them very cold. Put the colander in a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Take the colander out of the bowl and shake the cucumbers well over the sink. Don't do anything like blotting them or rinsing them.
  4. Put the cucumbers into a bowl with the onion, sugar, and dill. Toss to combine. Pour in the vinegar; it should just cover the cucumbers. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
This will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Horseradish Cream
  • 1 Cup of Creme Fraiche
  • 1/2 Cup grated Horseradish (fresh or prepared), drained
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh Dill
  • 1 tsp fresh Lemon juice
  • Course Salt and freshly ground White Pepper
  1. Whisk the creme fraiche, horseradish, mustard, dill, and lemon juice together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk again.
  2. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight, if you have the time, or for at least 30 minutes.


  1. Thank you very much for appreciating the special excitement that real sustainable seafood can bring to the palate! Enjoy the ocean...One Fish At A Time...

  2. the horseradish cream at gios was better

  3. My wife, Dr. E., and I love char.

    I also appreciated your take on Horseradish Cream, as we are both afficionados of the horseradish root.

    Thank you for an interesting post.

  4. Now that we are on a fixed income, we rarely eat fresh fish of any kind, but when we do it's char or halibut.

    I've filed this recipe away for a special occassion. Perhaps Chuck's birthday in May.

    The cucumber salad is something we can enjoy every day, though. So healthy AND delicious!

    "Doc E." R.N.

  5. I'm so sorry, but my daughter is once again posting as "MrsDocChuck" in violation of the conditions of her parole.

    She really hates "DocChuck" because he reported me to the Clearwater, Florida authorities for my drug dealing activities, just before me and my BF 'BigBear' fled to Atlanta.

    Please -- I do not want her to go to prison again so please delete her post as "MrsDocChuck."

    Thank you,

    Louise Wyers.