Years ago, I cooked at a restaurant that served wild Arctic char from Labrador; although I’ve had char here and there since then, it never seemed to match the taste of that Labrador char. Just recently, I was gifted a few large Arctic char filets, beside myself with excitement, I could hardly wait to see how it tasted.
Arctic char (or charr) is in Salmonidae family; breeding in freshwater, it can live in the sea or be landlocked. The flesh runs from very pale pink to bright red, depending on diet and environment, and generally run 2-10 pounds. Mild tasting, they hover between trout and salmon, leaning more towards the trout side.
My filet was a lovely deep pink, in preparation for cooking, I removed the pin bones and belly fat, but left the skin on as I planned to pan-fry it and I love the crispy skin.
Although a mild fish, it stands up well to strong flavours. In this case, I decided on gnocchi with ratatouille, some asparagus, and my favourite fish accompaniment: lemon caper butter.
For the ratatouille:
Olive oil, splash
Zucchini, 1 each green and yellow, diced
Eggplant, 1 smallish, diced
Tomatoes, 12-14 small variety (cherry, grape), halved
Herbes de Provence*, 1 teaspoon (*a dried herb mix used in French cooking)
In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat the oil. Add the vegetables, season with Herbes de Provence and simmer until tomatoes cook down and the ratatouille looks “saucy”.
For the gnocchi:
Prepared gnocchi is easy to find in most supermarkets. Cook as per package instructions, and stir into the cooked ratatouille.
For the lemon-caper butter:
1-2 tbsp butter
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp capers
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Once it starts to sizzle, add lemon juice and capers. Cook until butter is lightly browned. Spoon over cooked fish.
For the fish:
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
2 x 4-6 oz filets
Melt butter in skillet. Season both sides of filets generously with salt and pepper. Please flesh side down in hot pan, turning once when browned.
Drop in pot of boiling water, remove when cooked but still a little crisp, and toss with salt, pepper and a shot of lemon juice.
The final verdict? This is the char of my early cooking career, the clean fresh flavour I’d been missing. Absolutely fabulous!