Move over octopus, Artic char is now my husband’s favorite fish. I applauded his new love; it is easy to cook, readily available and truly delicious. I have heard that char is the new farmed darling. It is rated ”best choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch because it is farmed in a ecologically responsible manner. It is related to the trout but is ocean going like a salmon. This slender gray fish with small head usually weights around 3 pounds, perfect for four servings. My son is also a big fan so we have been eating a lot of Artic char recently in the Taylor household.
Since my son found the herb crusted recipe on his I Phone on the way home from my brother’s birthday celebration, I have made it at least four times, twice for guests. On a six hour drive home we began to banter back and forth about what we should have for Sunday supper. We had spent the weekend eating meat; blackened steaks to accompany some leftover gumbo (the soup above) I brought from home, then short ribs to celebrate my brother and his son’s birthday. My brother, like my dad, LOVES fish but somehow I created menus full of cow. On the way home, my husband questioned my menu choices and wondered why I did not make what my brother preferred. Cooking fish for fourteen is too difficult, was all I could come up with besides the fact that short ribs with port wine sauce on top of mashed potatoes is a pretty spectacular dish that most everyone loves. I started with carrot soup with cumin and maple syrup then offered everyone a shrimp scampi salad with arugula in a lemon vinaigrette. “You see, I served fish in the second course”, I said in an attempt to defend my choices. “Shrimp is not fish”, replied my husband.
Needless to say, both my son and husband recommended fish for that night’s meal and Geoff began searching the internet for some interesting new recipes for Artic Char, their fish of preference. After rejecting about six or seven of Geoff’s ideas for one reason or another (maybe my ego was a bit bruised after the weekend menu talk) he found an herb crusted salmon recipe with a slathering of mustard that was hard to resist. Emeril Lagasse chops a mixture of fresh herbs such as tarragon, chervil, dill, basil and parsley and brushes the fillet with a bit of mustard to secure the herbs. He makes a vinaigrette with the same chopped herbs we crusted the char with and adds tarragon vinegar, shallots, a bit more mustard and olive oil. He dresses wilted greens with a bit of vinaigrette and tops the greens with the char along and another drizzling of the vinaigrette.
For dinner last night, I served Farro Risotto with Radicchio and Fennel as a side and started with a Date Salad with Manchego Cheese and Toasted Hazelnuts in a Sherry-Honey Vinaigrette. For dessert I served Mixed Berries with Sabayon. My husband was happy.
I love this new version of cooking farro that I found in the 2011 Cooks Illustrated Annual. You first saute onion and fennel in good tasting olive oil then add the farro to toast, just like a risotto. Instead of adding the broth bit by bit, you add the stock all at once and cook at a good simmer, stirring periodically until the broth is absorbed. At the end, turn up the heat a touch and stir constantly to create a bit of creaminess. It will not be truly creamy like risotto but will have a wonderful flavor with perfectly cooked grains. Add in the radicchio at the end just to wilt and finish with a bit of best quality balsamic vinegar for a perfect side dish to accompany the Char and Wilted Greens.
I developed the Date Salad with Manchego Cheese in a Sherry-Honey Vinaigrette while living in Barcelona. I served it for our guests visiting from the states that were beginning their sail around the Balearic Islands off Spain. We had dinner out on our deck and after many bottles of Spanish wine, ended up getting a ladder and hiking each other up onto our roof for an even better view of the city. This salad is a perfect winter salad with my favorite sweet-crunchy combination.
I sometimes forget how perfect Sabayon is at the end of a meal. It is easy to make, versatile, and well, completely addictive. I once ate the rest of the leftovers at 7 am in the morning after going for just one bite. I went back to bed after that splurg, the marsala coaxing me back to sleep.
This meal is not only delicious but healthy. I recommend trying farmed or fresh Artic Char for its flavor and health benefits but salmon can be substituted for this recipe. I think it will become one of your favorite fishes, like it has with my family.