Inspired From Afar

Our travels often provide me with culinary inspiration.

This week, however, I was inspired by friends Laura and Arch’s travels in Scandinavia.

Laura and I were texting, and I asked her if she had been enjoying lots of salmon. No, she replied, they had been having a lot of Arctic Char.

And that made me realize that I’ve never had Arctic Char, although I certainly have seen it in stores and on menus.

I called Levi, the fishmonger at our local grocery store, and ordered some.

When I went to pick up the fish, I got some beautiful heirloom baby carrots and a perfectly ripe Bartlett pear.

Pears and char? Why not. But pear purée, as I once discovered, can be a bad idea, as the pulp so easily discolors.

Pear juice as part of a beurre blanc was the answer. And a touch of vanilla was all this recipe needed to give it the complexity I was looking for.

I created this dish to go with a wine I bought for my birthday more than a month ago, but had forgotten in the wine rack. A white Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Château La Nerthe. You can read about the pairing on the Provence WineZine.

~ David

Poached Arctic Char with Pear-Vanilla Beurre Blanc
3 1/2 cups white wine, divided
20 baby carrots
juice of a Meyer lemon
1 shallot peeled and cut in half
large pinch salt
1 pear
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch sugar
4 6-ounce fillets Arctic Char (or salmon), skin removed
4 tablespoons butter
microgreens, for garnish (optional)

Bring 3 cups wine to a boil in a skillet in which the fish will easily fit without being crowded. Add the carrots and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until carrots are crisp-tender, then remove the carrots to a plate, cover, and keep warm.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup white wine, Meyer lemon juice, and halved shallot in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add salt and boil until liquid is reduced to a couple of tablespoons. Remove from heat and discard the shallot.

Place a double layer of cheesecloth on the counter and, using the large holes on a box grater, grate the pear (skin and all) onto the cheesecloth. Gather up the cloth and, over a bowl, squeeze out all the juice. You should have about 1/3 cup. (Thanks for this tip, Kevin!)

Add the pear juice, vanilla, and a pinch of sugar to the wine-lemon reduction and return to the heat to reduce, once more, to a couple of tablespoons. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring wine in skillet back to a simmer, just about to boil. Do not bring to a full boil; if the poaching liquid is boiling, it will tear apart the tender fish. Place the fillets, skinned side up, in the wine and simmer briskly for 2 minutes. Carefully turn the fillets and simmer an addition two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, keeping fish warm in the wine. (If using salmon, you will need to cook longer, as salmon fillets are much thicker than char.)

Bring the sauce reduction to a boil again; whisk in the cold butter one tablespoon at time until the beurre blanc is emulsified and ready to serve.

Place the fillets on 4 plates, and gently spoon sauce over, allowing to pool on the side. Place cooked carrots to the side, and add a few micro greens atop the fish for garnish, if you like.

Serves 4.

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