10.05.2019

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.



30 comments:

  1. Yum! This one is a keeper. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Priscilla - this works equally well with salmon at much less the price.

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  2. It's amazing to find how vanilla fits to northern fish dish ! Thank you David :-)

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    1. It was fun to mix up the flavor profile. As Fran, below, said… “The French will probably throw a fit!”

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  3. This is a recipe I will have to try when I get back home. Thank you David for all the good tips.

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    1. Thanks, Gerlinde, it looks like you’re having a wonderful trip!

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  4. Well, I'll have to find out whether such a fish as Antarctic char exists but salmon will naturally offer itself as an alternative :) ! Love the sound of the dish and plan to try the vanilla beurre blanc as soon as able. Oh, and heirloom carrots are very big down our way also . . .

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    1. I figured that the Arctic char would be difficult for many people to find, so salmon makes the perfect substitution. Luckily, salmon is readily available almost everywhere!

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  5. I remember on our last travels to the U.S. there seemed to be a lot of Arctic char on menus. I've never seen it here, but salmon sure would world. I love the sound of the vanilla beurre blanc!

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    1. I think you’ll really like the pear-vanilla beurre blanc, John. And salmon will do just fine!

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  6. I *think* I've had Arctic char before, but my memory's a bit hazy. It certainly looks a lot like salmon. How's the taste?

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    1. Frank - Arctic char is related to both salmon and trout. It’s taste is somewhere in between… Milder than salmon, and a bit more flavorful than trout. I think salmon is the better option for substitution, though.

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  7. Now that's an interesting twist- adding pear to a beurre blanc sauce!Even though some French 'purists' might scoff at the idea- not me!Sounds like a great idea!

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    1. I had to laugh, Fran, because I worry much more about Italian purists than I worry about French purists! The Italians seem much fussier about people messing with their food…

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  8. First, what a pretty plate! :-)
    The fish sounds great, and that sauce! What a brilliant combination of flavors -- could almost be used for sweet or savory. The vanilla, pear and wine sounds dreamy.

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    1. Thanks, Valentina! The plates were my mother’s wedding china — going on 70 years! The beurre blanc is very tart and, I think you are right — without the shallot it could easily be dessert!

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  9. What an elegant and wonderful dish, David! The Pear-Vanilla Beurre Blanc is exquisite! I hadn't heard of char before. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. Char is a great fish for those who find salmon too string. I think you will like it!

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  10. David, you certainly honored that beautiful piece of Char. Here we call it röding and it's a lovely tasting fish. We shall look for some at the fishmonger this coming fish truck day at the square.

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    1. This brings up a great question, Ron — Laura said the char they had in Sweden was white-fleshed. Are there different varieties with different colors?

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    2. David, I've seen the flesh a pale pink color up to bright pink, but I've never seen it white. Perhaps she can give you the Swedish name of the fish and see if it fits. We also have a lovely white-fleshed (freshwater) fish called Gädda that's like a pike and extremely tasty. Then there's our saltwater hälleflundra (halibut) which is currently in season as well as torsk (cod).

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    3. Thanks, Ron — I will ask her and see if she recognizes the name Gädda... Maybe she had the light pink variety of Char which looked tan or white when cooked? I will just have to come to Sweden to look for myself!

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  11. Boy, I'm not sure whether I've had Arctic char or not. I know I haven't cooked it, but I've certainly seen it (often!) on restaurant menus. Anyway, I think poaching fish may be the best way to prepare them (although a whole roasted fish is a thing of beauty). Neat recipe -- thanks.

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    1. John — I like fish prepared many ways, but poaching is such a healthy way to do it! Glad you like the recipe.

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  12. such interesting flavours david! and i love your yellow rimmed plate - so pretty. I don't think we can get arctic char here in Oz but who knows for sure?:) We can get australian vanilla beans though which is a lovely thing. I'm surprised that anyone would find salmon too strong a taste... cheers S

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    1. I agree, Sherry — how can anyone find salmon too strong? But they do. Lucky you on the vanilla front! And salmon will work beautifully for this dish!

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  13. A very tart Beurre blanc with a twist -- sounds perfect, David. I've never had a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but now I'm thinking I must try one soon. And, of course, I love that you're using your mother's wedding china!

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    1. You definitely need to try a white CdP, Jean - an incredible wine!

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  14. Dear David, what a fabulous looking dish. Love the sauce, the fish, the presentation and, of course, your lovely dinner plate with that very pretty pear design. I know that the flavors that you matched in this recipe - butter, vanilla, fish - taste wonderful together as I once made Dorie Greenspan's vanilla shrimp with loads of vanilla seeds and good butter, we loved it!

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    1. That is wonderful about the Dorie recipe - I will need to seek that out.

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