April 2, 2010

Pan Fried Arctic Char with Red Wine Sauce

Filed under: Seafood — by Carla

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I’ve been craving fish lately. Like my father before me, I have a tendency to cater to my body’s cravings… not always healthy ones vis à vis Belvedere martinis and Vosges chocolate, but I do sometimes find the will to accommodate wholesome urges.  And so this morning I set off to the fishmonger to scope out his most recent arrivals. As luck would have it, there were many worthy fish in the case to choose from but I couldn’t resist the call of the Arctic char. Its beautiful dappled skin glistened. Its neon orange flesh looked rich and moist. He had obviously been swimming only moments before. A magnificent specimen, I had them wrap him up with a little bag of ice to keep chilled for the ride home.

A quick stop at the grocery rounded out dinner. A few bunches of aspiration broccoli found their way into my cart along with a bag of cremini mushrooms for a risotto. But, before continuing on I must succumb to a bit of a brag. This was no ordinary week-night. My son Corey and his soon-to-be bride, Lyndsey, were coming over for a celebratory dinner. A recent college graduate, he’d just gotten his first “real” job.

Because I wanted the meal to be prepared quickly once the kids arrived, I made the risotto earlier in the day, chilled it off and shaped it into risotto cakes which are quite possibly even better than risotto with their crispy outsides and creamy ins. The leggy broccoli needed only a zap in a pan with nothing more than olive oil and garlic. As for the fish, after a quick sauté I made a red wine sauce by adding a bit of shallot and about 3/4 cup of wine to the pan. I used an Oregon pinot noir since that was the wine that we were drinking at the moment. In about 2 minutes it had reduced sufficiently and only required a tablespoon or so of butter to gloss it up.

As you can imagine, the fish was superb. So fresh and artlessly prepared, it was a lesson in simplicity. While sipping the last of the wine, I mused on a day that began with a craving for fish and ended with two cravings satisfied. One for the tastebuds and another in witnessing two young lives successfully launched. Ahhh… life is good.

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Kitchen Counter Point: The simple rule to remember when cooking fish is 7 minutes per inch. So if your filet is about 1-inch thick, it will take roughly 7 minutes to cook it through. Because it takes a minute or so for the cooking to actually begin, I usually cook a filet for about 4 minutes on the first side and then 3 on the second side. I use a medium high heat because I like the flesh to brown a little. When cooking a thicker filet like halibut, I will brown it on both sides and then pop it in a hot oven, pan and all, for about 5 minutes so that it has a chance to cook through. Simple, really.

Serves 4

4 six ounce filets of arctic char, skin on
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
3/4  cup red wine (pinot noir, syrah, or a blend)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Salt and pepper the fish. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when hot add the fish skin side up. Cook for about 4 minutes, flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the fish to a heated plate and cover with foil.

Pour off any fat in the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the shallot. Saute for about 1 minute or until the shallot is tender. Add the wine and cook for about 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the butter and swirl to blend.

Plate the fish and pour over the red wine sauce. Serve immediately.

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