Best. Fish. Ever.

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Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Jenise » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:47 pm

Yesterday my friend Susan and I went up to Vancouver's Granville Island Public Market where I needed to pick up some things I can't buy down here, and while there we each looked around for inspiration for last night's dinner. When there, I tend to buy fish, because I can often purchase fresh fish from other species that give us some relief from the ubiquitous halibut-or-salmon choice that's about all we have here in Bellingham.

The Public Market is a collection of independent vendors, four of whom sell seafood. The first three of the fishmongers we looked at basically had nothing but salmon and halibut, though one had frozen Chilean sea bass priced higher than another seller's fresh (local, diver) Qualicomm scallops. As if! So we pressed on, and at the fourth, there was finally something different and oh what a lovely difference: fresh, whole, arctic char. So fresh they were almost, as Mike Bowlin puts it, "still flipping". The cost was $10.99 a pound. I've probably only had arctic char twice before in my life--I rarely see it on restaurant menus and I've not cooked it before myself, but I have to say that the skin of this fish is the most beautiful of the non-tropical fish I've ever seen. Silver-green in color at the dorsal, paler toward the belly, smooth and scaleless, it's decorated with several rows of coral colored dots. It's a joy to handle and de-skin.

This member of the salmonidae family is related to both salmon and trout, and carries characteristics of both. Ranging in size from 2 to 5 pounds, they are found in the coldest waters and native to several areas on the planet including the Canadian arctic, Siberia, and Scotland. The flesh can be anywhere from pale pink to vivid red. I selected the smallest of what this seller had, a three pounder, and I was delighted when I got home to find it's color the most beautiful pale coral color.

For last night's dinner I baked a whole skinless filet at 300 F for about 25 minutes. I painted it with melted butter and placed several additional thin slices of butter on the fish to additionally self-baste during cooking, then moved it to a platter covered with wilted pea leaves with garlic, and topped it with a tarragon bearnaise and toasted almonds.

Trappings aside, this fish was truly the best fish I've ever had. The flavor's reminiscent of salmon but much much milder and sweeter, not nearly so in-your-face. The texture is remarkably flakey and delicate, and though each bite you prepare holds together on the fork it's so blissfully tender a fork glides through the fish like cake.

Bob had two helpings to my one, and there's enough left over for my lunch today, which I'll eat cold just squirted with lemon.

Tonight I'll poach the second filet in a court boullion.

If you ever see arctic char on a good restaurant menu, and if you've avoided it because you didn't understand it or thought it was a poor second cousin to salmon, or if you kind of like salmon but often find it too strong (like me), this is the fish for you.

Oh, and a bonus? On the conservation scale that has about seven categories from low to extinct, arctic char is rated in the lowest category. I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a fish that's so un-endangered it's not rated at all, but without further study that sounds good to me.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Carrie L. » Fri Aug 01, 2008 2:15 pm

Jenise, your preparation and "trappings" sound wonderful as always, but on its own or even with my pedestrian cooking methods, it sounds like it would be a fish worth seeking out. I have seen it on several up-scale menus but I don't think I have ever had it. It would be perfect for Len. He always says he loves the way my salmon cooks up, but cannot get past that "salmon-y" flavor. Very distinctive, and truth be told, I had to make myself like it. I'll see if I can find it at Fresh Market when I get back to NC.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Mike Bowlin » Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:16 pm

Wow that sounds like fish heaven. Char is not easy to find and we have only dined on it once. We were served Artic Char in a small 'find' restaurant in a place where you would never imagine to find great food. Pandas European Dining Whitehorse, Yukon Territories. We were overwhelmed by the place.

I'll be up for lunch to help you with the remaining
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Mark Lipton » Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:19 pm

Jenise wrote:This member of the salmonidae family is related to both salmon and trout, and carries characteristics of both. Ranging in size from 2 to 5 pounds, they are found in the coldest waters and native to several areas on the planet including the Canadian arctic, Siberia, and Scotland. The flesh can be anywhere from pale pink to vivid red. I selected the smallest of what this seller had, a three pounder, and I was delighted when I got home to find it's color the most beautiful pale coral color.


Salmonid trivia: the color of the flesh is determined by a molecule (astaxanthin), a red-colored carotenoid, closely related to beta-carotene and zeaxanthin (one of the carotenoids that give marigolds their color). Astaxanthin is obtained from the diet of the fish, so the color of the flesh will depend on what the fish is eating. This is why farmed salmon has to be fed synthetic astaxanthin: the public won't accept white-fleshed salmon. That's also how you get "red" trout -- just feed 'em the colorant.

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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Jenise » Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:48 pm

Mike Bowlin wrote:Wow that sounds like fish heaven. Char is not easy to find and we have only dined on it once. We were served Artic Char in a small 'find' restaurant in a place where you would never imagine to find great food. Pandas European Dining Whitehorse, Yukon Territories. We were overwhelmed by the place.

I'll be up for lunch to help you with the remaining


Carrie--I'm just like Len, salmon is often just too much for me. He'll love this, I hope you find some.

Mike, here's a pic Bob shot while I was getting the salad ready. He tilted the platter getting it into the dining room so the bearnaise all ran in one direction, but you get the idea.

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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Celia » Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:55 pm

Jenise, that looks wonderful! Sigh. When I grow up, I want to learn to cook like you.. ;)

I've never seen artic char, but we are a long way from the artic, I guess.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Robert J. » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:11 pm

We get Arctic Char at the store all the time. I love the stuff. It's great butterflied and stuffed with mushrooms, leeks, walnut bread, and sumac.

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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Jenise » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:18 pm

celia wrote:Jenise, that looks wonderful! Sigh. When I grow up, I want to learn to cook like you.. ;)

I've never seen artic char, but we are a long way from the artic, I guess.


Maybe you get Antarctic Char? :)
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Celia » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:20 pm

Jenise wrote:
celia wrote:Jenise, that looks wonderful! Sigh. When I grow up, I want to learn to cook like you.. ;)

I've never seen artic char, but we are a long way from the artic, I guess.


Maybe you get Antarctic Char? :)


Hehehe....I had exactly the same thought, about five minutes ago. I was just logging on to google it..
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Maria Samms » Fri Aug 01, 2008 8:00 pm

celia wrote:Jenise, that looks wonderful! Sigh. When I grow up, I want to learn to cook like you.. ;)


Me too, Celia, me too.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Karen/NoCA » Fri Aug 01, 2008 8:51 pm

I'll have to ask the fish monger at Raley's if he can get this. I did buy some great looking shark and Chilean Sea Bass. They special order the Bass for some folks who don't mind paying the price. There were three small fillets packaged up and I was lucky to get it. Right now it is my favorite fish.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Bob Henrick » Fri Aug 01, 2008 9:46 pm

Jenise,

I have never had arctic char for dinner, neither as the star, nor as a guest. :-) I do remember though back around 1961 when I was stationed at Fairbanks (Eilson AFB) the NCO club had a free members night dinner and sports film night each month. This particular night the sports film was a fishing expedition to interior Alaska. The float plane landed on a lake and a self inflating raft was kicked out onto the water. The cameraman showed a fisherman casting from the raft and an underwater camera took over to show the lure sinking. About that time a rather large (huge) arctic char struck the lure, and was landed The char still had an 18inch grayling in it's throat when it struck the lure. That gives us an idea of what kind of game fish the char is.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Leslie D. » Fri Aug 01, 2008 10:15 pm

If you ever see Splake available, it's very similar to Arctic Char but (in my opinion) slightly richer and tastier.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Mike Bowlin » Sat Aug 02, 2008 2:29 am

Jenise that dinner looked great. Hope you enjoyed the char. Did you get your new camera ?
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Jenise » Sat Aug 02, 2008 9:59 am

Mike and Bob, your comments about the Yukon and Alaska startled me into wondering how I lived five years in Alaska without ever seeing Arctic Char there. Halibut, salmon, shrimp and crab are abundant and you can buy all at the peak of freshness in any supermarket--no fishmonger required--but Char? Never saw it.

Mike, no, no new camera yet. But that Sony's really on its way out. The other night the Canadian Snowbirds (like the Blue Angels, but with white planes) were putting on a show somewhere just north of us and the positioning for their manouvers meant we got a free air show. I'd have gotten a great shot directly overhead had the Sony not taken one shot and then refused to take a second--new batteries. I swear, it needs new batteries on a calendar day basis. I probably didn't take but 12 pics and do one upload since the last battery change. I can't get rid of it fast enough.

Will probably get the Canon, and I'm thinking Bob will get that for me for my birthday which is coming up. I've told him about the thread that I started here, and suggested he read it first--I learned a few things I didn't know from all of you that I'll bet he doesn't know either.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Jenise » Sat Aug 02, 2008 10:00 am

Maria Samms wrote:
celia wrote:Jenise, that looks wonderful! Sigh. When I grow up, I want to learn to cook like you.. ;)


Me too, Celia, me too.


Oh girls, stop it. Maria, great new avatar!
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby ChefJCarey » Sat Aug 02, 2008 11:21 am

tarragon bearnaise


Redundant
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Aug 02, 2008 12:36 pm

ChefJCarey wrote:
tarragon bearnaise


Redundant


What a shallow and useless statement. Thanks so much for your valuable contribution.

Great looking fish Jenise!
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Jenise » Sat Aug 02, 2008 2:23 pm

ChefJCarey wrote:
tarragon bearnaise


Redundant


:roll: Okay, HEAVILY-TARRAGONNED bearnaise. Much, much more assertive than typical.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Bob Henrick » Sat Aug 02, 2008 3:08 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:
What a shallow and useless statement. Thanks so much for your valuable contribution.

Great looking fish Jenise!


And all this time I thought I was the forum curmudgeon. I have already allowed Spohn into the club, and will expect your application post haste. :roll:
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Camera thread

Postby Karen/NoCA » Sat Aug 02, 2008 3:24 pm

Jenise,
I did a search for this thread but the only post that came up was your latest one about the Canon/birthday gift. Would you please provide a link to the thread for me...I am in the market, as well....my battery sucking Olympus is giving me fits.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Robert J. » Sat Aug 02, 2008 4:54 pm

ChefJCarey wrote:
tarragon bearnaise


Redundant


And repetitive.
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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Robert J. » Sat Aug 02, 2008 4:57 pm

Jenise wrote:...Maria, great new avatar!


No doubt! You look like you could be doing a Clairol Cover Girl ad. 8)

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Re: Best. Fish. Ever.

Postby Maria Samms » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:19 am

LOL...thanks Jenise and Robert. The pic looks a lot better as a little tiny avi than it does when you see the actual pic! Can't see the all the flaws when it's only a thumbnail size...LMBO. But thanks for the compliments.
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