“WHO PUT THEIR TROUT IN MY SALMON?!” – Discovering Arctic Char

One of the great delectable discoveries I have made this year as a fishmonger at Whole Foods is Arctic Char. Right now, besides swordfish and soft shell crab, I consider it the most delicious seafood in my case. And one of the cheapest. 

No other freshwater fish is found as far north as Arctic Char. Its official bi-nominal, scientific name is “Salvelinus alpinus” (named by Carl Linnaeus himself in 1798) which is part of the Salmonidae family.  The genus name Salvelinus is from German “Saibling” – or “little salmon”.  

It is, indeed, very, very close to being a salmon. 

But more importantly taste-wise, it is also a cousin to Lake Trout. Arctic Char can exist in lakes, rivers or be anadramous (like salmon) and breed in freshwater but live in the salty waters of the ocean. They are environmental opportunists and survivors and can exist in pretty much any kind of water in which they find themselves. Arctic Char has been referred to as the “most variable vertebrate on Earth”. 

So get this. It looks and cooks like salmon… but it tastes like Lake Trout. And this aesthetic and culinary natural hybridization makes for a delectable meal.

So if your family enjoys salmon for dinner, you might try a little Arctic Char and add a little piquancy to your dinner meals. I guarantee they will love it. 

And this time of year, I LOVE to grill it.  Below you will find a FANTASTIC Arctic Char recipe from Chef Nick Anderer which is my “go-to”. But I do keep it on the fire until the skin gets crispy. You might say that I like my Char… “charred”! There is no better tasting skin on any fish than that which you will find on Arctic Char.  And the horseradish compliment is nothing short of heaven! If you do not like horseradish (whaaaat?!) you can also just simply add a little butter, dill and lemon to the finished product for a perfect, tasty accent. 

Arctic Char with Horseradish Crema – photo by nytimes.com

So… enjoy. And please let me know how you like it! 


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