Arctic Char: Better than Salmon

I will cheerfully admit that I am bored with salmon. Oh, climb down off your pedestal and stop being critical; I have probably eaten more of the stuff than you. Remember, I lived in Northern California for too many years, and salmon is, or at least used to be plentiful, cheap, and fresh from the Pacific. But the salmon that I can get here is either the farmed Scottish or Norwegian stuff, which seems recently to have become fattier and less than pleasing texturally (that’s a gentle euphemism for mushy), or expensive wild salmon that is of variable quality.

So what’s a fellow to do when he wants to eat fish, but can’t stomach the thought of another chunk of bright orange, greasy jello? And there is another layer of complexity to this hugely important question — my lovely wife will cheerfully default to steak every night of the week, and is less than thrilled by all other foods. It’s a tremendous struggle to get her to eat anything else. Even telling her she can’t get up from the table until she eats her broiled cod won’t work; she is far tougher and more stubborn than I am, and will win that contest every time.

I had to introduce the idea of a new (shudder) food gradually. First, I whispered the words just at the threshold of audibility. Then I casually pointed it out on a menu in a great little restaurant in Vermont called The Inn at Weston. Then — and this was the tough part — I suggested that we have Arctic Char for dinner some night. I was careful to suggest it while standing, with a clear pathway out of the room, just in case she decided to demonstrate her love of steak with the nearest throwable object. And it worked! We had Arctic Char last night, and my lovely wife was pleased (or faked it well). I cooked it simply, using a variation of a salmon recipe from The Balthazar Cookbook. Just to be difficult and to push the envelope I made some lentils from the same cookbook.

The Arctic Char was flavorful, with a firm texture that was much more pleasing than the salmon we have eaten recently. The recipe called for a Dijon mustard and breadcrumb crust, which I thought might be a bit too tart for the fish, so I added some caramelized onions as a garnish, which cut the acidity of the mustard very nicely.

The moral of the story is: All’s fair in love and food. If you must manipulate, obfuscate, and just plain old lie in the pursuit of good food, it is entirely justified. Just ask my lovely wife!

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