Orange-Scented Arctic Char: Balcony Grilling Continues

When I resolved to eat lighter in the days leading up to our wedding, I worried a little about the blog. “Who is going to want to read about salad for a month?” I asked my future mother-in law as we discussed my slim-down plan. I wasn’t sure anyone would have any interest in a meal made of zucchini, let alone two.

But the truth is, many of our dinners lately have been delightful surprises. We’ve been enjoying our little balcony, grilling piles of eggplant, tangles of garlic scapes, and leg-of-lamb steaks, trying out a few new recipes and focusing on the simply prepared (and the naturally healthy) bounty of the season. To be honest, it’s been one of the least labor-intensive summers of cooking I’ve had. Nothing wrong with that!

After a long walk the other day, I found myself at Chelsea Market, home of The Lobster Place. Manhattan fishmarkets are mostly disappointing (or maybe I was spoiled growing up in the Northwest) but this one is a gem. I picked up a fresh fillet of Arctic char to throw on the grill. Luckily, since my walk home was about a half an hour, they packed it on ice.

I often prepare my favorite salmon recipe substituting char, but I wasn’t in the mood for a thick soy glaze or pungent wasabi that night. While Matt got started charring some fava beans on the grill, I marinated the fish in a mild blend of freshly squeezed orange juice and zest, a bit of sake I always keep in the fridge, and a dab of yellow miso from the asian market down the block.

After devouring the grilled fava beans—you pop them out of the pods, kind of like edamame—we grilled some leeks brushed with a little teriyaki sauce to serve alongside the fish. I’ve always felt that we should treat leeks as standalone vegetables more often. They were sweet, with crispy edges and soft green-oniony flavor. They were so tasty we ate almost all of them before the fish came off the grill. (And before I could snap a picture.)

But the fish was tender and delicious on its own, fragrant and floral from the orange zest and juice, the marinade boosting the sweet taste of the char. The miso paste added a delicate richness behind the scenes—essential, but barely detectable. It was a terrific summery meal, one I wouldn’t hesitate to bring out at a dinner party, if your grill is big enough to double or triple the recipe.

Orange-Scented Arctic Char
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2002
Serves two

one 3/4 lb fillet Arctic Char
1/3 cup yellow miso
Juice and zest of one small organic orange
1 T sake
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

Place fillet in a baker or loaf pan large enough to fit it without bending. Combine miso, orange zest and juice, sake, soy sauce, and brown sugar in a bowl and stir well to blend. Pour over fish, making sure both sides are coated. Cover pan and refridgerate 15 minutes to half an hour.

Preheat grill to high. Lift fish out of pan, letting excess marinade drip off before placing on grill. Grill skin side down without moving about four minutes, then flip with two spatulas to other side and grill 3-5 minutes more (depending on the thickness of the fish) until fish is cooked but still a bit blush-pink inside. Do not overcook!

In arctic char, citrus, fish, grilling, healthy

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