The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

What’s for Breakfast: Arctic Char

May 20th, 2014 · 3 Comments · Posted in Recipes


The manager at our local food co-op is doing a great job aligning seafood choices with the sustainability recommendations of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. As he tells is, this involved repeated conversations with the sales reps at our purveyor in Boston, Black River Produce.

This week the selections included six rated “best choice” by Seafood Watch: Alabama farm-raised catfish, farm-raised Icelandic Arctic Char, Alaska wild-caught king salmon, wild-caught halibut, and Icelandic cod. Three other choices are rated “good alternative”: bluefish, U.S. shrimp and ocean perch.

Note that the ever-popular but “avoid”-rated farm-raised salmon was nowhere to be seen.

Our daughter loves shrimp scampi, so we chose the shrimp as well as a pound of Arctic char for my wife and me. Char is similar to salmon, though not quite so red in color. We love it. With spring in the air, I prepared it with sautéed shallots and mushrooms seasoned with sherry vinegar.

In a well-seasoned or non-stick pan greased with olive oil, saute hard a couple of handfuls of sliced mushrooms. I used cremini, but my wife votes for shiitake. Season with salt and pepper and toss the mushrooms occasionally until they are lightly browned, adding more olive oil as needed. Add two or three thinly sliced shallots, lower the heat and cook until the shallots are soft. Season liberally with sherry vinegar and more olive oil.

Remove the mushrooms and shallots from the pan and set aside in a warm oven. Add a bit of butter to the saute pan, raise the heat and add your char filets, seasoned with salt and pepper and laid meat side down. These won’t take more than a few minutes to cook, so watch them carefully. Flip the filets when the meat side is lightly browned and cover the pan while the skin side cooks. When the fish is cooked through, remove the cover, divide the filets onto warm plates and cover the fish with the mushroom-shallot mix. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve a spring salad on the side.

If you like, toss a salad of zesty greens in olive oil and sherry vinegar and pile that on the plates before adding the fish. You can change up the vinegar as well. Use whatever strikes your fancy.

In our house, there was one char filet left over from dinner. That became my breakfast the following day.

Imagine that! Fish for breakfast.

Bon appetit!

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  • Tammy Bowman

    I’m just curious. Why farm-raised char and catfish? I thought farm-raised fish were more environmentally unfriendly as well as less healthy due to the bacteria levels in the water. I have avoided shrimp for the same reason unless I can be reasonably assured that they are not farmed. I love seafood of all kinds, it just seems more difficult to get the fresh caught for reasonable prices these days, even for someone living in FL!

  • Ed Bruske

    Tammy, it’s really hard being a seafood consumer. As you say, there are issues with farm-raised fish. But some fish farming is much better than others. Inland catfish farming in the U.S. gets a “best choice” rating from Seafood Watch. It’s clean, and the catfish are healthy. By contrast, most farmed fish and shrimp from Asia get an “avoid” rating because of the fish are overcrowded and sanitation is poor. Other issues surround farming of Atlantic salmon, which is the only kind of salmon you see in most stores unless it’s wild caught from Alaska. Ocean fish farm cause environmental problem because they are close to shore. But a bigger problem is that salmon are carnivorous and it typically takes three pounds of smaller fish to make one pound of finished salmon. Salmon farming depletes the world’s population of feeder fish. Arctic char gets a “best choice” rating because it is farmed inland in recirculating systems.

    Seafood Watch publishes papers on its website explaining all its ratings. You might check them out here:

  • Tammy Bowman

    Thank you so much for this information Ed!! I found this very helpful. I love salmon and only buy if labeled ‘wild’ or with the Alaskan seal on it. I will have to look into the Arctic Char. It sounds delicious. We buy from a local seafood vendor here, because as you say, most supermarkets carry frozen fish raised from various overseas fisheries the world over and it’s hard to know what the conditions are that the fish are subjected to. I also want to say that I love your blog in general. I love that you are making farm-to-table a reality. I am trying to get more involved in the school meal/agriculture (school gardening programs). I think if we start out educating children early on about the importance of fresh, less-processed foods, they will make better choices at the breakfast/lunch counters. Hopefully, this will eventually lead to a reduction in the obesity-related diseases that are plaguing every generation presently. My youngest daughter entered a county-wide cooking contest called “Cook It Up” recently and I thought it was a valuable and rewarding experience for her. I’ll have to send you her recipe.