I love arctic char. It’s a small fish with a bold flavor. It’s no random coincidence that the orange color of its flesh reminds of salmon. Just like trout, arctic char is a member of the salmonid family.
Arctic char is the perfect fish to serve with horseradish sauce. Its strong flavor can hold up to the pungency of the horseradish sauce. Horseradish sauce is a common sauce in Southern German and Austrian cuisine. Besides fish, it is also popular with boiled beef.
Horseradish has a different kind of pungency than chile peppers. It’s similar to mustard, just a lot sharper. You will only need a little bit of horseradish to season the sauce.
It’s very simple to prepare the horseradish sauce. It’s a mixture of milk and fish stock that is thickened with a roux. The horseradish gets mixed in just before serving. It’s up to your taste how much you want to add. You can use fresh or prepared horseradish. They will both yield similar results.
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How to prepare the arctic char
The arctic char gets baked in the oven until cooked through. That way you won’t get a crispy skin but it will, therefore, be very succulent. To enhance the flavor of the fish I like to stuff the cavity with ginger, savory, and lemon.
Fresh savory might be hard to source for you but it is a lovely herb. You can replace it with thyme or just omit it entirely. However, if you can get your hand on fresh savory, you can use it for all kinds of delicious dishes like braised green beans, lentil soup, and pork roast. It makes meals easier to digest and adds a fragrant bitter note to dishes. It’s a must with pulses and grains.
One fish is usually enough for two people although I know that a lot of people can eat the fish entirely by themselves. So, always adjust the serving size to your taste. This baked arctic char is best served with boiled jacket potatoes which are lovely to soak up the sauce.
Arctic Char with Horseradish Sauce (‘Saibling mit Meerrettichsoße’)
1-2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish (or prepared horseradish), to taste
salt, to taste
For the arctic char:
1 arctic char, about 12-14 ounces, cleaned and left whole
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 fresh savory sprigs
1-inch knob of ginger, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Preheat your oven to 390 °F (200 °C).
Prepare the horseradish sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour once the butter has melted and sweat the butter-flour mixture (‘roux’) over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes until the flour smells slightly nutty but is still pale in color.
Whisk in your milk and fish stock, bit by bit to prevent the sauce from turning lumpy. Add the thyme sprigs and bay leaf to your sauce and bring it up to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let the sauce simmer, uncovered, over the lowest possible heat for about 15 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
If the sauce has reduced too much, add some more water or stock. If it is still too thin after 15 minutes, continue reducing it further. Once the sauce has its desired consistency, whisk in the horseradish and salt to taste. Don’t add all the horseradish at once. Taste and adjust the amount that goes into your sauce depending on your preference.
Strain the finished sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf as well as any remaining lumps. Keep warm.
Prepare the fish:
With a sharp paring knife, score the skin of the char on both sides, 3-4 times on each side, about 1/2-inch deep. Season the char to taste with salt on the outside and inside the cavity. Rub the olive oil all over the char and stuff the cavity with the lemon slices, savory sprigs, and ginger slices. Wrap the fish in aluminum foil and seal tightly.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through. The char is done once the dorsal fin on the back of the fish can easily be pulled out and the meat flakes easily off the bone.
To serve, separate the meat from the bones and spoon a generous amount of sauce on top. Serve together with boiled new potatoes to soak up the excess sauce.