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8 & $20: Arctic Char With Orange-Scented Fennel and Onions

An Italian white adds depth to this tasty, healthy fish recipe
A variety of white wines with citrus notes can pair well with the flavors in this dish.
Photo by: Greg Hudson
A variety of white wines with citrus notes can pair well with the flavors in this dish.

Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Posted: March 29, 2016

It’s hard to beat a beautiful piece of fish for a healthful dish that comes together quickly and can deliver on flavor.

This dish—using moist, firm, omega-3-rich Arctic char—is becoming a favorite at my house. Sautéing the fennel and onions in this preparation gives them a silky texture, while the orange brings a touch of sweet brightness and the capers add a hint of brine. Using the fennel fronds not only adds visual appeal but also delicately perfumes basic white rice with a sweet, green, licorice flavor, which is so appealing for spring.

Arctic char is considered an environmentally sustainable seafood choice, but if you can't find it in your local market, you can easily substitute salmon, which, along with trout, is a member of the same family. You can also switch lemon in for the orange for a twist.

This dish proved to be versatile when it came to wine pairing. We tried three white wines and all worked quite well, each holding on to its character without clashing with any of the flavors on the plate. A juicy Chilean Sauvignon Blanc brought the variety's traditional mix of bright citrus and green herbs. A citrus-accented Grüner Veltliner added a bit of zip to the fish.

The evening’s winner went a step further, however, adding textural complexity to the meal. A Soave Classico complemented the food with light ginger spice, orange and mineral notes, bringing a luxurious sense of light cream when sipped alongside the velvety fennel and onions, creating an elegant combination.

Arctic Char With Orange-Scented Fennel and Onions

Pair with a white wine such as Leonildo Pieropan Soave Classico 2014 (88 points, $20).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total cooking time: 30 to 35 minutes
Approximate food costs: $28

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds Arctic char, cut into four 4- or 5-ounce portions
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Flour, for dusting
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons of lightly chopped fronds
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced (about 1 teaspoon zest and 1/2 cup juice)
  • 1 tablespoon capers

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and stir in the rice. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

2. While the rice is cooking, season the Arctic char portions with salt and pepper. Dredge the skin side of the fish through a small amount of flour. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add the char to the pan, skin-side down, and sear for about 3 minutes, or until the skin is light golden-brown and crispy, and the fish is cooked three-quarters of the way through. Carefully transfer the fish to a plate and set aside.

3. Drain any excess oil from the pan, leaving a small amount for cooking. (If the bottom of the pan has too much charring stuck to it, clean it before proceeding, or use a new pan.) Return the pan to the stove over medium heat, add the fennel and onion, and sweat until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. (Add water to the pan to slow the cooking, if needed.)

4. Once the vegetables are tender, add the butter to the pan. Let the butter melt and just start to brown, then add the orange juice and capers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the Arctic char to the pan, flesh-side down (after draining off any liquid that may have collected on the plate), and finish cooking in the saucy vegetables for about a minute. Remove from heat.

5. Fluff the rice and mix in the orange zest and the majority of the fennel fronds, saving a few for garnish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Mound the rice onto four plates. Add a small amount of the saucy fennel and onions to each plate, and top with a portion of Arctic char. Garnish with the remaining fennel fronds. Serves 4.

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