The Perfect Recipe: Arctic Char with Soba Noodles, Pine Nuts and Lemon

First off, I’m not going to lie, Arctic Char ain’t cheap. I made the gauche observation about the price of fish to my dinner guest and she tossed me a tenner on the way out, but don’t let that stop you if at all possible, because this is actually a perfect recipe in my book, and I don’t see why you couldn’t just substitute a different fish, if you like. In the comments on the NYT Cooking post I saw someone actually made this with tofu, so have at it!  My BFF Melissa Clark produces a highly multi-layered taste experience here with very little effort. ( Disclaimer: Melissa Clark is not my best friend, I don’t actually know Melissa Clark but since she introduced me to cooking – see The Flaming Cake post, I pretend I do, and she shall ever after be referred to as “my BFF Melissa Clark”) If you read my blog, you know I do not shy away from multi-process recipes, I am a huge fan of Otollenghi who goes crazy wild with the multi processes and this recipe here has only three.  Oh let’s face it, she had me at toasted cumin seeds. “Add the cumin and sizzle until fragrant.” -music to my ears, but there’s so much more. Let’s look deeper at the world of Arctic Char with Soba Noodles, Pine Nuts and Lemon.

I got two 8 oz arctic char filets, which is plenty big enough, (the recipe calls for 4 filets), for $20.00 at Fairway. I love going to the fish counter at Fairway. If you live on the Upper West Side of New York City you have a love/hate relationship with Fairway, depending on the time of day your love/hate meter can swing wildly in either direction, actually it’s pretty much just going to swing in the hate direction because you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have a soft spot in your heart for it…and need dinner. But so do one billion other New Yorkers and the aisle, they are not wide. To me Fairway is a place where you can feel the heartbeat of the city, at least our little portion of it, and no where better than the deli counter and the fish counter, the cheese guys are pretty serious, so I don’t hang out there too long, but if you ask veeery nicely they’ll let you try the lemon ricotta, which is well worth the price of the perpetual stink eye the cheese guy gives you. The fish guys and gals contrarily, are just incredibly cheerful people, the butcher guys too, for some reason they always seem in the best of moods with all the time in the world to answer your questions or in many cases, listen to your jokes. You like Woody Allen movies? Go hang out at the fish counter and get your fill. Though pricey, the fish was very delicious. I’m not that familiar with arctic char and was very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a white fish and it’s actually a pink fish, close in texture to salmon, but not as oily or as fishy. I usually cook cod or hake and sometimes the texture can be what I feel is over saturated with water, a sort of granular sensation, I don’t know how to explain that, but not so with this lovely meaty fish.  So enough about the fish let’s move on to the soba noodles. I don’t like buckwheat. To me buckwheat doesn’t even take like a food. Why would you go and ruin God’s perfect food – the pancake, by making it with buckwheat? I wonder if I have something similar to those people who can’t stand cilantro. Did you know that if cilantro tastes like soap to you, that is actually genetic? You people should find each other and see how it goes.  To me buckwheat doesn’t taste like soap it taste more like the Tin Man’s boot, sort of weirdly metallic with a hint of leather. It’s not something I willingly eat but I wanted to cook this recipe exactly as is, because, BFF Melissa knows best. And looky here, they come with ribbons!

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Just follow the direction on the package, don’t over cook.  Next up: you make a dressing of pine nuts – pulsed in a food processor, garlic, lemon, salt and olive oil. Toss the noodles in this mixture. Man, is that a wonderful mixture. Forget everything I said about the Tin Man’s boot. This is what I mean by a layered taste experience, when it works you taste the gist of all the ingredients but the sum of the whole is so much greater than the parts.

Next up you toast the cumin seeds and “sizzle until fragrant.” about 30 seconds.  Turn off the heat and add three tablespoons olive oil. Allow to cool slightly (remember the whole recipe is above in the link). Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and place on a foil lined baking sheet, Spoon the cumin oil on the fish and roast in a 450 degree oven until desired doneness. I did 10 minutes and it was done perfectly for me. The recipe says this will give you medium rare and mine was just on the done side of that.  Divide the noodles up among the plates, put the fish on top and garnish with cilantro or mint. I used cilantro but I’d love to try it with mint. Mint’s my pal.

This fine fish with the lovely toasted cumin oil and the pine nut and garlic dressed soba noodles was so satisfying. It’s really nice to sit down with a friend and serve them up a delicious and healthy meal, but I could even be happy eating this all by myself. Try it!

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