Easy Baked Maple Glazed Arctic Char Without Smoke Alarms

The very easy, delicious Easy Baked Maple Glazed Arctic Char recipe has long been a staple in our weekly dinner rotation but it hit me recently that I hadn’t made it since the weather turned cool. Originally, I discovered this recipe on the blandly named, All-Fish-Seafood-Recipes website. It’s perfect for a healthy dinner on a busy weeknight: excluding the fish and the optional toppings, this recipe calls for just 4 ingredients – and they’re likely in your pantry already:

  • maple syrup (real!)
  • soy sauce
  • fresh ginger (I use ground ginger that I keep in my refrigerator)
  • cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Always delicious, you can find the full recipe with my notes added here: Easy Baked Maple Glazed Arctic Char. And if you want more information about why char is a great, healthy dinner choice, read my post, Arctic Char – Better Than Salmon.

What reminded me to make this recipe last week was that my 91 year old mother-in-law said she was going to try it for the first time. Luckily, when we called the next day to ask how it turned out, she said she didn’t have 2 of the ingredients (!) so hadn’t made it yet. I felt lucky she hadn’t attempted it yet because I ran into a never-happened-before issue when I made it this week, and need to warn her about it.

Backstory: my ‘old’ oven died over Thanksgiving – cliche, I know, but luckily disaster was averted. Cue newly installed ovens, an unwelcome surprise expense weeks before the holidays. Sigh. But I was excited to test out the oven, so I prepped the fish with the four easy-as-pie ingredients, as usual, and popped it into my new oven.  Within five minutes it began emitting copious amounts of smoke. Like I was, well, smoking something!

img_3088_EasyBakedMapleCharAs I often do, I baked the fish in the top oven and roasted brussels sprouts and Ina Garten’s Garlic Roasted Potatoes in the lower oven. Lower oven was A-OK. But the upper oven smoked so much we threw open windows and doors to the arctic (sorry!) air and felt lucky the house smoke alarms didn’t go off.

This dish always smokes a bit. Sometimes a good amount. I mean, baking a sugar-soy glazed dish in a 450 oven will of course burn the sugar and set off smoke, but this level of smoke was unprecedented.

I’m not sure if my brand new oven is running too hot – I guess i’ll get an oven thermometer and test it out. And I’ll try it on a lower rack next time, and warn my mother-in-law to do the same.

I’d be interested in any other suggestions. The fish was the same, delicious dish – the smoke affected just my kitchen, not the taste. But do try this recipe for a fast, healthy weeknight dinner – and let me know what happens smoke-wise!

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Fast, Fancy, Fabulous Fish Dinner

I tried to make up for a decadent, totally-not-lo-co (and absolutely fantastic) dinner at Jean Georges in NYC this Friday with a 4 mile walk around the perimeter of Central Park Saturday morning.

But in my heart, I knew that wasn’t enough.  After a weekend eating out in NYC for every meal, I decided it’d be a good idea to cook some healthy dinners this week.

My husband was shocked.  Pleased, but shocked.

Especially since on Monday I actually cooked the fish I bought – rather than my usual mojo which is to buy the fish, declare “I’m too tired to cook, let’s go out,” then tossing the never-cooked fish a few days later.

What I picked up on Monday were the ingredients for a perennial favorite in my household: Mustard Roasted Arctic Char. Well, it’s a fave with my husband and me; our son dislikes mustard, so this is not a winner when he’s home. Which he’s not. So.

As it’s been a few years since I posted about Ina Garten’s Mustard Roasted Fish I thought it high time to write about this delicious dish that’s a rare find: easy enough for a weeknight and fancy enough for a dinner party.

Plus, it’s pretty lo-co considering the cream-based sauce is used for cooking – with just a dollop served on top. So you get a lot of flavor without a lot of cream.

Personally, I like to serve this dish with roasted asparagus which stands up to the mustard flavor AND can be served room temperature, so it’s perfect for a dinner party. Steamed string beans also work well.

And I have a new favorite side: Near East’s new Quinoa Blend Rosemary & Olive Oil.  It’s a blend of quinoa and brown rice that’s tasty and so easy to make (and keep warm) using a rice cooker. Directions for rice-cooker-cooking aren’t on the package, but no problem: just follow package directions for olive oil and water amounts and toss it all in a rice cooker at least 45 minutes (maybe a tad more) before serving dinner. Fair warning though: this has a LOT of salt, so if salt is an issue, choose a different side…

MustardRoastFishQuinoaAsparagusI made this Monday night for dinner: Mustard Roasted Artic Char, the brown rice quinoa blend, and roasted asparagus. I used 1 pound of Char which netted dinner for my husband and me Monday night PLUS enough for my lunch the next day. (It’s not the best photo, as it was Monday evening and I was running late so was HUNGRY. Just pretend I’d taken my time plating it to envision this as a dinner party dish!)

Is it the most lo-co dish ever? No. But it’s not bad, really – especially if you go light with the “dollop the mustard sauce on top before serving” step.  I wrote about the nutritional value of this fish recipe on Mmm Mmm Mustard Roasted Fish – so if you want more details about nutritional info, check out that post.

Also, I NEVER make the entire amount of cream sauce since I usually make about one pound of fish rather than the 2 pounds called for in Ina Garten’s original recipe.  I mean, really – look at how huge that fish portion is on my plate, and that’s about 1/3 of the pound of char I cooked.  So for 2-3 servings, one pound of fish – and half the cream sauce – is what’s called for, IMHO.

For my half-recipe (and my modifications: I also use less salt than called for in the original), see my hand-revised recipe, Mustard Roasted Fish a la Karen.

Make this dish on a December weeknight after indulging in too much egg nog and/or holiday cookies over the weekend…or for a “Yay, the holidays are over” dinner party in January!

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Mmm Mmm Mustard Roasted Fish

OK, so I’ll admit that adding a cream sauce to fish is not the most lo-co of plans.  But there I was, under pressure.  It’s tradition that I make a fish dish at our annual family reunion at Cape Cod (look how lo-co I’ve been: the other big family dinners are steak and lobster/ribs!) It’s a diverse crowd, and I needed a new fish dish that all would enjoy.

Photo: Quentin Bacon

What inspired me was the not-great weather (clearly it wasn’t cooking lo-co as I went with a cream sauce).  As it was unusually cool, I decided to bake instead of grill the fish. So I turned to the ever-trustworthy Barefoot Contessa and chose a dinner I love but make only infrequently. I was thrilled that everyone at the table loved it too. In fact, Ina Garten’s Mustard-Roasted Fish recipe was so delicious they all asked for the recipe.

And that’s no small feat – these are my relatives.  Well, my husband’s, actually.  So, um, not an easy crowd.  Love them to pieces, but let’s just say there are a lot of opinions. Freely offered. Often. With no punches pulled. (Hence my need for an ample supply of Grey Goose, Corona and red wine at the Cape. And no bottles make it home. Ever.)

As it’s never once happened to me that every single person at a dinner party not only loves a dish, but actually asks for the recipe, I thought I should share it here. (Plus, posting it here means my husband’s family actually has to read my blog to get the recipe. LOL. Though I’m not all bad – I did mail a hard copy to my 85 year old mother-in-law so she doesn’t have to look it up online. As if that were possible. Sorry, Lynn, but I know you are not reading this so all is safe! Bros-in-law: if you rat me out, I will come after you.)

So then I got to thinking about whether this dish is even appropriate for Goin Lo-Co. What with the, um, you know, um, cream sauce?

So I scanned the recipe for nutritional info (yes, I realize, as someone trying to cook lo-co I should have looked before I made this dish. So shoot me).  It wasn’t there.

Digging around online, I was surprised to find that none of the online listings for this recipe list its nutritional info. Neither the Food Network version of this recipe nor the Barefoot Contessa site (photo link) listed nutritional info for this recipe.  Weird.

I finally found it on a Washington Post’s Recipe Finder.  Click here to view this version of the recipe, complete with nutritional info.

If you want all the nutritional details, see the end of this post (recipe PDF there, too). Overall, this dish is not so bad when you compare with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (more info here):

  • Total Fat:  Reco is 44-78 grams of total fat per day, this fish dish has 12.  Woot.
  • Saturated Fat:  Reco is 16-22 grams/day (and for lo-co, clearly it’s 16).  This dish has 7. Not bad at all.
  • Cholesterol:  Reco is max of 300 mg/day – but 200 to lower heart disease risk. With 105mg, this dish is at about half of daily reco’d cholesterol.  Not great, but not awful.

So, this dish is not so bad – even though it has a cream sauce.  (And especially if you serve it with quinoa and grilled asparagus, like I did.)   I mean, if you don’t have fast food or any other bad, high fat/high cholesterol food that day, you can serve this recipe and feel like you served something delicious and relatively heart-healthy.

If you eat a burger for lunch (upcoming post soon), well, then, what can I say?  Try it another day, ok?

I’ve made this dish several times, with the following modifications:

  • I use a little less salt & pepper than what’s called for in the recipe.
  • Often I make it with cod rather than snapper – less fishy taste will appeal to more folks (and hey, it’s cheaper too).
  • You need both kinds of mustard
  • If you’ve never heard of creme fraiche, it’s found near cheese/sour cream in my area at both Trader Joe’s and Stop & Shop – ask if you don’t see it.

If you would like to download a PDF with my recipe notes, click here: Mustard-Roasted Fish a la Karen.

Hope you enjoy… Post a comment if  you try the dish!

Nutritional Details: This recipe, according to the Washington Post, has: 311 calories, 12g fat, 7g saturated fat, 105mg cholesterol, 956mg sodium, 6g carbohydrates, 0g dietary fiber, n/a sugar, 38g protein.

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