Grilled Orange and Bourbon Salmon

With a name like “Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon” how could I not try this Cooking Light recipe? And I’m glad I did; it’s terrific. In fact, I prepared this recipe several times this summer — with both salmon and Arctic Char, of course — to test it out for a Cape Cod family vacation dinner-for-16 (yes, cooking dinner for 16 in an only-ok-equipped rental cottage should not be part of anyone’s vacation – but somehow it is for me!)

Grilled Orange and Bourbon SalmonHere’s what’s great about this recipe: it’s easy to make in general and for a crowd, it’s flavorful, and is a healthy choice. All 16 at our family dinner liked it – believable because there was none left!

Here’s what’s not so great about this recipe: it takes a lot of time to prepare the marinade – especially if you are doubling or tripling the marinade. There are oranges and lemons to juice and scallions, chives and garlic to chop. That might not sound like a lot (and it’s not difficult), but trust me, you need 45 minutes to 1 hour to prep this marinade. Just letting you know.

You can easily print the PDF from my Going Lo-Co Recipes page or grab the PDF here: Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon.  Oh, and some of the Cooking Light reviews suggested saving the marinade and cooking it down into a glaze which is likely delicious, though I didn’t try it but plan to, next time.

Now if you’re like me and are more of a vodka and wine person versus a bourbon person (OK, truth, I know not one thing about bourbon) there’s the liquor store to visit. Where they might sell you Jack Daniels – which may or may not technically be bourbon. Sigh. Twice I made this recipe with Jack because that’s what my liquor store guy sold me – and then when I made it at Cape Cod, I made it with Jim Beam bourbon (I know that’s bourbon because it’s printed on the label, LOL). While I preferred it made with Jim Beam, that might just be because I’d had a lot of wine by the time I finished all the chopping for the triple version of this recipe!

Since this whisky vs bourbon thing was kind of a big part of my experience with this recipe, I was going to include information about whisky vs bourbon but all the sites I visited to learn the difference between bourbon and whisky require you to enter your birthdate, so that would likely lead to broken links. Topline, bourbon appears to be somewhat sweeter as legally it must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn (bourbon/whisky people, if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me!). If you care for more details than that, search for bourbon vs whisky and research away. If you don’t care but want to try this recipe, go to a liquor store and get a small bottle of Jack or Jim – they’ll both be fine!

As for fish, I liked this with both salmon and Arctic Char, so take your pick. But do try it – especially now with the summer winding down – making this recipe in September will give you the opportunity to swill a bit of warming bourbon while grilling!

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Arctic Char – Better Than Salmon

At the height of summer grilling season, you may be looking for an alternative to salmon. For those lucky enough to easily find it locally, Arctic char is my grilled fish of choice.

Actually, it’s my cook-at-home-all-year-round fish of choice for three reasons:

  • It is easy to cook and tastes great – it’s milder and creamier than salmon.
  • Those who like salmon will likely also like Arctic char. Even those who, like me, don’t care for salmon might like char!
  • It is far less expensive than wild-caught salmon (and you know farm-raised salmon is an eco no-no, right?)

I was stumped, recently, when a friend asked me what the difference was between Arctic char and salmon. While there was some conflicting (and largely old) information on the internet, I’ve gleaned a few key facts about Arctic char.

A member of the ‘salmonid’ family along with salmon and trout, char is a cold-water fish and nearly all of the US supply is farmed. However, the environmentally friendly method used to farm char is completely different than farmed salmon; indeed, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Seafood Selector gives char a “best” eco-rating and describes how char is sourced as follows:

  • “This member of the salmon family is an environmentally friendly alternative to farmed salmon.
  • Char are mostly raised in tanks and raceways onshore, unlike salmon which are generally raised in open netpens in coastal waters.
  • Onshore systems discharge less pollution and are much less likely to let fish and parasites escape than netpens.”

As many likely know, the EDF cites Atlantic and farmed salmon as an eco-rating of WORST. If you are one of the many who avoid Atlantic or farmed salmon entirely and have a local source who carries Arctic char, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at both the taste and the price compared with wild salmon.

ArcticChar

Artwork credit: www.fishchoice.com

As for nutrition, I had a little difficulty with conflicting information: some websites claimed Arctic char is high in heart-healthy omega 3s but the EDF Seafood Selector does not give it the same high-rating in omega 3s as salmon. The best figure I came up with was to compare two articles on Dr. Andrew Weill’s site.  About char, he says, “a 3.5-ounce serving gives you one gram of omega-3 fatty acids and 182 calories.” That is about HALF that of wild salmon, when compared with another quote from Dr. Weil’s site: “A 3-ounce serving of Alaskan salmon or herring contains about 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, while 3 ounces of sardines has about 1.3 grams.” That said, I’ll take 1 gram of heart-heallty omega-3 with my protein over red meat any day.

As for taste, it happens that I far prefer char to salmon – though my husband likes both equally and finds them very similar. I agree with the broad description of mild flavor and delicate texture, and it tends to be less dense/chewy than salmon. Because of its high fat content (healthy fat!), it is easy to grill or bake without drying out – as long as you don’t over-cook it. I grill or bake it at 450 for about 12 minutes – see my Lo-Co Recipes page for a quick & easy recipe.

For more info on Arctic char, beyond the EDF and Dr. Weill’s sites, I found these resources most helpful (and likely most reliable):

  • The very interesting and informative Artic char page on the Fish Choice website was the most comprehensive and included a great ‘infographic’ which is where the illustration above is from. I wish that site had Omega-3 information as everything else was so clearly well documented on this site. This was also the only site that was updated in the past year or two!
  • The Arctic char page on both the Seafood Choices Alliance and the New England Aquarium sites explain how Arctic char live in the wild and how they are farmed.
  • The Chef’s Resources site – which was new to me, but I will visit again as it was very useful – confirmed the rough amount of omega-3 (though it cited 1.3 grams for 3 oz of fish) and other useful background and how-to-cook information about Arctic char.

You can substitute Arctic char for any recipe that calls for salmon or trout. I’m fortunate my local fish market always carries char;  if yours does too, throw some on the grill with a little olive-oil and herbs for a quick, delicious, heart-healthy meal.

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Baked Char or Shrimp Scampi with Spinach and Lemon

Recently, we had a bunch of family visiting with a wide range of palette preferences (meaning some would eat fish and some would not). My mom and I decided to make some chicken thighs in the crock pot for those who might not like fish, and I headed off to my favorite fish wholesaler, Pagano’s, to buy enough fish to feed 10-12.

At Pagano’s I decided to buy about 2 pounds of my favorite (and healthy) fish, Arctic char, and another 2 pounds of salmon (which I do not care for) and conduct a very informal taste-off. I prepared both the same way: first I generously salted each fillet, then sprinkled on some fresh pepper, slathered on Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then sprinkled with dried oregano, thyme and rosemary (because I forgot to buy fresh herbs).  Atop parchment paper on cookie sheets, I baked the 2 fillets at 450 degrees for about 12-15 minutes (note: if one end is thin and the other thick, tuck the thin end under or it will over-cook).

Baking a thick fish fillet like char or salmon this way is a snap. Preparation takes all of 1 minute and the result is delicious every single time. Everyone at our family get together – even the kids – liked it.  And folks were evenly split as well between the char and salmon. Which made me smile because prior to this, I was the only Arctic char fan – mostly because I was the only one who ever heard of it.

There was one big problem. The taste-off totally backfired on me, since my husband declared he far preferred the salmon (which again, I do not care for) to my favorite fish, Arctic char.

Sigh. So now when I bake fish – which is a go-to weeknight dish for me – I will have to buy and bake salmon AND char. Or pretend I forgot my husband preferred salmon.

Guess which I’m doing. (My poor husband.  And he’s such a nice guy, too.)

OK, so back to cooking fish.  The taste-off was in my mind the following week when I found myself at Pagano’s again. This time, I was cooking for just my husband and me – and I got the bright idea to buy not only the char and salmon (it’s too soon to play the ‘I forgot’ card!) but also some fresh shrimp so I could cook dinner at home 2 nights in a row.

Gasp.

Hasn’t happened in weeks.

But I did it.  I made the char/salmon on Tuesday night last week, and on Wednesday, I made a Shrimp Scampi with a dozen gorgeous fresh shrimp that William at Pagano’s kindly deveined and shelled for me.

The scampi recipe is a bit more complex. Oh, who am I kidding. The fish takes all of 1 minute to prepare while the scampi (as long as someone else deveins it) takes, oh, about 5 minutes.

So, pretty easy.  And yet a totally different flavor profile – and served over pasta instead of quinoa or rice – so it’s a nice alternative to a fillet.

I made my scampi with spinach but if you don’t care for spinach you could use parsley instead. The recipe I included below is a quick, easy, and pretty basic-tasting dish – it’s quite good, but not wildly flavorful (great if you are looking to please a group that includes kids). Personally, it ended up a bit too bland for us, so next time I make it, I’ll up the red pepper flakes and add a can of anchovies to the hot oil before cooking the shrimp: the anchovies melt in olive oil (literally, not kidding!) and impart a nice, deep flavor that does not taste like anchovies!

So if you are looking for a quick, healthy weeknight seafood dish that is neither overly spiced nor spicy, try either a baked fillet or a shrimp scampi. Recipes abound online, but my go-to simple fillet preparation is to just toss a nice thick salmon or Arctic char fillet that’s been salted, peppered, olive-oiled and dusted with a few herbs on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, and bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Or if you’re more in the mood for a pasta dish, try my recipe for: Shrimp Scampi with Spinach and Lemon. I’ve added both recipes to my Lo-Co Recipes page, for future reference.

And let me know if you try the anchovy trick – or have other ideas to up the punch of this shrimp scampi!

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Delightfully Easy and Delicious – Salmon Asparagus Orzo “Salad”

With my eating habits in the doldrums, I needed inspiration…and found it in the March issue of Cooking Light.  After spending a half-hour paging then surfing, I stumbled upon this recipe – then headed right to the store.  Turns out, it was so good that my son actually ASKED to try some!

Even though I don’t really like cooked salmon, I found this recipe delicious as well as low-fat & low cholesterol.  Plus, it’s easy & a nice change from the ‘heavy’ one-pot recipes I’ve been trying (not posted because I haven’t liked a lot of them!)  In truth, this recipe is probably more suited to summer, but I found the lemon-freshness and roasting/baking involved with this dish – along with its lemon dressing – a great pick-me-up in this frigid CT weather.

You can find the original recipe on Cooking Light’s site.

But I made a few adjustments for how I like to cook.  You can download a PDF of the recipe the changes I made here:  SalmonAsparagusOrzoSaladLemonDillVinaigrette-Modified.  What’d I do?  Well…

  • Since I detest boiled asparagus I roasted the asparagus instead.  So much better.  Plus I just used one ‘bunch’ and have no idea if that was close to the ‘1 lb’ called for in the recipe.
  • As well,  I don’t broil, EVER… it freaks me out. So I baked the salmon instead of broiling, following the same instructions as in the Maple Glazed Arctic Char recipe.
  • I also used far less salmon than called for – mostly because I hadn’t written down the amount of fish needed when I went shopping.  Also because I really don’t like cooked salmon, but figured I should not try another fish until I tried it this way!
  • As well, my salmon fillet had skin on one side – but no problem, just bake it skin-side down, then when it’s done, the skin slides right off.

So give this one a try – I will definitely be making it again (and it was GREAT for lunch!)

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