Rustic Char


A great pleasure in life is obtaining seasonally fresh ingredients to take back to the kitchen. With Dolly Varden char at their fattest in fall and entering local streams, now is the time to go out and get them. Brookies and small lake trout shine equally well in this simple, exceptionally satisfying dish, as do Arctic char which are sustainably farmed and available in markets.

Char generally have a flavor that is richer than trout but lighter than most salmon. The keys to this dish are hearty vegetables, fresh charr, thyme, butter or quality olive oil and a good white wine. Add a spritz of lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper. Don’t get hung up on specific ingredients; this is camp-style fare at its finest. And by all means, if you live where fresh herbs are available, substitute them for the dried herbs we use here in Chignik Lake.


This dish can easily be made in one pan. Simply hold the fish in reserve and add to the vegetables during the last half of cooking. Otherwise, prepare in two pans as follows.

The vegetables:


  • 3 or 4 cups hearty vegetables such parsnips, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, etc. chopped coarse
  • sweet onion, chopped coarse
  • approximately 8 to 10 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1/2 tbsp thyme (dry)
  • 1/4 tbsp rosemary (dry)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Add butter and olive oil to pan and heat over medium-high heat.
  2. Add vegetables and seasonings, turning to ensure everything is well coated and seasoned.
  3. Add wine, stir and cover pan. Reduce heat. Stir occasionally. When done, a fork will easily pass through vegetables.

The fish:


  • 1 fresh char of about 2 lbs, gutted, head and tail removed, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tbsp thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp tarragon (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp marjoram (optional)
  • lemon juice
  • splash or two of white wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • additional olive oil or butter for prepping fish


  1. Sprinkle lemon juice inside and outside of fish.
  2. Use fingers or a brush to cover fish inside and out with a light coating of butter or olive oil. Gently rub thyme and other herbs (if used) inside cavity and outside. Cut fish into three or four pieces and set aside.
  3. Place butter and olive oil in a pan and heat over medium-high heat.
  4. When oil/butter are hot enough to sizzle, add fish pieces. Add salt, pepper and a splash of white wine. Cover and lower heat to medium-low. Cook for six minutes.
  5. Gently turn fish. Sprinkle salt and pepper and add a splash of white wine. Cook for six minutes.
  6. Fish is done when flesh is opaque inside the cavity.
  7. Arrange vegetables on plates or serving platter, top with fish and serve piping hot with a favorite Chardonnay, Viognier or dry Riesling.

2 thoughts on “Rustic Char

    • Thanks Chef. Char are becoming more popular as a number of countries are now successfully farming Arctic char (close relatives of the Dolly Varden we used) in an environmentally responsible manner. The fish are beautiful and the flavor and texture are somewhat similar to salmon.

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