Inuit Take Wild Char to U.S. Market

In just a few years, Arctic Char, a member of the salmon family, has become commonplace in better fish markets and on menus. The char, a bright orange-fleshed fish, usually two to four pounds, is farm-raised mostly in Iceland and Canada. But it’s nothing like the char I recall first enjoying in Montreal more than 25 years ago: a wild fish with succulent vermillion flesh. Now, Inuit are catching big wild char from waters like Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, north of Hudson Bay, and they have started sending them to United States markets under the auspices of a San Francisco company called CleanFish.

The silver- to ivory-skinned fish are 7 to 12 pounds and, as a species from frigid waters, are high in fat, like sablefish and Chilean sea bass. At Daniel, Jean François Bruel lightly smokes it. Dave Pasternack at Esca uses the rich fish for crudo. Thick fillets do well simply seared on the skin, cooked medium-rare to medium. The Arctic Char are sold whole ($17.50 a pound), or as fillets ($25 a pound), all fresh, plus shipping, by Browne Trading in Portland, Me., (800) 944-7848 extension 3. The spring catch has just ended and the fall catch, which lasts for most of August, begins Aug. 1. After that, the water freezes, ending the fishing season.

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