This simple and elegant Citrus Baked Arctic Char is also one of the easiest to prepare — all you need are thirty minutes and one pan, and you’ll be sitting down to a delicious, healthy, and beautiful meal. Read on, or jump straight to the recipe HERE.
If cooking fish intimidates you, you’ve come to the right place. This recipe is beyond easy to make, and if you stick through this post, I’ll share some of my tips and things to look for when buying seafood.
Simple fish dishes like this one are hands down one of my favorite things to make. They come together in minutes, are bursting with fresh, uncomplicated flavors, and are super healthy to boot.
Meals packed with protein and healthy fats are often the ones that make me feel best. Add a salad, and I’m set. If you’d like a more filling meal, you can serve this with a side of rice, quinoa, or crusty bread with butter. That’s right, I said it. I believe crusty bread with butter can be a part of a healthy meal! Especially when it’s balanced by lean protein, vibrant veggies, and drizzle of good olive oil.
If you’re new to cooking seafood, it can be a little scary. Buying a giant slab of fish for the first time might be overwhelming, so before we get into the recipe here are some things you should know:
- Use whatever’s freshest. This goes for almost any seafood dish. If the recipe calls for one type of fish, but that variety isn’t looking so great at your fish market, it’s usually fine to get something else. Not all fish are similar enough to be swapped in and out of recipes, but you’ll find that many are surprisingly versatile. When I first set out to make this recipe, I had my heart set on trout. However, the trout my fish monger had were surprisingly small, so instead I went with arctic char. Arctic char is about halfway between trout and salmon in terms of flavor and fattiness… and salmon would have worked fine, too. When buying fresh fish, it should be glistening (not dull) the color should be fairly bright, and there should be little to no smell. If you aren’t sure, ask your fish monger what’s freshest, or tell them about your recipe and ask what they would recommend. In my experience, these folks are super knowledgeable and always helpful.
- Depending on the kind of fish you buy, it may contain teeny tiny pin-bones. You can pick these out yourself with fish tweezers, but I prefer to ask my fish monger to remove them for me. You can also ask them to remove the skin if you’d like. I prefer to keep the skin on as it has all kinds of good fats attached to it, and keeps the fish moist while cooking. At the end of the meal, any skin I don’t eat becomes a healthy and very special treat for my pup. (He is so spoiled, you have no idea.)
- Keep an eye on the cook time. Fish is different from other kinds of protein — it’s more delicate, and often less forgiving of over or under cooking. It also varies tremendously from fish to fish and fillet to fillet in terms of thickness, length, etc.. All things which can have a big affect on cook time. Because of this, you’ll find that cooking fish requires a bit of intuition. My fillet was about 1/2 inch thick (at its thickest part) and around 13 inches long. If yours is bigger or smaller, or if you’re using a different variety all together, it will need a bit more or less time to cook. Be attentive and check the fish often. When the meat flakes easily with a fork, it’s done.
The more often you cook fish, the more intuitive and easy it becomes. With a little practice, you’ll be cookin’ up all kinds of seafood in no time.
In this recipe, I wanted to keep things simple and fresh. The fish is lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, so you can taste the delicate meat and the subtle hint of citrus.
The lemon and blood orange slices in this recipe can actually be eaten (once baked, the rind loses some of its bitterness) or you can poke into them with the tines of your fork to release more of their flavor into the fish, then set them aside. I prefer method number one, while my husband goes for method number two.
Once you become confident with this recipe, you can easily take it apart and put it back together again in all kinds of new ways. Swap the asparagus for green beans, or other quick-cooking veggies (broccoli cut into small florets would work, too). Change out the arctic char for salmon or trout, or get really crazy and swap it for some white fish (which will cook a bit quicker, so look out for that). Leave off the citrus and brush on some mustard, or some of this miso glaze, or a small spoonful of marmalade, or sprinkle it with a variety of fresh chopped herbs.
I don’t want to say the possibilities are endless, but…
The possibilities are endless.
- 1 large fillet of arctic char (you can also use other fish like trout or salmon. Look for the freshest fish you can find, and if the fillets are small, use two. My fillet was approx. ½ inch thick x 13 inches long.)
- 1 lb. asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
- 2-3 TBSP olive oil
- 1 meyer lemon, cut into thin slices
- 1 blood orange, cut into thin slices
- a few sprigs fresh thyme, or ½-1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F., and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
- Spread the asparagus on the baking sheet, drizzle with 1-2 TBSP olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, and toss around the pan to coat evenly. Spread the asparagus into an even layer around the edges of the pan, and lay the fish in the middle, skin-side down.
- Drizzle the fish with the remaining TBSP olive oil, and season evenly with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of citrus on top of the fish, alternating lemon and blood orange slices. scatter the fresh thyme on top.
- Roast on the middle rack for about 12-15 minutes. Your time will vary depending on how thick your fillet is, and how well done you like your asparagus. I like mine crisp-tender, and using a fillet about ½ inch thick works perfectly for this. To test the fish, prod it gently with a fork in the thickest part. If it flakes and is opaque all the way through, it's done. If necessary, you can remove the fish to a serving patter and return the asparagus to the oven for another minute or two -- or vice versa, if the asparagus is done before the fish. They should be done at about the same time, but again, it will vary depending on the size of your fillet.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. You can eat this as-is, or serve it over a salad (I like arugula here, with it's mild peppery flavor) or with a side of rice or other grain for a more filling meal.
I like how colorful the combination of meyer lemons and blood orange are, but you can certainly use all of one instead of both. And of course, regular lemons work fine, too.
Asparagus is one of the first veggies I crave when spring hits, but if you're not a fan you can swap them here for green beans. They cook in about the same amount of time.
If you'd like to double this recipe to serve more people, I recommend putting all of the veggies on one tray, and all of the fish on another (lay the fillets side-by-side, thick end of one next to the thin end of the other). This way if the veggies are done before the fish, or vice versa, it's easy to remove one and keep cooking the other.
This recipe was adapted / inspired by this blood orange and thyme trout my friend Sue made over at her blog The View From The Great Island. If you want more healthy, easy, flavorful recipes, definitely check her out!