Ishavsrøye, or Arctic Char with Cabbage and Potatoes
Sometimes the best meals are those that are the simplest and come together quickly. Even if you can’t pronounce them.
My family recently visited Bergen, Norway and ate at a small restaurant called Bryggeloftet & Stuene. It was open late, we were hungry, and we weren’t expecting much, figuring it would be a tourist trap. But it was the best meal of the whole trip. And especially the ishavsrøye.
Ishavsrøye, or Arctic char, is an oily pink fleshed native to cold Northern waters. Oily fish are great sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids; many of us can use more of these in our diets. The taste of this fish is mild and sweet, the texture light and flakey.
In the US, Arctic char is often found farmed. While I highly recommend wild caught fish in general, in this one instance I make an exception provided the farmed char is grown in Iceland, where people are concerned with health and the environment. Such fish can be found at Whole Foods: The farmed Arctic char that they carry is from the hatcheries and farms run by Samherji, a fishing corporation. While Samherji states on their website that they do vaccine their fish , they do not use antibiotics or pesticides, they do not harm animals that prey on the fish, they do not use food coloring in their feed, and they raise their fish in land-based tanks that use natural spring water . You can read more about their practices here and decide for yourself if you are comfortable with Icelandic farmed Arctic char being a very occasional treat.
You can substitute wild salmon for Arctic char, however, wild salmon has a much stronger flavor.
Regardless of the fish you choose, just make sure it’s still on the skin.
But back to the meal. The preparation of the char left the fish delicate and flaky, but filling. The capers added a brininess not characteristic of char, while the caramelized cabbage and carrots and copious quantities of butter added richness and layers of subtly sweet tones in each bite.
I’ve recreated the dish, deviating with only a few minor additions to what I tasted originally: I added sliced onions, increased the amount of capers, mixed olive oil with the butter, and shredded the carrots instead of julienned to save a ton of time. For the potatoes, I repurposed some that I had boiled earlier in the week by simply slicing and frying them with the fish. If you only have raw potatoes, your possibilities are endless: slice and fry, boil and salt, chop and roast with oil and garlic, grate for pancakes, etc.
If you are following a paleo diet, simply swap out the butter for olive oil. Ghee can also be used instead of butter and olive oil, however, part of the beautiful flavor in this dish comes from browned butter, which is a simple way to say, “caramelize those milk sugars.” This has been strained out of ghee.
I hope your family enjoys the ishavsrøye with cabbage and potatoes as much as mine did!!
Ishavsrøye, or Artic Char with Cabbage and Potatoes
Yield: 2 servings