A Low Effort, High Reward Citrus Sauce That'll Brighten Up Your Table (& Day)

January 12, 2017

If you’ve made any sort of New Year’s resolutions regarding food and health, chances are (unless you’re a vegetarian or hate seafood) fish has worked its way into your meal planning. Dinners that include lean protein, low-but-good fat, and minimal carbs may be a priority. Broiled Lemon-Honey Arctic Char with Citrus Sauce fits the bill.  

However, it’s for none of these reasons I suggest you make this. Why you should, coming from someone who could not tell you what it means to be Whole30 compliant (until just now, that is, when I Googled it) is this: First and foremost, it’s delicious. Second, it’s easy and demands about 15 minutes of active time. Third, it requires a handful of ingredients, most of which you have on hand—there’s a crate of orange sitting on your countertop, right? And last but not least, it tastes fresh and bright, just what we need the most this time of year.

A low effort, high reward sauce. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Here’s the gist: Broil fish and top with citrus sauce. The latter’s a long-time favorite of mine from Sally Schneider’s A New Way to Cook. Sally describes it as an “all-purpose sauce for fish.” It’s essentially segments of oranges and lemon, their juice, olive oil, and salt. It tastes like a not-so-sharp vinaigrette, and it’s not emulsified. I add minced chives for color. In the past I’ve served this sauce with whole grilled snapper or roasted striped bass fillets, but most recently I’ve been spooning it over broiled arctic char.

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Arctic char, if you are unfamiliar, looks similar to salmon in hue, but genetically is closer to trout. This is most apparent in artic char’s thickness, which rarely measures greater than three-quarters of an inch. It tastes mild but there’s an appealing richness in its texture.

Did you think this was salmon? Photo by Alexandra Stafford

When marinated briefly with a tablespoon each of citrus juice (stolen from the aforementioned sauce), olive oil, and honey, its flesh caramelizes under the broiler, creating visually appealing spots of charred char (ha!). Fillets will cook in no more than 5 minutes, at which point they’re ready to welcome a refreshing sauce swimming with citrus segments.

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Top Comment:
“You mentioned Whole30, but the honey in the sauce removes it from being Whole30 compliant. ”
— may1girl

Serve this broiled char with a salad and a big hunk of bread, and don’t think twice about any resolutions here—this sauce demands a crusty, toasty mop.  

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

A Few Notes:

  • I’ve been buying arctic char from my favorite local market that sells a farm-raised variety from Iceland. Farm-raised fish is not something I would have considered buying until very recently, when I began researching various fisheries and their practices. Both this char and char I’ve purchased from Whole Foods Market come from Iceland, whose operations, as far as I can tell from online sites and endorsements from sources like the Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, appear pristine and sustainable.

  • The sauce: It’s nice to use a mix of citrus. I love using Cara Cara oranges for their sweet flavor and pretty hue, but it’s nice to include more acidic varieties of citrus, too, such as other navel oranges, tangerines, or blood oranges.

  • Portion size: For years we’ve been told to count on 6-ounces to a half a pound of fish per person. But, I find myself asking recently, says who? And why should we listen? I’ve been reading Cal Peternell’s latest book, A Recipe for Cooking, and saw a recipe for “fish with crisp skin” that calls for 3-ounce portions. This is probably a better portion size, I thought. Three-ounce portions, of course, will make for a light meal, so be sure to have some vegetables, a grain salad, or a big loaf of bread on the side. 

Tell us: What's you're favorite low effort, high reward sauce (or dish or even fish)?

Alexandra Stafford is a writer, photographer, and occasional stationery designer based in upstate New York, where she is writing a cookbook. You can read more of her work on her blog.


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • may1girl
  • Smaug
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
  • Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
    Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


may1girl January 20, 2017
You mentioned Whole30, but the honey in the sauce removes it from being Whole30 compliant.
Author Comment
Alexandra S. January 20, 2017
Oh, I see how this might have been confusing — I actually wasn't trying to say that this recipe is Whole30 compliant. I more was trying to say that this time of year many people are focused on eating healthy foods and that this recipe definitely is that — lean protein, good fat, fresh fruit — but more importantly it is delicious. Hope that helps.
Smaug January 12, 2017
I assume it's meant to be tangerines, not nectarines.
Author Comment
Alexandra S. January 12, 2017
Oops, yes! My brain.
Riddley G. January 12, 2017
Thank you! This has been changed!