So what's the big deal about this Copper River Salmon we've been hearing about? To get the scoop, the Hot Dish went to Oceanaire general manager Rick Kimmes to find out more about the bounty from this Alaska river and what makes it so delish. He not only educated us but graciously gave us some preparation tips and a bona fide Oceanaire recipe from the home office.
According to Kimmes, several varieties of wild salmon are taken from the Copper River, including kings, sockeyes, and cohos. The river is the 10th largest in the country and is famous for its huge haul at this time of year. The fish live in the ocean for up to seven years and are caught when they head into the river to breed. At that point, they've stored up plenty of fat to survive the long trip. That's why they are so prized, because as Kimmes succinctly put it, "Fat means flavor."
The Copper River salmon are known for being on the larger side, a little more flavorful and having a robust color. Oceanaire gets fresh product three or four times a week during the season, which runs from mid-May into August. For now, kings and sockeyes are in, and cohos will likely run in a few weeks. Kimmes sources his salmon from Coastal Seafoods and the Fish Guys and notes that the Copper River salmon are well managed and monitored by the Alaska authorities especially with regard to sustainability issues. In other words, they make sure the waters are not overfished.
When prepping these flavorful sea denizens, Kimmes recommends that we, "Keep it simple and lean toward medium rare." A little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a clean, well-seasoned grill can go a long way. At Oceanaire, executive chef Jake Uttich and company decide daily how they'll serve the salmon. Recent dishes have included a king with a soy caramel and a jalea mista salad (like a pico de gallo) and a duet that features side-by-side king and sockeye. Guests can also order the Copper River salmon basically grilled or broiled if they want an unadulterated taste experience.
Oceanaire shared this recipe for the summer-running Copper River salmon. It's best with the sockeye, which has a brilliant red flesh. And, we know you're dying to use your grill, so go ahead and fire it up!
Hot Chili Grilled Copper River Salmon with Fresh Summer Mango Salsa
Makes 4 servings
4-8 ounces fresh, Wild Alaskan Sockeye fillets, skin on
2 tablespoon Asian hot chili oil
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Preheat grill to medium high. Oil the grill.
2. Mix together all ingredients, except salmon, in a small bowl.
3. Reserve 1 tablespoon of this mixture to season the salsa.
4. Smear remaining mixture over the flesh side of the salmon and rub into the flesh. Let stand for 5 minutes.
5. Sear salmon, flesh-side down for 2 minutes. Turn over and cover grill. Cook another 6-8 minutes until fish just flakes when pressed with a fork.
6. Alternatively, place salmon on grill skin-side down and cook, covered, for 8-12 minutes until the skin is charred and crisp, making it easy to remove.
7. Serve warm topped with summer mango salad and the juices.
Fresh Summer Mango Salad
1 tomato seeded and diced
1 mango peeled and diced
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped Thai basil
1 tablespoon reserved chili oil mixture
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients and toss just before serving.