We were contacted by the Copper River Salmon Board last month about becoming partners during the summer months when Copper River Salmon is abundant. We were intrigued, but at first felt we should decline. Why you are probably asking? Mainly because we had given up buying salmon in our local market, because of the quality that was being sold as well we were uncomfortable with our fish industry being on the up-and-up. We have missed eating salmon, so the timing was right. After a couple of emails back-and-forth, and some research on the Copper River, we said yes. After all, deep down in our bellies, we were more than honored to be one of the five that was chosen as part of the Copper River Fresh Catch Crew. To celebrate we grilled up this recipe for Grilled Copper River Salmon with Dill Pesto.
Let me tell you a bit about Copper River Salmon before sharing with you about what you can expect from us over the next few months. Copper River Salmon is wild and sustainably harvested, like all Alaska salmon, but the season is short, and the availability depends on Mother Nature. What makes this salmon so special? Well, mainly the Copper River. Nestled in a rugged, and wild eco-system in Alaska lies the Copper River. It is icy cold, pristine, and as pure as they come. These elements make the perfect recipe for producing amazing salmon. For hundreds of years, the river has produced an array of salmon, from King to Pink. Copper River salmon travel up to 300 miles from the ocean to their spawning ground the Copper River, a journey that is rugged and requires energy in the form of fat. Fat, in the form of high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, not only produces the amazing flavor of the Copper River salmon but also the great texture.
May brought us fresh Copper River King Salmon. We were so excited when a package arrived on our doorstep; so fresh, that we could still smell the cool, crisp waters glistening over the silvery skin. King is the largest of the salmon from the Copper River. They can weigh up to 50 pounds; can you imagine how exciting it would be to catch one of these beauties. We received a gorgeous fillet. It was a deep red color, had very firm flesh, and silvery skin. We had a feeling it was going to be special, so we keep it simple. We grilled the fish on cedar planks. We were taking a chance by using the cedar planks as we had never used them; but, once we got the grill going, and laid the planks that had been soaked in a mixture of white wine and water, on top of the hot grill, we knew we were in for a treat. A gentle smoke wrapped around the fish; it smelled of green grass and hot cedar. It was perfectly cooked, and the flesh peeled off of the skin in large pieces of fish. Alongside the grilled fillet we served a dill pesto, which really complimented the slightly smoky salmon. The King salmon had an amazing buttery flavor, and a firm texture, that flaked with every touch of the fork. We both loved that the salmon was not “fishy”, instead it had a really clean taste, and melted on our tongues with every bite.
What can you expect from us? Well, the Copper River summer salmon season runs May through September. The salmon that is available will be different throughout the season: End of May/beginning of June brought us King Salmon, Sockeye in June/July and Coho in August. Come September it is time for smoked salmon. Throughout the Copper River Salmon season we will be sharing delicious recipes that we have developed using seasonal Copper River Salmon. As well we will be sharing with you where you can find this amazing fish in our area.
If you live outside of the Bay Area you will want to follow one of the four writers who is closest to you to see where you can find the freshest Copper River Salmon.
Boston Area: Tiny Urban Kitchen
New York: The Manhattan [Food] Project
Do you have a favorite way to prepare fresh salmon? Please share with us, and we may feature your recipe on a future Copper Rive Salmon post.
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Grilled Copper River Salmon with Dill Pesto
1 pound fresh Copper River Salmon Filet
1 cup fresh dill
3/4 cup Italian parsley
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 small shallot
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon dijon
1/2 lemon juice and zest
1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
In a food processor add everything except the salmon and the olive oil; process until a smooth paste is formed.
With the food processor running, add the olive oil. DO NOT ADD THE SALMON.
Keep running until mixed well; about 2 minutes.
Preheat your grill to 450. Make the sure the grates are clean.
Lightly brush the salmon filet on both sides with olive oil.
Place the salmon onto the grill with the flesh side facing down.
Close the lid and let the salmon cook for about 5 – 8 minutes. (the times depend on the thickeness of the salmon)
Check to see if the salmon is sticking to the grate. If it is sticking then let it cook a little longer. It is ready to flip once the flesh eases up on its own.
Flip the salmon and cook the other side for another 5 – 8 minutes.
When the salmon is done the flesh will flake off and you will be able to lift it from the grates easily.
Place onto a serving platter and serve the pesto on the side.