We came back from holiday, just in time to receive another shipment of freshly caught Copper River Salmon. This time it was a gorgeous sockeye. It really is a beautiful thing, to tear away the packaging, take a breath, and have the fresh-caught smell of the sea completely engulf you. I have been thinking about this shipment since the last one, and could not wait to work on this recipe for a Copper River Salmon Salad with Creamy Asian Avocado Dressing.
Copper River sockeye are the most abundant species that is harvested from the Copper River, and the season lasts for three months. That is right, premium quality protein from May to August. Like the king, sockeye is a lean protein and is high in omega 3s; the same distinctive deep red color, firm texture and mouth-watering flavor as the king salmon. Sockeyes are small, they average between 4 – 10 pounds, and don’t grow more than 3 feet long. Low in calories but high in protein, makes for a healthy addition to one’s diet.
Copper River salmon is about as sustainable as you can get. Since the late 1950s, Alaska has been protecting its natural resources, and its constitution mandates that the fish be utilized, developed, and maintained. Their fisheries are closely monitored, and Alaska’s successful management practices are a model of sustainability that the rest of us should be following.
One of the things that I find romantic is that the Copper River is home to generations of fishing families; not only is the season their source of income but it is a passion, a way of life. The crews are small, they work together. The fish are caught, brought onboard individually, handled, bled and chilled immediately; which guarantees a premium product for us, the consumer.
Sockeye is wonderful cooked on the grill, roasted in the oven, or even poached. I opted to lightly poach some of the sockeyes in white wine and to use it in an Asian inspired salad. I used mild butter lettuce, as I did not want bitter greens to overpower the salmon. The addition of fresh cilantro gave the greens a refreshing surprise. I made a dressing of fresh lime juice, toasted sesame, ginger, yuzu kosho, and avocado. The avocado gave the dressing a nice creamy texture. Fresh sugar snap peas and crispy wontons brought the dish together as a memorable main entree.
Will you be preparing some Copper River sockeye salmon this summer? What is your favorite way of doing so?
If you live outside of the Bay Area you will want to follow one of the four writers who are closest to you to see where you can find the freshest Copper River Salmon. In the meantime, keep checking back, we have dedicated a page to the Copper River Salmon, and will be updating as we find it in the Bay Area. Do you live in the area? You may have seen it somewhere we missed; please reach out, and I will add it to our update.
Boston Area: Tiny Urban Kitchen
New York: The Manhattan [Food] Project
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Copper River Salmon Salad with Creamy Asian Avocado Dressing
* serves 4
1 pound copper river sockeye salmon
2 cups of water
1 cup white wine
sprinkle of salt
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
7 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon yuzu kosho
1 head butter lettuce, washed, torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup cilantro, torn into pieces
3 green onions, sliced thinly
sugar snap peas, a handful
8 wonton skins, cut into thin strips
In a large saucepan (big enough to fit your piece of fish), add the water and wine; bring to a simmer. Add the fish, cover with a lid, and gently poach for 8 minutes.
In another small saucepan, bring some water to boil. Once it is boiling, add the sugar snap peas, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Run under cold water, drain, and lay on a paper towel to remove moisture.
Remove the fish from the heat, set aside to cool.
In a blender, add the lime juice, sesame oil, canola oil, ginger, and yuzu kosho; blend for 1 minute. Add 1/2 avocado, blend until creamy, and season with salt, to taste; set aside.
Cut the remainder of the avocado into medium-sized pieces.
Fill a large frying pan with the grapeseed oil; heat over medium heat, until it is hot enough to lightly crisp a wonton. Cook all the wonton strips until golden brown.
In a large salad bowl, add the butter lettuce, cilantro, and green onions; lightly toss with 1/2 of the dressing.
Using your fingers, flake the salmon, into medium-sized pieces. Add the salmon, along with the avocado and sugar snap peas to the bowl of lettuce.
Sprinkle the crispy wontons over the top.
Serve the remainder of the dressing on the side.