Heralded by chefs and seafood fans alike, Copper River salmon is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most-anticipated seasonal delicacies. Its rich unctuous texture, distinctive flavor, and deep color hit all the culinary sweet spots. To begin their 300-mile journey to spawn upriver in central Alaska, the salmon spend two years stocking up on fuel — in this case, the omega-3 fatty acids that are the main component in their buttery texture.
To protect this treasured resource, many measures have been instituted to ensure sustainability in the Copper River fishing industry and allow large numbers of fish to continue upstream. Most salmon-fishing openings are about 12-24 hours, only twice per week. The fresh catch is immediately flown to Seattle and is on restaurant plates within a matter of hours.
Each year, local chefs greet the first Copper River Red King Salmon — usually a gigantic 50-ish-pound fish — at the Alaska Airlines Air Cargo Terminal, signaling the official beginning of the season, which is kicked off with the Copper Chef Competition. In 2017, Chef John Howie hosted the cook-off.
“[Copper River Salmon] is the gold standard for salmon,” said Howie.
Anthony’s restaurants also work directly with fishermen in the Copper River Delta, cultivating a strong commitment to quality. They want to know exactly when the fishing openings are so they can plan menus accordingly.
“Among our core beliefs is to help promote as well as protect the sustainability of the seafood and fishing industry for future generations,” said Anthony’s communication manager Annie Sullivan.
Duke Moscrip, founder of Duke’s Seafood & Chowder, which opened its newest location at Lincoln South in Bellevue, serves Copper River Salmon almost exclusively — year-round. After years of research into how to serve the freshest fish possible, Moscrip developed a method for vacuum-sealing and freezing the salmon -40 degrees within 48 hours of being caught, preserving it in the freshest state possible. In his experience, this method produces better results than relying on non-Copper River Salmon “fresh” catch that may be 14-28 days old by the time it is served.
“Seafood is one of nature’s wonders. With the diminishing of our wild salmon stock, fresh wild salmon should be treasured,” said Moscrip, whose restaurants have earned the top rating from Smart Catch (smartcatch.fish), an organization that recognizes restaurants working toward ensuring sustainable seafood practices.
Though King salmon get much of the glory, the Copper River Sockeyes are the most abundant and known for their deep red color. Chef Howie notes that many people prefer the Sockeye due to its stronger flavor.
Wild Copper River Salmon with Rhubarb Coulis
Courtesy of Anthony’s
Cut 2 pounds of Copper River filet into 4-6 serving sizes. Moisten with olive oil and season with coco ginger salt (recipe below). Grill mark salmon on a barbecue or grill pan, then place the pieces on an alder plank in a separate pan and bake in a 400 degree oven until just done. Remove salmon from oven. The internal temperature should be 130-140 degrees. To serve, top with Rhubarb Coulis (recipe below) and serve with your favorite season veggies!
1/2 pound rhubarb, rough cut
1 1/2 cups Northwest merlot
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and trim rhubarb. Rough cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place in heavy bottom saucepan, with wine, sugar, and butter. Reduce to 2 cups and purée with hand blender or mixer until smooth. Keep refrigerated up to 3-4 days covered. If sauce appears too thick the second day, it may be thinned slightly with water.
1/4 cup slivered rhubarb
2 tablespoons rhubarb cherry coulis
1 tablespoons sugar
Mix and chill and bring to room temperature before serving.
Beurre Blanc Sauce (optional, but delicious)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup Chablis cooking wine
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/2 pound unsalted butter
*1/2 cup Apple Cider (reduced in seperate pan first down to to 3 tablespoons)
Combine shallots, bay leaf, lemon juice, and wine in small saucepan and reduce by 50 percent. Strain. Return liquid to saucepan and add cream. Cook for 1 minute. Working on and off of the heat, whisk in unsalted butter in small pieces to form emulsion. *Add apple reduction. Brighten with lemon juice if needed and add salt to taste.
Ladle Rhubarb Coulis onto plate. Plate salmon and drizzle with browned butter. Mound small amount of Rhubarb Relish next to salmon. If using beurre blanc, drizzle over top of salmon, pool on side, and dot with coulis.
Tip: Make the rhubarb coulis and relish up to a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
This recipe has been adapted by Anthony’s for home cooking.