What is the best Salmon in the world? The first Alaskan wild salmon to hit the market in significant amounts is the famed Copper River Salmon. Both Copper River king salmon and sockeye salmon show up in restaurants, grocery stores, and various other outlets to the delight of those who know. Even if you don’t know much about salmon quality I believe if you were served Cook Inlet sockeye salmon alongside Copper River sockeye you would be able to tell the difference. The Copper River variety is more flavorful and the texture is very soft and tender without being mushy.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love all Alaskan sockeye whether it comes from Ketchikan, Dillingham, Kenai, or Cordova, but this first salmon of the year is worth a celebration. Other than its superior flavor profile Copper River salmon hits the market first adding to its popularity. It is so popular some of it is airlifted by helicopter to speed up its travel from fishing boat to high end restaurant serving it in Seattle, Chicago and other US cities.
I was so fortunate to live in Cordova, Alaska and Kenai, Alaska to see the difference from the perspective of a local. Both areas rejoice when the salmon return and the economies as well as spirits are lifted with the arrival of this gift from nature. Much has been said about the sustainability of the salmon in Alaska, but I’ll add my two cents worth. I have seen lean and fat years in my four plus decades of living in and visiting the Great Land, and even though my favorite salmon, the Kenai King salmon is in danger, most of Alaska’s salmon are doing just fine.
So don’t fret about the wild salmon in the stores and restaurants being in danger. Instead choose wild salmon over farmed whenever you can as farmed salmon endanger wild salmon when they escape and interbreed with wild stocks. They are also more susceptible to disease than the wild ones. How do I know so much about salmon you might ask? I cooked for the salmon processing family and crew of Keener Packing in Kenai, Alaska before it went bankrupt. And in my first marriage I married into a fishing family in Cordova, Alaska where most of the Copper River commercial fishermen and women live. I also return to Alaska almost every summer to visit friends and catch enough salmon to last the year.
My first purchase of fresh Copper River sockeye this season was yesterday at Costco. The price was a reasonable $14.99 per pound. The taste was incredible. I grilled it two ways on my Smokey Joe Weber. I seasoned half with just salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil. The other half I seasoned with Urban Accents Kodiak Salmon Rub seasoning. Both came out great but my favorite was the Kodiak rub seasoned salmon. It has several ingredients that match the salmon well, especially cumin. Never in all my years did I use cumin in salmon cookery unless I was using a blackening spice that had a bit of it in the mix. It was in the Galapagos Islands last year where I had tuna grilled with cumin, olive oil and lemon that knocked my socks off and got me started using cumin with grilled and baked fish.
So get some of this awesome tasting salmon and cook it up however you like. As long as you don’t overcook it it’s hard to goof it up. If you need a recipe I’ve included my simple preparation from last night. Please leave comments and share this with friends and family.
I have a giveaway box of OXO kitchen tools and other goodies for one lucky winner that will be drawn next week. Just leave a comment on my Facebook page mentioning salmon, or here on my blog to be entered.
Grilled Copper River Sockeye Salmon
1 filet of salmon, (about 2 pounds)
2 teaspoons Urban Accents Kodiak Rub and seasoning blend
2 teaspoon olive oil
Rinse salmon and pat dry with paper towels.
Cut into two or three pieces leaving skin on.
Season flesh side of salmon with rub and oil, and let sit for ten minutes. Save a little of the oil to rub the skin with.
Grill skin side down for about five minutes with grill lid closed.
Flip salmon and cook on other side for three or four minutes. Sprinkle a bit of salt if desired, or do it at the table after tasting it first.
At this point the skin comes off very easy by sliding a spatula between the skin and flesh. You can discard it or do what I do and cook it for a minute or two longer and serve alongside the salmon. It’s a tad fishy but crunchy and yummy with a bit of salt and pepper added.
Your grill might be hotter or cooler than mine so the cooking time is just an estimate.
Enjoy with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or a good Pinot Gris from Oregon.