Copper River: Simple and Spectacular

Admittedly, this food/adventure blog has taken more of a fish-heavy turn than my pork-loving self would care to admit.

The reason? I started habitually going to Dorian’s Seafood Market,  a local fishmonger on the upper east side.  Over the past year or so, I’ve become friendly Dorian, the owner, and have used her oceanic comestibles in previous posts. She’s been in the business for 20+ years, and it shows when you stop by the market.

About a month ago, she laid a surprise on me and had me come pick up a few pounds of Copper River Salmon, which had just been flown in from Alaska.  What’s the big deal with Copper River Salmon?  Take it away, TinyUrbanKitchen!

“Copper river salmon come from the Copper River in Alaska, a 300 mile long 1-mile wide river in Alaska that is well known for its salmon runs. Each year 2 million salmon swim upstream (climbing over 3000 feet in elevation!) to their spawning grounds up north.

Exactly three weeks ago (on May 16, 2011 to be exact), the the 2011 Copper River Salmon season officially opened. The fisherman have been out in the city of Cordova (right near Prince William Sound on the map), catching salmon for this season’s harvest. Currently, they are catching Copper River King (or Chinook), which is seriously among the most prized salmon in the world. It’s known for its high oil content (yay omega-3!) and juicy rich flavor.”

Needless to say, I was pretty excited about cooking it up. It was also a perfect excuse to invite people over.

With 2 lbs of it to mess with, I decided to head straight for one of my favorite cookbooks: Simple to Spectacular, by Jean Georges Vongeritchen and Mark Bittman.

The book starts out with simple recipes that get more and more complex with each iteration.  I like to think that when you’re dealing with a prime-time ingredient, keeping it simple is a great way to showcase what the ingredient is all about.  They had a fantastic raw/ceviche preparation, as well as a Slow-cooked salmon recipe that looked like a perfect fit for the CRS (copper river salmon).

The raw preparation was a bit slap-dash, and paired with a simple salad.  I sliced the salmon thinly (Note: time to buy a Deba knife), and drizzled lemon juice, olive oil, capers, and chives over it.

I was a bit wary of the slow-cooked preparation for the salmon.  I typically like to use a hot hot oven for a short, short time.  Jean Georges’ recipe called for a 300 deg oven, cookin the salmon for 15-20 minutes.  As for seasonings, we kept it super simple:  Salt N’ Pepper.

I’m glad i followed the recipe: The CRS came out tender and perfectly cooked.  We paired it with another recipe in the book: Asparagus with a shitake-cream sauce (spiked with a bit of bourbon):

The salmon itself definitely has more personality when compared to the farmed stuff.  It’s a livelier flavor, and more complex.  I’d love to eat it year round.

We capped off the dinner with fresh berries that had a quick run-in with the oven and some sugar in order to release the juices, paired with creme fraiche.

Keep it simple stupid? More like Keep it simple and spectacular.

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