If you are anywhere in the Pacific Northwest area right now, stop everything and head to your nearest fish monger because I've got tonight's dinner menu planned for you. Copper River Sockeye is in season for just a few weeks a year and if you haven't tried it before, you'll thank me. And if you have, then you know what I'm talking about and you've already had some. It's the best fish in the world. Full stop.
No, I am not getting paid by the salmon people to write this blog. It really is that good. The Copper River is a big, raging body of water in Alaska with a unique eco system and sockeye there have evolved to have a high oil content (in a good way, those are heart and skin healthy Omega 3 oils.) The fish tastes richer and fuller then sockeye from other areas, let alone other species of salmon. (Sockeye is to chocolate as chum is to vanilla.) This sockeye will melt in your mouth and leave you begging for more.
Alas, you will pay more for Copper River sockeye – about $2 a pound extra depending on where you shop. And in restaurants you’ll pay even more. But having made this fish many times in more and less complex ways I firmly believe the best way to cook anything that’s in season – whatever it is – is to do to it as little as possible. When this is your starting point It doesn’t take much to create an extraordinary meal at home.
Everything on this menu is in season right now and only for a short time. None of the “recipes” are particularly unique and they’re all dead simple. And that’s the whole point. I guarantee you the following meal will delight even your harshest critics (but why are you inviting them over in the first place?).
Sauteed Spot Prawns. They must be spot prawns … no other will do. Count on 3 or 4 prawns per person. Heat a knob of butter and a clove of chopped garlic over medium heat. A minute and a half is all they need. Do not over cook! (They’re done the moment they start to curl) Squeeze lemon and sprinkle sea salt over top and serve immediately. Creamy and delicious!
Copper River Sockeye. You need 6 – 8 oz per person (remember this is a rich fish). I buy a filet and then cut into smaller pieces for easy marinating and even cooking. Marinate in olive oil, lemon and Dijon mustard for a few hours, then grill on medium low.
Asparagus. Roughly peel each stalk, toss in olive oil and salt and grill until slightly charred. Divine.
New potatoes. Preheat oven to 375. Pour 1/4 inch olive oil into a baking pan and place in oven to heat up. Parboil potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes. Using a clean tea towel, smash each potato until slightly flattened and skin is broken. Add potatoes to hot oil and coat, then sprinkle with sea salt. Return to oven for 30 minutes. Turn oven up to broil for the last 5 – 10 minutes to brown the tops. Sprinkle chopped chives and more salt over top before serving.
Strawberries and balsamic vinegar. This is the time of year to buy strawberries too. Take about 4 cups of thickly sliced strawberries and stir in 2.5 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and a few twists of freshly cracked pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream. Grating a little lemon zest over top is a nice addition.
And if this is what you’re serving, can I come for dinner??