Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Copper River salmon arrive in Seattle

The first shipment of Alaska Copper River salmon arrived early this morning at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport here (just a couple of miles from the ChefTools HQ). I’m not a fish eater, so I don’t share in the fuss, but a lot of people are apparently really excited for these fat, oily sea dwellers. From the Seattle Times, via the Associated Press:

“Some Seattle chefs went to Sea-Tac Airport early Tuesday to greet the Alaska Airlines flight carrying the season's first shipment of the highly prized Copper River salmon from Alaska.

Cooking stations were set up next to a cargo facility for a cook-off by three chefs.

Alaska Airlines says there will be at least five more flights Tuesday from Cordova to Anchorage to Seattle and across the United States.

Last year Alaska flew nearly 700,000 pounds of Copper River salmon.”

The Times’ account is a little thin. So I did some research to find out why Copper River salmon are so prized. According to FishEx (a play on FedEx, I believe), a fish exporting company in Anchorage, Copper River salmon are special because of the extra-tough journey they make to spawn (a journey that is, um, interrupted by fishermen, and probably later by bears). The Copper River, which runs 300 miles from the Gulf of Alaska up to toward the Yukon, is extremely turbulent, so the fish have to be strong, thus the extra fat and oils they store. And fat and oils equal taste. Three kinds of salmon run this river: King, Sockeye and Silver. Fishermen wait at the Copper River delta to catch them. From FishEx:

"Hundreds of fishermen try their luck, flooding the local Alaskan fishing town of Cordova in a "salmon rush" frenzy. The 500 some gill-netters fish the 35-mile wide Copper River Delta(mouth) where depth and sandbars change yearly. The rushing waters of the Copper River empty steeply from the mountains above while breakers pound in from the ocean. Unpredictable weather and extreme tides make fishing the "Flats" of the Copper River a dangerous endeavor. However, the prized catch has come to be world-renowned."

Now you know where your Copper River salmon come from. Anyone have a suggestion, or a good recipe, on how to cook these guys? Grill, oven … raw?

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