Thursday, June 9, 2011

Her Favorite Color is Copper

It's that most wonderful time of the year . . . .  Copper River salmon season.

In the state of Alaska, the Copper River is a pristine glacier-fed river that flows almost 300 miles to empty into Prince William Sound in the town of Cordova.  The salmon that make their way to spawn there are strong fish that must store extra fat and oils in order to survive the long trip in the very swift waters of the Copper River, making this salmon among the richest, tastiest fish in the world.  Fortunately, fatty Copper River salmon is very good for you, loaded with Omega-3 oils.

About 90% of the salmon caught on the Copper River is Sockeye, with some King and Coho.  Most of the Kings are caught from the open of the season in mid-May until mid-June; the Sockeye will run from open until late July; and the Cohos will continue to run until September.  Commercial fishing on the Copper River is highly regulated in order to sustain the population.  The state of Alaska allows fishing only twice per week during the season, on Mondays and Thursdays, and then only during certain hours of the day.  A sonar count of upriver salmon and catch reports from the previous week are used to determine exactly when fishing may occur.

Fresh wild caught Copper River salmon has bright red flesh and a rich, almost nutty flavor.  Find it, buy it, cook it, eat it.  You won't regret it.

Cedar Plank Maple Salmon
Fresh Copper River salmon is so good all it really needs is some salt, pepper and lemon.  Grill it up and you're good to go. 

But if you're looking for something a little more involved, Brad threw together this quick maple glaze and grilled our salmon on a cedar plank.  With some grilled fresh asparagus spears on the side it was a perfect late spring dinner.

We enjoyed another fabulous Rose' with the salmon, a Vina Tondonia Rose' Grand Reserva by R. Lopez de Heredia from the Rioja region in Spain.

Lopez wines are special to me.  The first time Brad came to dinner at my house he brought a bottle of Lopez Tondonia Red Reserva.  I loved hearing him talk about the winery, and how the wines there are still made in accordance with very traditional methods and aged until they are ready to drink.  It was clear this wine was dear to him, and him bringing it to me conveyed that I was, too.  I was already fairly smitten with Brad at this point, but the Lopez probably put him over the top. 

Several months later my friend Alane and I traveled to Spain and France to bike the Pyrenees.  After cycling for a week we hopped a train from Barcelona to Rioja. 

OK, fine, it took us a train, a long walk in the rain, and a very long taxi ride to get there because we mistakenly disembarked one stop too soon, in Logrono, instead of continuing on to Haro.  Thankfully I had a good supply of M&Ms left over from our cycling trip to get me through the arduous journey.  If you ever take the train to Rioja, remember us and just stay on the train until you reach Haro.  Because Logrono is well worth missing.

Once we made it to Haro we toured the Lopez winery.  La Rioja is a beautiful place; I look forward to returning with Brad one day very soon.

Cedar Plank Maple Salmon
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (the REAL stuff, please)
2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Fresh wild caught Copper River salmon fillet, approximately 1 pound
Cedar plank

Smokey the Bear says:  Soak cedar plank in water for a few hours before using it on the grill.

Place the salmon fillet skin-side down on the cedar plank and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix first four ingredients in a small bowl then spread on the top of the fillet.  Let rest while grill is heating. 

Place cedar plank on grill rack and cook until fish is done (about 15 minutes).

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