The salmon are making their way back to us, but are thus far playing uncharacteristically hard to get. Low spring-time temperatures and lots of cloudy days have left the streams cooler than normal. Even though the highs this week have been well into the seventies, the inshore waters are still cold enough to keep the fish cruising offshore and waiting for things to warm up. The Copper River King fishery got underway last week – even if you don’t know fish you probably know about these. These marketing mystique built up around these king salmon has made them the hottest thing going in the spring fish markets, especially this year, as the runs are slow in returning and there aren’t many fish. You’ll likely pay over $45 a plate in a restaurant if you can even find it. Apparently the wholesale price in the lower 48 is over $35 per pound, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for profit for most commercial kitchens. Even in Anchorage, the reds and kings are going for $22 and $30 a pound, which is absolutely crazy. Any Alaskan caught paying that much for salmon up here ought to be flogged with a fly rod by Ted Stevens, while he’s wearing a dress and heels…but I digress. Copper River king salmon weigh up to about 40 pounds, and at least half of that weight will be meat once it’s cleaned and cut up into steaks and filets. Copper River kings are good, but I’m not so sure they are worth $600 a fish, locally. Yikes.
The fish in picture above is (ok, was) a wild red salmon and Alaskan. That’s about all I know about his provenance, upbringing, and family. That and the fact he was really good after a gentle marinade and saute.
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp Chinese five-spice
1 tsp chili flakes
juice of one lime
4 minced garlic cloves
1 hunk of ginger, grated
salt and fresh pepper to taste
I like to let the fish soak, skin side up, in the marinade for at least a couple of hours, and I like to reserve a little extra to drizzle over it once it’s cooked. If your filet has the skin on it, cook it skin side up to start with and then gently flip it over. Gives the top of it a nice crust.