Recipe Demonstrated by Chefs Nathan Tate and Randall Copeland of Restaurant AVA
There's been much ado about Copper River Salmon lately. Its name is tossed out left and right, accompanied by buzzwords like "sustainable" and "seasonal", but what exactly is this trendy fish? What makes it different from its more common cousins?
For starters, Copper River refers not to a species of salmon, but to the mile-wide, rushing gauntlet that several wild species must brave to get to their spawning grounds. This urge to spawn kicks in every spring like clockwork (remember biology class?), and Alaska's Copper River is subsequently rushed by hoards of horny salmon, plump with rich stores of additional fat to sustain them through the arduous journey upstream. Of course, we're on to this love ritual, and skilled fishermen also flock to the river to catch their fill before the end of the season.
Thing is, though--and this is the key--the fishermen only get a green light after plenty of the lucky little bastards are allowed through to the orgy. Thus, Copper River salmon is not only wild, but sustainable (as well as extra-fatty and flavorful). Randall Copeland of Restaurant AVA knows that, and that's why he loves the Copper River Sockeye we'll be cooking today. If you can't make this dish with a high-quality, sustainable product, then he'd just prefer you didn't make it. But if you can, you'll have to print this and save it for next year...or practice on farm raised fish until you get it right.
Step One: For each serving, season each side of a 6 oz. filet of Copper River salmon with salt and pepper and rub lightly with olive oil.
Step Two: Place on a screaming hot grill. You'll know it's time to turn the filet when it releases easily from the grates; otherwise don't mess with it.
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Step Three: After the flip, Randall brushes his salmon with a simple mixture of two sticks of softened unsalted butter, the zest of one lemon and a tbsp. of Dijon mustard (makes enough for many filets). This step is optional, but it adds so much flavor, we highly recommend it.
Step Four: Another minute or so on the second side and your salmon is good to go. Serve atop last week's creamer peas or a simple green salad and bask in the glow of responsible eating.