Salmon is the little black dress of the fin fish world—beautiful, flavorful, and above all, versatile. It can be baked, poached, sautéed, and of course, grilled or smoked. No wonder it’s a global (and Raichlen!) favorite.
But its appeal doesn’t stop there. Salmon’s payload of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids makes it one of the healthiest seafood choices for consumers.
For American salmon lovers, the coming weeks on the calendar are important: Soon, the Copper River salmon season will begin. Around mid-May, salmon hatched on this magnificent river, the tenth largest in the U.S., start heading to their birthplace to spawn. It’s an arduous upriver journey of some 300 miles through glacier-fed waters. The sheer athleticism required to swim uphill—the altitude rises about 12 feet every mile—against a strong current is remarkable, and helps develop supernaturally orange flesh and those aforementioned Omega-3s. No wonder Copper River salmon are known as the “Cadillac” of the species.
Copper River king salmon (also known as Chinook) are the first of the Prince William Sound salmon population to make the trip. Strict quotas are established by the State of Alaska’s Game and Fisheries Department, meaning a limited quantity of this prized seafood will be available to connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, high-profile restaurants are often first in line to receive the harvest, so it’s important to contact your local fish monger now and make him or her aware of your interest. The season for fresh Copper River king salmon only lasts a few weeks.
In the meantime, here are five of our favorite salmon preparations. All, of course, can be made with other species of salmon, including coho or Chile’s Patagonian Verlasso, the first ocean-farmed salmon to be recognized as a “good alternative” to wild-caught salmon by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.