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Copper River King

It’s the time of year that many of us have been waiting for……  The Copper River fishing season is open!  Last week the first fish were flown in and met with pomp and circumstance at the airport.  Since then they have been making their way to local fish markets and restaurants. 
Each year the price per pound gets a little bit higher. There are some that say the price isn’t worth what you get.  That could be true, but I just have to have some!  The amazing silken quality of this oily (in a good way) fish is so amazing.  The King are my favorites but I’ll also indulge in Sockeye, too, as it is priced a bit better. 
As with other fish, I really like to make sure the flavor of the fish comes through and so I don’t do a whole lot to it before grilling it (my favorite way to cook these babies). 
I really like a Blueberry and Basil marinade that I first created several years ago.  Although it is dark colored due to the blueberries, it is very light in taste.  Also, I don’t use the marinade as a soaking solution but just lightly baste it on the fish while it’s cooking.  Then I usually serve a little of it on the side for those who want a bit more. 
The other thing I like about this recipe is that at this time of year I’m trying to clear my freezer from any leftover fruit from last year – need to make way for this year’s crops!  So this is a perfect way to use up any blueberries you have hanging around. 
I’m afraid this is one of those recipes that I measure by eye and taste – but as I’ve mentioned before you want to come up with something you like so this is a good place to start.  This recipe makes enough for 1 – 2 pounds of salmon.
Blueberry and Basil Marinade or Sauce
    • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup diced onion
    • 2 – 3 tsp brown sugar
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Fresh lemon juice
    • Fresh basil

Put the blueberries, garlic and onion in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until berries have popped and onions are getting tender.  Add the sugar to taste.  Add balsamic and lemon juice until the sauce is thin but not runny.  Check the taste again to see if you need a bit more sugar but the sauce should be a bit tart – more on the balsamic side than on the sweet side. 

You can either tear up the basil and mix it into the sauce at this point or, what I prefer to do, is tear the basil into medium sized pieces and place it on top of the salmon – it should sort of stick to the surface.  Then paint the salmon with the sauce.

Place on a hot grill over medium high heat.  The thickness of the salmon and the size of the pieces will determine your cooking time.  As soon as you see the "white stuff" (it’s actually called albumin protein*) coming to the top surface remove the fish from the heat.   It should still look a little uncooked in the center if you cut it open immediately.

* Many years ago at a cooking class I took from Tom Douglas he taught this little trick for knowing when the salmon is done.  I’ve seen lots of people (on the Internet) looking for ways to keep the protein from forming but as long as you take the salmon off right away, it doesn’t look bad and it’s a perfect way to tell when it’s done!      



You can serve whatever your heart desires with the fish – a perfect vegetable at this time of year is asparagus.  If you are looking for a good wine, one of my favorite combinations is a big Pinot Noir.  There something about the Pinot/Salmon combination that I think is perfect.  And it’s especially good with this blueberry sauce as Pinot often has a strong berry or cherry flavor.   There are lots of good options but I opened a bottle of Domaine Serene for my dinner. It’s a bit on the spendy side but when you are paying $28/pound for the fish, who’s really counting?    


I had some salmon leftover and the following day I used it to make a scrumptious version of a fish taco.  I grilled some Walla Walla Sweet onions (tossing them with a little olive oil and fresh thyme).  Once they were caramelized I warmed the fish just a little.  Then I heated a flour tortilla on the grill, smeared a little of the leftover blueberry sauce on it, added the onions and fish and wrapped it up for a quick lunch.  If I’d had some cabbage on hand I might have shredded a bit of that to include, too!  

If you want to check out this salmon, don’t dally!  Copper River season only lasts a few weeks with the King season shutting down earlier than the Sockeye.   




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