There are things worth walking miles for through heat and gnats and the cotton that floats through the air in June from the massive cottonwood trees: Minnesota's small, impossibly-red and summer-sweet strawberries come to mind. Or a double-cream ice cream that Wisconsin produces which really tastes childhood-memory-best when the day is 90 degrees. And then there's Copper River salmon.
It has a lacy-delicate flavor for salmon. If the salmon was enchanted, it would be a water sprite - of the water, the air, the earth and the sky. And if these determined gilled-beings can make their way 300 miles up the Copper River - uphill to the tune of about 1,000 feet - I can walk a few measly miles in the heat and pick them up on my journey home. My local grocer has the fish flown in fresh 5-6 days a week and when I buy the Copper River Salmon - I cook them the same day.
I've tried Molly Wizenberg's Copper River salmon with creme fraiche and grilled them in foil with some white wine and herbs and a splash of lemon. And the salmon remained the star and we ate those dishes like hearty Alaskans. But this time I used Giuliano Hazan's simple recipe of dressing the salmon with Italian parsley, thyme. lemon juice, olive oil and breadcrumbs. Let's face it, the man has a pretty good pedigree when it comes to Italian cooking. And it's easy. And if you know anything about me - I am all about ease. The combination of thyme and parsley works - even though thyme is shy and parsley - is not. And there's just enough crunch from the Panko to show off the strengths of this salmon.
2 pounds Copper River Salmon fillets
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
a pinch of salt
8 sprigs of Italian parsley (I used more)
4 sprigs of thyme (I used more; yes, I'm an herb-nerd)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (I used 4-5 tablespoons of Panko)
- Prepare grill.
- Put lemon juice and salt in a small bowl and stir until the salt dissolves.
- Chop the herbs and have at least 2 tablespoons of the parsley and 2 teaspoons of the thyme. (Yes, I used more.)
- Add the herbs to the small bowl and then whisk in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil until emulsified.
- Season the salmon with a little salt and pepper (if the fillets are skinny really skimp on the salt or don't use it).
- Coat the fish with the breadcrumbs or Panko.
- Drizzle remaining tablespoon over the salmon and place on the grill (skin side down).
- Grill for about 5-6 minutes per inch of salmon - turning the salmon halfway through the brief cooking time. (We have a fish basket that makes this a cinch.)
- Transfer to serving platter, pour herb sauce over it and serve.
- And savor.
The dining room was silent. And my family (arguably one of the more conversational families on earth) remained quiet as the sounds of fork to plate and swallowing filled the room. I always hope a recipe I post entices you. And once in a while, I will be very pushy and bossy with advice to try this. And so the director in me emerges and if you like salmon, make this, grill this, serve this, eat this... now. Because after June, the Copper River salmon goes away. It's a brass ring - grab it. Life doesn't had out brass rings regularly.