Salmon from the Copper River in Southcentral Alaska hit Treasure Valley stores last week.
Salmon lovers every year anticipate a period of a few weeks in late spring when the fish, famed for its intense flavor and moist, buttery flesh, is harvested and shipped out to markets — most in the United States. Copper River salmon show up in Treasure Valley stores usually in late May or early June. The season here generally lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes we’ll get a late-season harvest in late July or early August.
Copper River salmon not cheap. Prices in the Treasure Valley come in somewhere north of $20 a pound, then taper off as the season progresses. (The first king salmon to hit the Seattle markets two weeks ago sold for $75 a pound. Most of the Copper River salmon harvested is sockeye and that is what makes its way to the Treasure Valley.)
Copper River salmon is so luscious that any preparation more elaborate than cooked with salt and pepper and/or a bit of lemon seems criminal.
But if you want to try something different, here is a Mexican-inspired treatment from food writer Bonnie S. Benwick at The Washington Post.
The recipe is included in Marcela Valladolid’s new cookbook, “Casa Marcela.” Valladolid’s face, which appears a celebrity-worthy number of times among recipe pages, will be familiar to viewers of “The Kitchen” on Food Network, where she is one of the co-hosts who always seem to be talking over one another at elevated volumes.
Benwick says the Tijuana-born chef reminds us that slightly undercooked salmon is what we’re after. To help you achieve that goal, start with a simply seasoned 2-pound, center-cut piece and allow it to spend no more than 20 minutes in a 375-degree oven. It’s a nice match with a bit of citrus, those slices of tomatillo and charred edges of red onion. You’ll see.
Roasted tomatillo salmon
4 servings; serve with white rice, or with roasted smashed fingerling potatoes; adapted from "Casa Marcela: Recipes and Stories From My Life in the Californias," by Marcela Valladolid (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).
1 1/2 pounds small tomatillos
1 large red onion
6 chive stems
2 stems cilantro
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
One 2-pound piece salmon fillet (skin on), about 1 inch thick at the center
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Discard the tomatillo husks. Rinse the fruit to get rid of sticky residue, then cut them into 1/2 inch thick rounds — trimming any stems as you go — and place them in a mixing bowl as you work. Cut the red onion into very thin slices (to yield about 2 cups), then add to the mixing bowl.
Cut the lemon into 6 equal slices, discarding any seeds. Chop the chive and cilantro leaves and tender stems.
Add the oil to the mixing bowl, then season with a good pinch each of the salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly and incorporate. Spread the mixture on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Lay the salmon over the tomatillo mixture, then season the fillet lightly with salt and pepper. Lay the lemon slices on the salmon, then scatter the chives and cilantro evenly over the top. Roast (middle rack) for 20 minutes, or until the interior temperature of the salmon registers 120 to 125 degrees.
Carefully transfer the salmon to a platter, discarding any skin that remains on the baking sheet. Increase the oven to 475 degrees and return the baking sheet with the tomatillo mixture to the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, or until the onions and tomatillos begin to crisp around the edges.
Serve the tomatillos and red onion slices alongside the salmon, warm.
Nutrition per serving: 450 calories, 47 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar