While king and sockeye salmon make their way up the glacier-fed Copper River in Alaska's icy spring, it's not until August that their prized coho cousins take on the brutal trek - and are harvested in the process. Coho salmon, also known as silver salmon for their steely silvery-blue sides, are coveted by chefs for their lean meat, lighter color, and melt-in-your-mouth texture, which is superior to farm-raised versions. The wild-caught Copper River cohos are also recommended by Seafoodwatch.org, a program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California California that assesses the environmental consequences of fisheries.
"People who know their fish want wild," says Jason Johnson, executive chef at Jumpin' Jay's Fish Cafe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who knows the Copper River firsthand from fishing trips. At the restaurant, he serves the coho "clean" - spiced only with salt and pepper - and usually grilled. Diners can choose a sauce, and Johnson recommends his red onion and raspberry marmalade or a mandarin orange, sesame, and wasabi option.
Jay Murray, executive chef at Grill 23 & Bar in Boston's Back Bay, confesses that he wasn't an he got his first taste of a coho pulled from the Copper River nearly 15 years ago; he was taken by its gentle flavor. This summer he is serving the pink fish pan-roasted with a sauce of handmilled tomato, tomato vinegar, and sweet pickled wasabi root.
At KO Prime, downtown in the Nine Zero Hotel, chef de cuisine Jamie Bissonnette marinates coho in Japanese white miso, sake, and a hint of honey, then broils the fish. He serves it with an edamame and tomato salad and, depending on the day, grilled watermelon or pickled watermelon rind.