The stewards of some of the best salmon on the planet recently invited a California chef to participate in a four day “exchange program.” The fishermen of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association recently hosted Chad Greer, the chef of Lark Creek Blue in San Jose, for a weekend of immersion in the life, culture, and seasonality of Cordova, which sits in the pristine 25,000-square mile Copper River watershed.
Kim Ryals, executive director of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association explains, “Cordova is home to the fleet that brings the famous, first-of-the-season Copper River king salmon to Pike Place in Seattle every May, landing with much fanfare amid a sea of salmon paparazzi. That being said, we wanted to bring a chef to Cordova in order to see where all the fanfare starts, to experience what our small fishing community is all about, and enjoy the last best fish of the season- Copper River coho. Chef Greer was a perfect match and we were delighted to host him for the weekend.”
Greer arrived on a Friday afternoon, and the festivities for the weekend included the Annual Wild Harvest Feast held by the Copper River Watershed Project and the Fungus Festival hosted by the Forest Service, two community events that raise funds and celebrate the region. Greer was immediately launched into action when he started to prepare the fundraiser dinner, which was being held in the historic cook house of Copper River Seafoods.
Greer was charged with the task of cooking Copper River coho for 84 guests and was assisted by an army of volunteer sous chefs from the community. Cranking out oven-roasted potatoes, a wild mushroom and bok choy medley as well as cedar-planked coho with a mustard dill beurre blanc, Greer pulled off the dinner with grace, style and rave reviews from some of our country’s most knowledgeable salmon aficionados—the fishermen themselves.
Chef Greer says, “The Copper River coho was a much higher quality than I am used to seeing. The coho had nice oils on it, was much firmer than normal, with a beautiful salmon color to it…I cooked the fillets on smoldering cedar planks on sheet trays in the oven. This is one of my favorite methods for cooking salmon because, of course, smoke and salmon go hand in hand.”
The delicate coho was perfectly cooked and very lightly smoked by the cedar planks, drawing Cordova’s residents into the cook house kitchen with exclamations and raves, saying it was the best coho they had ever eaten. Ryals explains, “It’s really great if you can have local residents who have been cooking coho for 30 or 40 years come to you and tell you it’s the best coho they’ve ever had. That’s the ultimate exchange and the best testimonial!”
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