A Culinary Voyage of Copper River Salmon with Mariah Scott
Mariah Scott, chef, and content creator who recently laid her professional roots in Texas, was one of the four talented and prominent influencers that we welcomed to our community for the Fall Salmon Camp 2023 edition. After she got back home from this 5-day journey (plus some if you count the travel time in and out of Cordova) she chatted with us about her introduction into the culture of the Copper River salmon industry and the array of information she gained from it. Her experience didn't just change how she saw Copper River salmon; it gave her a deeper insight into Copper River's culinary treasure.
You recently had the opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of a salmon fishery, witnessing its operations up close. How has this firsthand experience impacted your perspective on sourcing and working with wild salmon?
Let’s keep it real, after visiting Cordova and being fully immersed in everything Copper River salmon, learning every aspect of what makes this wild salmon spectacular, I have to say that I am ruined forever. I cannot look at salmon in the same way. In one way it's good because I will no longer subject myself to mediocre salmon, and in the other, it’s bad, because I have officially become a salmon snob. I have so much more respect for wild salmon now, and treat it with a higher sense of appreciation knowing everything it takes to sustain it. During this amazing trip into “the world of a fishery”, I had the opportunity to eat freshly caught Coho salmon after watching the waters they swam in and the incredible journey the salmon took.
The opportunity to touch the nets that catch the fish, to be able to smell the water, and to watch bright red salmon swim in synchronized circles as they mate. I got drenched in the rain and felt the breeze of generations of fishermen and discovered why wild salmon is not only important for the environment but also for our future. That experience has transformed me in ways that go beyond fishing, cooking, and culinary. Learning about the culture of the Copper River, the people that wake up every morning to go fishing to feed their families, to feed the world, has made a big impact on my life and I can’t help but look at things especially Copper River wild salmon in a new way.
How do you view the culinary potential of wild salmon, and what unique qualities do you believe it brings to the table compared to other types of fish or seafood?
I believe the culinary potential for wild salmon is huge. I think the way that the world is going today, people are starting to realize that there are a lot of alternatives and a lot better choices for food and that they are looking for more convenient ways to cook. The new generation is also focused more on education about where their food comes from and making more sustainable choices when it comes to protein sources. Wild salmon is a better choice because of the health benefits and omega 3’s. And compared to other fish and seafood, when it comes to cooking wild salmon is more forgiving. Plus, the versatility of flavor combinations, techniques, and food preparations you can achieve cooking with wild salmon are endless.
Could you share with us one of your favorite ways to prepare salmon? Do you have any signature dishes or cooking techniques that you believe truly highlight the flavors of this fish?
One of my favorite ways to prepare wild salmon is to grill it. I absolutely love the flavor of freshly caught wild salmon straight on the grill. I like to use lump hardwood charcoal and season it lightly with lemon, kosher salt, pepper, slices of garlic and fresh herbs, all adorned and tucked in throughout a whole filet. I love the pairing of smoky flavors and the buttery rich taste of the wild salmon. It’s like this, outdoorsy natural essence to the fish and it's not overpowering at all. The citrus, the fat, the freshness, and the smoke; It's so simple, yet so effective and so delicious.
Can you share a standout moment from your familiarity tour of the Copper River fishery that left a lasting impression on you?
The biggest moments for me were being on the ground. All the times I experienced the Copper River fishery I had the opportunity to shake hands with the fisherman, learn about the respect and modesty still upheld in the industry, touch the nets that caught our family meal, meet the women who contribute their time to recycle hundreds of nets to help the environment and give back to Copper River. Those were the moments that left a lasting impression. It was the people, without the people, there would be no Copper River fishery.
This full-on sensory experience serves as a reward for Mariah’s willingness to witness the remarkable journey of Copper River salmon, from ocean to plate.
Copper River salmon is a world unto itself, where the fish's journey from the ocean to its birthplace is both a spectacle and a challenge. Mariah found herself immersed in the intricate tapestry of this ecosystem, understanding not only the trajectory of the salmon but also the dedicated individuals who make it possible.
You can view the exclusive recipe and video that Mariah made for us using fresh Copper River sockeye salmon.