A Culinary Voyage of Copper River Salmon with Ari Laing
Ari Laing, the talent behind Well Seasoned Studio, is anything but your average food blogger. Hailing from the state of New Jersey, Ari seamlessly blends the ordinary with the exceptional. Her blog is a veritable repository of culinary inspiration, featuring a medley of effortless weeknight meals and elevated, yet accessible recipes, in addition to an array of tips and techniques that help her followers host unforgettable dinner soiree.
In late August, Ari joined us on a 5-day immersive tour of our very own Copper River salmon small boat operation. This journey allowed her to delve deep into the heart of where her ingredients originate, and the story of her trip is worth sharing.
After her masterclass on Copper River salmon in our homeport of Cordova. I sent Ari a few follow-up questions regarding her Fall Salmon Camp experience, and I was impressed with her thoughtful answers and the way in which she described our community-based fishery.
How has your firsthand experience changed your perspective on sourcing and preparing salmon?
When you see firsthand what goes into responsibly sourcing seafood -- how to get it from the water to your plate -- you have a deeper appreciation for all that happens behind the scenes. When I walk through a grocery store or fish market now and see wild Alaskan-caught salmon, it means something different to me. I can appreciate the darker red hue of its flesh compared to that of farmed salmon, the latter of which has a restricted diet. I know that when I go to cook wild Alaskan salmon, I'm going to treat it with restraint. Not because it can't handle any recipe, but because I don't want to mask the pure flavor of the fish.
Can you share your observations on the differences you noticed between wild and farmed salmon, both in terms of flavor and overall culinary experience?
When we hosted dinner on Tuesday night and had the opportunity to cook with fresh-caught wild salmon, it was clear that you didn't need to do much to make it shine. I opted for a simple roasted preparation of the salmon while accompanying it with 3 different sauces. This is more or less my approach to high-quality food in general: show restraint, don't fuss with it too much, and let the natural flavor shine. I think people can be intimidated by working with wild salmon versus farmed salmon because the former tends to be thinner, and if you cook it for the same amount of time as is needed for farmed salmon, you can easily overcook it. While both varieties of salmon can be used interchangeably in any recipe, it's important to base cook time on the particular piece of fish you're using at the time. My best tip for home cooks? Invest in a meat thermometer. It's a game changer that will hopefully help you to cook salmon confidently.
What role do you believe social media influencers play in raising awareness about sustainable seafood and responsible fishing practices?
Education is everything! These salmon camps are so important! Not everyone will have the opportunity to visit Cordova or learn about sustainability and responsible fishing firsthand. However, a lot of people follow their favorite influencers religiously. This is a great opportunity for us to educate our audience in a way that benefits all of us. For instance, my attitude towards using frozen seafood has changed completely after my trip to Cordova. While I had no real issue with it prior to the trip, I definitely put an emphasis on fresh seafood. It was eye-opening to learn that flash-frozen salmon can, many times, be fresher than what is available at local stores. As a result, I've begun to change the messaging on my website around frozen seafood -- even going so far as to recommend it when there's uncertainty about how long fresh seafood has been sitting behind the counter. Making this information approachable and friendly will have lasting, positive impacts on the seafood industry.
After your trip, what message or takeaway would you like your followers to remember most about this incredible destination and its fishing industry?
I think above all else, I'll carry with me the passion for sustainability that was reinforced in every conversation with fishermen. Not only do the people of Cordova care about fresh, high-quality seafood, but they want to make sure there's a future where salmon continues to thrive.
Ari's Alaskan adventure serves as a testament to her devotion to the art of food, both as a form of creative expression and a means of bringing people together. She imparts this same passion to her blog, Well Seasoned Studio. Her Copper River experience has undoubtedly enriched her culinary process, and her readers stand to benefit from it. As Ari continues to create and share her amazing recipes, her Copper River adventure will serve as a constant reminder of the heart and soul infused into Copper River salmon and the rich stories they can tell. It's not merely about the meal; it's about the voyage, the individuals, and the places that lend each dish its distinctive charm.
If you’d like to try some of Ari’s recipes using Copper River salmon, she has them conveniently available for you on her website:
Photos Courtesy of Well Seasoned Studio