March 13, 2009
Last month, Elliott’s Oyster House and Restaurant, located on Pier 56, hosted a Yukon Salmon Feast to benefit the small fishing villages on the Yukon River in Alaska that have been hard hit during the past year due to extreme winter cold, rising fuel costs, and a devastating 2008 commercial fishing harvest.
During February, Elliott’s donated 25% of every Yukon Keta entrée sold to a special fuel fund to help relieve the dire condition of the villages. Elliott’s purchased the salmon that was featured throughout the promotion from community-owned Kwik’pak Fisheries, LLC, which was formed in 2002 to provide economic benefits and security to the residents of the Yukon River Delta.
Before dinner, Seattle seafood guru Jon Rowley gave a Powerpoint presentation that contained heartwarming images of the Lower Yukon River Delta people. He explained that their villages, close to the Bering Sea, are so remote, they’re located 550 miles from the nearest road. The Delta encompasses 1,000,000+ acres, it’s very flat with lots of ponds and lakes (but no trees!), and ice break occurs in late-May. The Yukon River itself runs 2,200 miles.
Salmon and salmon fishing form the heart and soul of this culture, according to Rowley, and the people are struggling because the fish are returning in far fewer numbers each year.
During the five-course meal, paired with Northwest wines, we were regaled with both Yukon River King salmon and Yukon River Keta salmon. The king is pictured above; it was roasted in a soft miso glaze, which brought out the fish’s creamy texture to perfection. Small dots of avocado cream, streaks of sweet soy, and a knob of sushi rice and daikon sprouts completed the oh-so-simple, yet oh-so-good dish. Interestingly, it was not paired with a white wine (such as a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc), but with a Bordeaux-style red blend, Basel Cellars 2006 Claret, from Walla Walla.
It was an interesting exercise for all the foodies in the crowd to compare what is often considered the highest grade of salmon (King or Chinook) with a lower-grade salmon (Keta or Chum). And I must admit that the Keta performed admirably in raw or cured dishes, such as salmon tartare and carpaccio. It was also tasty when grilled and served over savory lentils.
Rowley reports that Yukon Keta salmon was recently discovered to contain more Omega-3 fatty acids and rich oils than any other salmon, with the exception of the Yukon King. So it not only tastes good; it’s good for you.