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June 01, 2010

Fish of the Month - Wild salmon from Alaska

IMG_7447 June’s Fish of the Month is wild salmon from Alaska.

The pristine Pacific waters off the coast of Alaska are home to five types of wild salmon: pink, chum, sockeye, coho and Chinook -- the last one being Alaska’s official "state fish" and a dinnertime favorite of Right Bite staff! It’s no surprise why Alaska would choose salmon for this honor, as they are truly special creatures.

For starters, wild salmon are anadromous, meaning they’re born in freshwater rivers and lakes but quickly swim downstream to spend their adult lives in the salty Pacific Ocean. Once at sea, salmon can travel widely, feasting on crustaceans, squid, zooplankton and other organisms responsible for the beautiful pink-orange flesh that they develop.

It takes salmon two to four years to reach adulthood. When they do, another special thing happens: salmon return to the exact freshwater spot where they were born! No matter how far they’ve traveled in the Pacific, salmon have sophisticated "homing" instincts that lead them back to their birthplace. At that location they lay eggs, perish soon after, and leave their remains as nutrients for the spawning ground – truly completing the circle of life.

For many salmon, this journey home is no easy feat! Some species travel well over 1,800 miles upstream, swimming past dams and other physical obstacles, as well as fishers and animals that hungrily wait at the water’s edge. (Don’t believe me? Just ask Bif and Otis, two sea lions that Shedd rescued from the Washington-Oregon border last spring. These two were among many sea lions in the area that were catching salmon mid-journey – and eating them to the point of endangerment! To help protect both the salmon and the sea lions, several zoos and aquariums stepped forward to provide homes for this sea lion group.)

Lucky for us, the Alaska salmon fishery is one of the most tightly-regulated in the world, ensuring that we’ll continue to enjoy these unique and delicious fish for years to come. Gear limitations, area closures and strict fishing seasons all help to preserve the ecosystem and keep wild salmon populations at healthy levels.

Experience this fantastic fish for yourself! Scroll below for two tasty recipes, Shedd’s Wild Alaska Salmon with Garlic Spinach and Orange Balsamic Sauce and Vegetable Glazed Wild Salmon, a recipe hand-picked by Joe Decker, the executive chef at Wildfire, one of many Chicago-area restaurants partnering with Shedd to support sustainable seafood. Enjoy!

Wild Alaska Salmon with Garlic Spinach and Orange Balsamic Sauce
Makes 4 servings.
Download recipe card


4 (6-ounce) wild Alaska salmon fillets
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey


1) Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper.

2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add fillets and sear 3 to 4 minutes per side, until opaque and beginning to flake. Remove from skillet and set aside.

3) In same skillet, add garlic and spinach; cook 2 minutes, until leaves just wilt and garlic becomes fragrant. Arrange spinach atop each salmon fillet.

4) In same skillet, add butter, orange juice, vinegar, and honey.  Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour over spinach and salmon and serve.

Vegetable Glazed Wild Alaska Salmon
Makes 4 servings. Courtesy of Joe Decker, Wildfire


Vegetable Glaze:
2 tablespoons vegetable base
6 Tablespoons water
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mirin cooking wine
Bring to a boil in a small sauce pan and remove from heat. Set aside.

Fresh Vegetable Garnish
2 ounces carrots, peeled, think sliced 1/2 moons
2 ounces broccoli florets
2 ounces asparagus, angle cut on bias
2 ounces sugar snap peas, cut in 1/2 on bias
2 ounces zucchini rounds, 1/8" thick
2 ounces red pepper, diced
4 ounces fresh corn kernels
4 ounces baby spinach leaves
Gather ingredients and set aside

To Finish the Dish:
4 7-9 ounce wild Salmon filets
1 cup water

Set your broiler on high. Line a sheet pan with foil. Evenly space salmon filets on pan. Pour water around fish. Evenly brush vegetable glaze on salmon. Place in broiler for 5-6 minutes basting a couple of times with vegetable glaze.  While fish is cooking, cook the vegetables in the below broth.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup think sliced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Fresh vegetable garnish - above recipe
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable stock

In a large saute pan, sizzle garlic in olive oil over high head until garlic becomes lightly brown. Add red pepper flakes and the fresh vegetables and saute for 2 minutes, then add salt and pepper and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Evenly divide into 4 bowls and top with glazed salmon

Posted by Kassia Perpich, conservation

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