by Steven Doyle
If you remotely follow the restaurant scene in Dallas you may know the name Royce Ring. He is the owner of Plan B, a design group that has turned out some of the more beautiful restaurants in our city such as Oak, Bolsa and Whiskey Cake to name a few.
Ring has a son with a different skill set entirely. Austin Ring operates Northwest Fish Traders in Alaska which is currently supplying the highly coveted Copper River Salmon to the very same restaurants that his father designed. The young fisherman was kind enough to fly us in a side of the beautiful catch, and it was up to us to find a way to make great use of the fish.
I spoke with some friends who were happy to host a dinner party making use of the Copper river salmon bounty, but as we planned the party swelled up to about 15 guests. Our hosts were Paula and David Weatherbie, and along with Kathy Zibilich they wrote the menu around the fish that was flown in fresh and was caught just hours before the party. David is a pretty terrific chef in his own right, even though by day he is an accomplished attorney. Zibilich is a chef who is also skilled as an attorney, but finds satisfaction working with food as her day job. Together they made the best use out of about 2.5 pound of fish, using every part, including the skin which was wrapped and roasted around pencil asparagus. Most of the vegetables used this night came from the Weatherbie’s garden.
What we sampled that evening definitely made the best use of the Copper River salmon, which has a coveted fat content that enriches the fish. First we were served blinis with smoked salmon rillettes. I could have taken the entire tray of canapes for myself, and been plenty satisfied. We have the recipe for the rillettes below.
We also enjoyed our salmon made en papillote, which was a portion of the fish supplemented with freshly dug new potatoes and onions. We also tasted the salmon that was prepared in fig leaves, which imparts an unusual coconut flavor. This was a joyful dish.
As if this bounty wasn’t enough, we were also served soft shell crabs, which gave us a bit of crunch, and of course I adore the sweet, plump soft shells this time of year when they are at their peak.
Copper River salmon is a bit more expensive than other versions of salmon that is available, and for good reason. This year the catch has been down considerably, it is highly sustainable, the flesh is rich and delicious, and it is only available for a limited time. We have it on good authority that Bolsa, Whiskey Cake, The Ranch in Las Colinas, Oak and several other restaurants offer the fish currently. If you make the fish at home, you do not necessarily need a massive amount to feed a hungry crowd if you use your imagination. But everyone should try Copper River salmon while it is in season.
Our beautiful loaves were supplied by Village Baking Company
Salmon Rillettes8 oz. fresh salmon 4 oz. smoked salmon 5 oz. melted butter – cooled down a bit (or more – Kathy likes more butter) 1 oz. olive oil 1 Tb chives 1 Tb dill Salt to taste Steam the salmon until just done. Chop the herbs. Put it all into a food processor and process until you have a nice paste. Salt to taste. Refrigerate until it hardens just a bit.