Copper River Sockeye Salmon, Pink Peppercorns

copper river sockeye, copper river salmon, pink peppercorns

Pan-Seared Copper River Sockeye Salmon, Pink Peppercorns
Blistered Shishito Peppers

The celebration continues! Taste With The Eyes is 4-years-old and we’re splurging with Copper River Salmon. The most expensive fresh salmon is only available for about four weeks of the year, from mid-May through mid-June, when the King salmon swim up the Copper River in Alaska to spawn. At our local Bristol Farms Market, Copper River King Salmon was selling for $50/lb.! At $50/lb. the 8 oz. filet in the photo above would have cost $25. Market factors such as commercial harvest, supply and demand, plus the cost of oil have pushed the price from $40 last season to this all time high of $50.

Even for the crème de la crème of salmon, this price is out of range for most people (myself included). In fact, after speaking with the fishmonger at the market, I learned that they were unable to sell their entire shipment of Copper River King at that price, and some had tragically gone to waste. The good news was that Copper River Sockeye sales went way up, as folks were introduced to this smaller, more plentiful species of salmon. Some say that sockeye has the truest pure salmon flavor and is preferred by aficionados.

pink peppercorns

Copper River Sockeye Salmon selling for $20/lb. is still expensive but a terrific value nonetheless. Sockeye are leaner than King and not usually my first choice. But fresh Copper River sockeye, has a high oil content developed as a natural survival method. They grow to full size in the ocean over several years then swim up the frigid intense Copper River for almost 300 miles to reach their native spawning grounds. Because they do not feed once they leave salt water, they need plenty of body fat to complete the journey up the long cold river. The sockeye run mid-May through the summer.

The Copper River salmon runs are managed for long-term sustainability by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. ADF&G monitors sonar counters and fish wheels at several points along the Copper River and counts each salmon heading up the river to ensure an adequate number migrate to spawning grounds to reproduce each year. ADF&G biologists also perform aerial surveys of fishing grounds to count the number of migrating fish throughout the season. When fishery managers see that enough salmon have escaped past the sonars, they open the fishing grounds for commercial harvest for a determined amount of time. (from

Fresh salmon of this quality needs little adornment. The flavor of the fish is rich and the texture is firm. A heavy sauce would detract from the pure salmon experience. Olive oil, salt and pepper are really all that are necessary to fully enjoy this fish. Maybe a squeeze of lemon.


Shaggy California Pepper Trees along Dodson Avenue

The City of Los Angeles has over 700,000 street trees and is purported to be the largest urban forest in the world. In addition to many varieties of palm trees, my neighborhood is home to an abundance of jacarandas and California pepper trees (Schinus molle, native to the Peruvian Andes). Driving home from the market along Dodson Avenue with sockeye and shishito peppers aboard, thinking about how best to prepare the salmon, it struck me that the bright intense berry-flavored peppercorns from the pepper trees might pair extremely well with the rich salmon…

pink peppercorns

With berry-fruit flavor and a spicy peppery finish, pink peppercorns should be used sparingly. I crushed them by hand and sprinkled them about the cooked sockeye. Pink peppercorns are actually not peppercorns at all, but aromatic berries from the pepper tree. They added a sparkle of flavor, color, and texture to the beautiful salmon filets without being overpowering.

Pan-Seared Copper River Sockeye Salmon

copper river sockeye, copper river salmon, pink peppercorns

Sockeye salmon is also known as red salmon due to its distinctive color.
Both sides of the salmon are rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

copper river sockeye, copper river salmon, pink peppercorns

Place the salmon skin-side down in a hot skillet.
Cook over medium-high heat until the skin becomes crispy.
At this point the fish is almost done cooking.

copper river sockeye, copper river salmon, pink peppercorns, crispy skin salmon

Flip the filet over and just barely sear the other side to prevent over-cooking.

copper river sockeye, copper river salmon, pink peppercorns
Serve with crushed pink peppercorns and blistered shishito peppers.
Extra pink peppercorns on their stems make an interesting garnish.

Celebrating 4 years! Cookbook Giveaway!

You are all too kind! Thank you, friends, for your sweet words and well-wishes on the previous post, Celebrating 4 Years of Taste With The Eyes! If you haven’t had a chance to leave a comment, please stop by here for a chance to win the cookbook of your choice, as a token of my appreciation, now through June 23rd.

18 thoughts on “Copper River Sockeye Salmon, Pink Peppercorns”

  1. Beautiful! Pictures, recipes, information….a great post! I love salmon, but cannot indulge due to allergies, but it looked amazing! I also loved the idea of pink peppercorns and your beautiful garnish!

  2. It’s a real treat when one gets salmon this red in colour…the good stuff! I like serving it skins side up and I most certainly eat it!

  3. That salmon looks so intense in colour and absolutely stunning. It’s amazing seeing an avenue of pepper trees like that (ooh, and fancy cars ;-)). I can imagine the wonderful aromas on that plate!

  4. Those pepper tree berries look so beautiful on the plate. And salmon is one of my favourites, treated simply and with care, as you’ve described. Congratulations on your 4th birthday, Lori Lynn!

  5. Love the concept and execution of this dish. All the best and many, many more happy years of blogging.

  6. the salmon looks amazing. the color contrast of the salmon with the berries is wondeful. thank you for sharing your kitchen with us. here is to 4more tasty years!!


  7. I would have never thought to put pink peppercorns with Copper River Salmon. Since I’ve already eaten more than my share (at least that’s what my budget tells me), I will look for this next year!

  8. This past week I bought Cooper River Salmon at Henry’s on sale for $9.95 lb. I poached it in white wine, water, garlic cloves, bay leaves, parsley and black peppercorns., and served it with a lemon aioli. It was delicious. I grew up just blocks from the fabulous Dodson Avenue and never knew anybody who cooked with the red berries. Thank you for that!

  9. Amen to the power (and taste) of salmon. I was able to try Copper River salmon in Portland, Ore., a few years ago. I was certain I died and landed in heaven! Your recipe and photos have prompted my local search for some sockeye; if it is anywhere in the Northeast, I’ll find it! Thank you!

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