Salmon is more than a menu favorite, it’s a booming industry in Alaska – Chicago Tribune
Look through one of my four published From the Farm cookbooks and favorite salmon recipes fill the pages of each volume.
Spreads and dips, smoked varieties, including one blended with cream cheese from a 2008 finalist from South Bend competing for $1 million at the Pillsbury Bake-Off, as well as a delicious creamy salmon gravy, as a contrast to actress Joan Crawford’s “healthy” poached salmon, everything whets my appetite, as does my aunt Ruby’s everyday salmon bread, and in the latest “Back from the Farm” cookbook from 2019, my mother’s own salmon bread.
In my opinion, the Lenten menus could dominate far longer than the observed 40 days, as long as the salmon recipes were showcased course after course for any cuisine served.
Alaska continues to rank as one of the world’s largest and most sustainable commercial salmon fisheries, providing fishing and packing operations that produce hundreds of millions of pounds of delivered fresh salmon, according to the state’s website. Ranked with tourism, gas and oil, Alaska’s fisheries create more than 56,000 jobs annually to generate nearly $2 billion in labor income for the state, according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Last week I met one of the seasonal workers in the Alaskan salmon fishery, Caleb Perez, and I was surprised to hear about “this other hat he wears”, considering that I have known him for eight months as one of my class students. at Purdue University Northwest, as well as my Spring 2023 intern who serves as my valued personal assistant.
Perez, 22, of Chicago Heights, is a senior at Purdue University Northwest and has spent the past two summers along Alaska’s tiny Bristol Bay as seasonal help working on the packing line for Leader Creek Fisheries.
Leader Creek Fisheries (www.leadercreekfisheries.com) started in 1999 to supply high quality Bristol Bay Sockeye salmon fillets and touts its roster of established fishermen as “the best in the bay” boasting “the best handling practices and who first, and still the only, 100% refrigerated fleet.” Commercial fishing in the Bristol Bay area began more than 100 years ago, and today Bristol Bay produces 40% of the global sockeye supply, according to Leader Creek Fisheries.
Perez said he will embark on this annual Alaskan adventure again this summer as a great way to earn money and also learn about this fascinating fishing industry. Work opportunities parallel the salmon run season from mid-June to early August for a full six weeks of 16-hour work shifts, all in the Alaskan climate, which means 20 hours of daylight with about 4 hours of darkness from 1-5. that said, since Bristol Bay is southern Alaska, seasonal daytime temperatures range from 40-50 degrees.
An added bonus to the unique summer shift job, which includes board and food, is the opportunity to enjoy salmon dishes and creative salmon cuisine in the cafeteria for every meal served, from baked salmon and salmon cold cuts to grilled and various seasonal variations. And while there is also harvesting and packing of roe caviar, caviar is not on any of the cafeteria’s menus.
At the 22nd annual Meals on Wheels NWI Dine with the Chefs Gala at Avalon earlier this month, chef Tammy Pham created a stunning fish course for the 300 guests to enjoy, showcasing her grilled salmon with a creamy curry sauce and, of course, asparagus.
Asparagus has become a signature ingredient for Pham, as these green spring spears are the inspiration for the name of her popular Merrillville eatery, Asparagus, an Asian fusion restaurant and lounge.
It was named “Restaurant of the Year” in 2008 by the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority, just 14 months after opening its doors.
Pham and husband Sam Chung are the dynamic dining duo who also spearheaded Siam Marina I and Siam Marina II, the famed Thai restaurants in Calumet City. The couple, who share one son, each arrived in Chicago at different times from Vietnam in their early teens. In 1995, Pham was the owner of the Star of Siam restaurant in Calumet City. After it closed in 2009, the couple, now married, opened Siam Marina II in River Oaks Mall, which closed in 2013 and the following year they reopened the restaurant at its current location in Tinley Park.
Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is marketing director at Teater i Centeret. He can be found at [email protected] or mail your questions: From the farm, PO Box 68, San Pierre, Ind. 46374.
1 pound of salmon
1 tablespoon red curry paste (available at Asian markets)
1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed red pepper flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can (8 ounces) coconut milk
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 tsp fish sauce or 1 tsp. of salt
8 asparagus spears
1. Cut fresh salmon into 6-8 eight pieces, set aside.
2. Thoroughly combine all sauce ingredients in frying pan or heavy wok.
3. Once well mixed, place the wok over a medium high flame. Stir constantly for up to three minutes until the boiling point is reached. Lower flame.
4. Add salmon pieces and let the sauce and salmon simmer for approx. 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sauce has reduced by approx. half, and it has taken on a rich salmon colour.
5. To prepare the asparagus garnish, rub the asparagus spears with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on foil to bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.