The California King salmon — Oncorhynchus tshawytscha — grows larger than any other salmon species in the world and comes with an extra-rich layer of healthy, omega-3 fatty acids.
"There's a lot of big fish out there this year," said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. "And the bigger the fish, the more omega-3 oil they have."
That unctuous fat also makes the California King one of the easiest fish for novices to cook, because it creates a wider margin of error.
"This year, because of the size and the good fat content, the salmon are far more forgiving," McManus said. "Generally, it's easy to overcook them."
Whether you barbecue the fish or saute it in a frying pan, the California King salmon can supply your family with all kinds of delicious fish dishes this summer.
At Wild Fish restaurant in Little River, owners Liz and Kelvin Jacobs always buy the whole fish, a trend that is becoming more popular among restaurant chefs.
"In Europe, the skin is considered the best part of the fish," Liz Jacobs said. "It gives a nice marbling of flavor to the delicate fish. It's got the fat in it."
Kelvin Jacobs, a native of London, suggested buying a whole salmon for a dinner party, cutting it into filets for dinner, then turning the rest of the fish into other tasty products.
"Use the bones and the head for stock," he said. "Then you can cure some that's left over, so you've got your lox."
You can also make a salmon pat?out of the leftover bits of salmon by blending it with cream cheese or creme fraiche and garlic, Liz said.
The sweetness of the California King, also known as the Chinook, goes well with all kinds of sweet summer ingredients, from tomatoes and basil to baby fennel.
"It's got a distinctive flavor, and it's a bold flavor," Liz said. "It's sweet and briny and rich and delicate."
The California King is also a sight to behold, with silvery sides and a splash of blue-green, red or purple across the back, which is dotted with black spots.
"What you get is this fish that is incredibly versatile, and so beautiful to look at," Kelvin said. "It's such a pretty fish."
The couple love the California King salmon so much, they used it as the logo for their restaurant, which they opened about 19 months ago. On England's west coast, they owned a farm-to-table restaurant that received awards for sustainability.
At Wild Fish, the salmon comes in fresh off the boat, and if it doesn't sell quickly, the couple preserves it through curing or smoking.
Executive chef Jackson Clark showcases the fresh salmon in several dishes, including a Chowder of Wild Salmon and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes.
"The fire-roasted tomatoes have a nice, caramel depth to them," Liz said. "And the sweet goes nicely with the sweetness of the salmon."
For the "naked" salmon, Clark cooks the fish in a frying pan with just a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.
"We have a signature style in the restaurant, which is to cook the fish skin side down first, and that gives it a lot of flavor," Liz said. "Then the chef turns it over and finishes it in the oven."
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