The Pacific Northwest teems with oyster and clam beds, eelgrass (a prime habitat for Dungeness crabs and shrimp), and boats that fish for tuna, halibut, black cod, and salmon. Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia have a combined saltwater coastline―including straits, bays, sounds, and islands―that measures more than 20,000 miles. So seafood naturally becomes part of the psyche of the Northwest.
Northwesterners take their seafood seriously―not just what they're eating or where it's from, but also how it was caught. Menus and seafood markets often note harvest methods, touting fish as troll-caught (one hook, one fish, very little bycatch) or reef-netted (an ancient American Indian technique often called "the model for sustainable salmon fishing").
When it comes to preparing seafood, the Pacific Northwest mantra is "the simpler, the better." Fresh Dungeness crabs require no elaborate techniques, just a quick steam in water or good ale. Sweet and delicate fresh spot prawns need little more than a simple sauté in butter with a splash of white wine. A rich piece of salmon perfectly grilled with a sprinkle of sea salt is supremely delicious.
The following recipes explore three favorite Northwest catches―salmon, Dungeness crab, and oysters―embellished with regional ingredients such as sweet berries, crisp asparagus, and earthy hazelnuts.