Today I'm going to put on my instructor's hat and talk technique. Restaurants charge top dollar for cedar-planked salmon, but this technique is very easy to do at home. It's a great tool to have in your eat-more-fish tool chest, and when you bust this out for guests you'll look like a culianary bad ass. Sweet!
Lots of proteins lend themselves well to cedar-planking: scallops, shrimp, chicken, pork, prime rib, trout; but salmon is by far the most popular passenger for this wooden magic carpet. Cedar cooking planks can be used in both oven and grill. After living in Alaska for four years, and cooking about a hundred cedar planked salmon dinners, Hubs and I can confidently say we both prefer the grill method, hands down. When wood meets open flame, the natural smoke flavor that infuses the fish gives it a subtle umami base note that's kind of the whole point.
|Here's some Bristol Bay Sockeye I caught at the supermarket.|
Know what else is more and more available in the seafood department? Pre-cut cedar cooking planks. You can also find them at places like Home Depot, Williams-Sonoma, and Costco. Don't use treated cedar left over from your home renovation project. Those chemicals are bad news. Look for untreated planks, about 1/4" thick.
Ok, so you've got your salmon, and you've procured your cedar plank. Now what?
This flavor-infusing magic of flame means you must take measures to prevent the wood from catching fire. First, soak the plank in water for a minimum of 30 minutes before grilling. Longer is better. Secondly, cook the fish over a lower temperature than you may be used to, and allow ample cooking time. We've found that a medium to medium low flame on our propane Weber Q makes for a meltingly tender salmon filet, with a subtle smoked cedar aroma, and no pesky plank fires. Some grillers suggest keeping a spray bottle filled with water near the grill to squirt out flare-ups, but with proper soaking and low heat, fire is rarely an issue. Allow 2 to 3 times longer than you normally would to grill fish, as both the lower temp. and the heat-shield effect of the board will slow down cooking.
TIPS FOR CEDAR PLANKING FISH:
- Use untreated cedar cooking planks
- Soak planks at least 30 minutes before grilling
- Cook over a medium or medium low flame. High flame + cedar plank = FIRE!
- Allow ample cooking time
- Keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby to extinguish flare-ups
Cedar Plank Sockeye Salmon with Citrus Glaze (serves 4)
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck's recipe for "Orange-Glazed Grilled Fish Fillets"
1 1/2 pounds wild Alaska sockeye filet
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
pinch white pepper
You will need 1 untreated cedar plank, big enough to hold 4 portions of fish without them touching.
In sink or large roasting pan, soak cedar plank in water at least 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan combine orange juice, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, tamari (or soy), maple syrup, brown sugar, marmalade, ginger, garlic, and white pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and continue cooking at a low boil until mixture has thickened to a syrupy consistency and reduced to approx. 1/2 to 2/3 cup. Remove from heat and set aside.
If necessary, remove pin bones from salmon. Cut fillet into 4 equal portions. You do not need to remove the skin; the fish will lift easily from the skin once it's cooked. Brush salmon portions with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Pre-heat grill (or light the coals) to a medium flame. Remove cedar plank from water and place fish portions onto board, skin side down. Add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil to citrus glaze and stir to combine. Brush each piece of fish generously with the glaze and place on grill. Close lid and cook fish for 10 to 15 minutes, checking periodically. The salmon is done or very-near done when you see the first little spots of white liquid oozing from the flesh of the fish. Like this:
|See the little beads of white protein on the left side of the fillet? That's perfect. |
Too much of that white stuff means your fish is probably overcooked. Bummer.
|You can always do like Noah and check it with your fork.|
To serve, place entire plank on large serving platter, or remove fish from plank and place on serving tray. Serve with grilled vegetables and a buttery Chardonnay.