Time to Fire Up the Grill
My daughter tells of a primal experience on the Copper River in Alaska, of casting nets from a small boat to snare a passing salmon, and later cooking and eating it on the riverbank. By contrast, our Ozark farm pond has only carp, bluegill, turtles and a family of groundhogs, who live behind the dam. Fresh trout, catfish and bass are abundant in the area. But more exotic species, like salmon, I get from local fishmongers, frozen or thawed, and, preferably, on sale.
Ahh. . .but this last weekend Cyndy and her husband, Joe, showed up at the farm with a couple pieces of beautiful, pink-hued salmon, a pair of cedar cooking planks, and a prized recipe. Joe got the recipe from a chef in Colorado and has turned it into a favorite of family and friends. So when they offered to create the dish for dinner, I was ecstatic!
From Plank to Plate
To make Cedar Plank Salmon, you start with. . . well, a cedar plank. Cooking the fish on a wooden slab in a covered grill imparts a smokey, woodsy flavor. The cooking boards are available in the grilling supply section of Dierbergs, Williams-Sonoma, Target, Home Depot, Lowes and local kitchen stores.
Quick and Easy
Soak the plank in water for a couple of hours before heating it on the grill. Meanwhile, give the fish a massage of oil and seasoning and let it sit for 15 minutes. Kerplunk! Onto the hot plank it goes—skin side down. About 10 minutes into the cooking cycle, brush the fish with a mixture of balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Leave fish on the grill for another 5 minutes, or till flaky. No need to turn. That’s it! Prepare for a melt-in-your-mouth taste treat and explosion of goodness. And if there’s any leftovers, make it into this super Salmon Salad.
Our evening meal was made all the more nutritious with sides of roasted vegetables, sauteed beet greens, and a strawberry-spinach salad. Having behaved so nutritiously, gave us free rein to enjoy a finale of Tres Leche Cake.
Cedar Plank Salmon
- Cedar grilling plank
- 3 1/2 lbs. good quality salmon
- Cracked pepper, to taste
- 4 tsp. smoked sea salt (for two 8-oz fillets, about 1 1/2-2 tsps.)
- 1 cup maple balsamic vinegar
- About 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Soak cedar grilling plank (or planks) for two hours in water. (Use a 3/8″ plank rather than the thicker ones.)
Put olive oil in a dish large enough to hold the salmon. Coat both sides of salmon with olive oil. Season the meat side of the fish with the cracked pepper and sea salt. Gently rub olive oil and seasoning into the salmon. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
Start grill and heat to 350 degrees. Add cedar plank(s) to grill rack. Close cover and heat 3 minutes, or so, and then flip the plank(s).
Add the seasoned and oiled salmon to the plank, skin side down. Close lid of grill and cook about 10 minutes. (There’s no need to turn fish.)
Meanwhile, combine balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. After 10 minutes, brush the salmon liberally with the vinegar-lemon mixture.
Close lid and cook until fish flakes easily with fork or until interior of fish reaches 135 degrees on a cooking thermometer. Cooking time will be about 15 minutes. If you have two filets—one thicker than the other—one will cook quicker.
Kitchen Notes: Check the salmon on occasion to ensure the plank isn’t flaming up. (The long soaking in water should prevent this.) Even so, you might want to keep a spray bottle filled with water to shoot out any flare-ups.