I like salmon almost as much as walleye. I’ve had it baked, grilled, poached and smoked. Maybe even a couple of other ways. My favorite is to marinade the fish for a couple of hours before tossing it on the grill. (For more about marinades and rubs, go to www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Features/tag/food/.)
But there’s one way I’ve haven’t tried, and that’s grilled on a cedar plank.
My friend and co-worker, Eric Hylden, swears by this method. And Eric knows a bit about salmon. One of his brothers-in-law is a commercial fisherman in Alaska, so Eric usually has a nice supply of salmon.
He recently told me he fixed some salmon on a plank, for the birthday of his wife, Jackie Lorentz. Eric says that’s the only way to go.
Cooking fish on a plank is a method that Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest have been doing for hundreds of years. And it recently has gained popularity in restaurants in many homes across the country.
In the old days, a whole side of salmon was cut open and vertically staked by cedar sticks, then placed downwind next to a roaring beach fire made of driftwood. Today, people use cedar shingles, which can be purchased at grilling or cooking stores, lumberyards (untreated ones) or online (www.williams-sonama.com). They usually are soaked in water for an hour or two (or even overnight).
Planks usually can be used several times if washed with soapy water. A note of caution: Since they are made of wood and could burn, keep a spray bottle handy.
A good reference to planking is "Sticks and Stones: The Art of Grilling on Plank," Vine and Stone by Ted Reader and Kathleen Sloan (The Game and Fish Mastery Library, 1999).
Here’s a recipe for planked salmon, which barbecuing expert Steve Raichlen recommends.
Planked Salmon with Mustard and Dill Sauce
FOR THE SALMON:
1 salmon fillet, with or without skin (about 1½ pounds; ideally cut from the end closest to the head)
About 1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE GLAZE:
½ cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grainy French mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cedar plank (about 6 to 12 inches), soaked for 2 hours in water to cover (a rimmed baking sheet or large roasting pan works well for soaking), then drained
For the salmon: Run your fingers over the salmon fillet, feeling for bones. Using needle-nose pliers or tweezers, pull out any you find. Rinse the salmon under cold running water, then blot it dry with paper towels. If using salmon with skin, generously brush the skin with olive oil. If using skinless salmon, brush one side of the fish with olive oil. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the salmon on the plank, skin side down, if it has one; oiled side down if not.
For the glaze: Place the mayonnaise, mustard, dill and lemon zest in a nonreactive mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium high.
When ready to cook, spread the glaze mixture evenly over the top and sides of the salmon. Place the salmon on its plank in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the salmon until cooked through and the glaze is a deep golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the side of the salmon: The internal temperature should be about 135 degrees. Another test is to insert a slender metal skewer in the side of the fillet for 20 seconds: It should come out very hot to the touch. Transfer the plank and fish to a heat proof platter and slice the fish crosswise into serving portions. Serve the salmon right off the plank.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 440 calories (67 percent from fat), 33 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 98 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 521 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.