There’s no question that smoking greatly enhances the flavor of meat. The same can be said about fish. And in the case of salmon, planking — or cooking on a plank of aromatic wood that has been soaked in water — also helps to keep fish moist as well as doing it in a fat-free manner.
The subject of planking has come up three times for me in the past couple of days. The first instance was in a story by Star Tribune food writer Lee Svitak Dean, who explained that one brand, Superior Planks of Minnesota (red oak, sugar maple and cedar), are harvested and processed on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, a short ferry ride from Bayfield, Wis. (Recipes are available at superiorplanks.com.)
The other two times were in conversations I had, the first with Jack Stoltman of Grand Forks, who just returned from the state of Washington, where he went salmon fishing and took a tour of the Pugent Sound area.
A few hours later, I mentioned this to co-worker Eric Hylden, who has some experience cooking salmon with cedar planks. (Eric’s brother-in-law is a commercial fisherman in Alaska.)
Here’s a recipe for planking salmon by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, a cooking duo from Kansas known as the BBQ Queens who also are authors of “Techniques for Grilling Fish” and “Techniques for Planking” ($12.95 each, Harvard Common Press).
Planked Salmon with Mustard-Mayo-Dill Slather
1 salmon fillet, ¾-inch thick, skin removed (1½ to 2 pounds)
1 15-by-6-by-½-inch cedar or alder grilling plank, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
FOR THE SLATHER:
½ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Prepare an indirect fire in a grill, with a hot fire on one side and no fire on the other.
To make the slather, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.
Compare the length of the plank with the length of the salmon fillet and trim the salmon to fit the plank, if necessary. Place the salmon on the prepared plank and spread the mustard slather over the top.
Place the plank on the grill grate on the no-heat side. Cover the grill and cook until the fish begins to flake when tested with a fork in the thickest part, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve the salmon hot, right from the plank.
Yield: Serves 6.